Mark McMorris Infinite Air Review – PS4

 It’s been over three years since the quite good SSX reboot found its way to PS3, and since then, we’ve once again had a scarcity of alpine-tinged extreme sports goodness; but like when you’re waiting for snow ploughs to save you from The Overlook and your rage and whisky-fueled dad, three show up at once in the form of Steep, Snow, and the less thriftily-monikered Mark McMorris Infinite Air, an open world snowboarding game.

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Infinite Air gives you an entire mountain to trick around. You can get your helicopter to plop you down on any given point on said mountain and freely do your thing on a snowboard. Or you can pick one of the many markers already on it. Or you can redesign it all and build the slopes of your dreams. Infinite Air is full of choice and freedom, so it’s unfortunate that clunky, awkward controls and muddled guidance see Infinite Air faceplanting into yellow snow of its own making.

Warning signs flash up almost instantly within the opening tutorial. You won’t notice it if you manage to nail a trick or move straight off, but given the contextual nature of much of Infinite Air’s snowboardery, you’ll no doubt have to repeat at least one, and when that happens you see that there is no repetition of the opening instructions. Your choice is to either wing it and mash everything in hope, or quit out of it and try again from scratch. It’s not the best first impression to make, and beyond this opening gambit things see-saw between good and grim before eventually just devolving into drudgery.

infinite air ps4 snowboarding

Yet dragging it back to just before that tutorial shows its flawed hand, and you may as well be a bit impressed with what’s on show. Infinite Air looks surprisingly slick at first, the crisp white powders and the frost fallen scenery are bold-looking and, perhaps because there’s been little to compare it with this generation, the scale and scope of the mountain is a sight to behold. You do end up mostly restricted to chunks of that mountainscape in individual events, but it’s hard to deny Infinite Air looks fairly tidy, in still shot form at least.

When things get moving, Infinite Air melts like snow under a scorching sun. If things go right then it goes smoothly enough as the basics are a minute variation from any board-based sports title of the post-Skate era, but that’s not where the problems lie. Character movement has no energy to it, and control inputs are often unresponsive. If you end up in a bit of a jam and bail out on a trick run you get the chance to pick yourself and carry on, but the game respots your character in a stock-still position, often facing away from the direction you’re wanting to be in. You simply can’t move all that well thanks to those hand-mangling controls, meaning that you pretty much end up restarting in most situations, sacrificing your score to that point. A simple respawn that drops your character in, the right way round, from a small height would have cut out a whole bunch of needless frustration.

Things are slanted towards a more realistic take on snowboarding, and this clearly plays a part in the perception of speed and movement to some degree, but this isn’t a great attempt at gamifying it. In isolation, it wouldn’t be the death of Infinite Air, but when combined with other issues that I’ll come around to later, it certainly acts as a nail for the coffin.

When you try to do anything more complex than regular grabbing and spinning tricks in Infinite Air, it requires far too many buttons presses that don’t follow much logic. This means there’s a lot of work to put in if you want to consistently pull off some admittedly marvelous-looking tricks, right? Well yes, but you’ll be fighting a control scheme that’s as unpredictable as it is needlessly complex the whole way. It’s unclear on context far too often when speed, obstacles and rails come into play, and this creates a negative spiral of its own, but if you make it through all that there’s one more biggie that kills Infinite Air’s candidacy for best snow sports game of the generation dead.

snowboarding on ps4

The deeper you go into Infinite Air, the more you realise that you’ll be expected to grind your way to completion, and more vitally, the rest of the game’s content. You are required to complete various challenges in each race, trick run and show-jump in the campaign in order to progress, meaning you get to a point pretty swiftly that requires you be quite shit-hot at Infinite Air in order to access the whole package, and given the game’s shortcomings mechanically-speaking, that’s some ask.

The little enjoyment you get from Infinite Air is practically drained at this point. Sure you can still muck about on the mountain, or make your own runs, both features that would be the making of a better snowboarder, yet the overriding problems Infinite Air has renders these bright spots almost pointless. Lessons can be learned from this first foray into snowboarding for rugby sim-making HB Studios though, the package is excellent on paper, but on snow it really, really needs a better set of mechanics to push on and challenge for a place on the rather bare extreme sports top table.



The Final Word

There’s some positives to be found in Mark McMorris Infinite Air’s setup, but some poor design and plenty of shambolic mechanics throw this rider from its board. The wait goes on for this generation's first decent snowboarder.