Reviewed on Xbox One; also available on Playstation 4 and PC.
As a gamer, I’ve only experienced a snowboarding game once in my entire life and it was a long time ago. I don’t even know what the game was called, and I can’t remember the year it was either, but I do know it had an “arcadish” kind of feel that made it pretty fun to play. SSX on Xbox 360 was also great and while I didn’t play much of it, I remember it being easy to control and get acquainted to, especially on Xbox One.
Maximum Games, responsible for the infamous Lichdom: Battlemage and Alekhine’s Gun, which is something to seriously consider, are back on the map with another title, Infinite Air with Mark McMorris. As far as I’m concerned, Maximum Games are known for their performance issues on Xbox One, and the lack of…let’s say…interest regarding fixing this problems. They abandoned Alekhine’s Gun. Last time I checked, both Lichdom: Battlemage and Alekhine’s Gun were still pretty broken, but I guess that’s a story for another day. Both of those games still need a lot of work.
Infinite Air puts you straight into the action. After a somewhat long loading screen full of sponsor brands—giving you the first clues on how the game was funded—you are left on your own on a pretty-looking cold snowy mountain. It looks really nice until the player starts moving…let’s face the truth…this game might look like AAA material in YouTube promotional videos but it isn’t, at least not the console versions.
Although you can press start and read an optional tutorial, it would have been highly appreciated if it had the basic slow introduction I was expecting. Instead, you get a text and a photo of the right stick showing naive combinations in order to pull out tricks. Well, that was before the update that recently came out, fixing almost every issue and including a highly-appreciated voice tutorial to show you how to get started. Better late than never!
Controls couldn’t be more awkward even if they wanted, and I’m not talking about combos or tricks yet, I’m referring to player movement, which is a pretty bad start if you ask me. Normal physics are not found. Both left and right triggers are used to jump and the Y button gets you on a sponsored chopper allowing you to position yourself around the map which sometimes made me have the feeling that I was being placed at a random spot and not where I really wanted to be. Regarding tricks and combos, all I have to say is that using just the right stick for so many combinations is a counterproductive approach since other tricks may trigger instead of the one you were trying to do. Had the controls been more forgiving, that could’ve been avoided. Instead, you keep on triggering moves you have no need for.
One of the few good things this game offers is the satisfying amount of challenges including several objectives to unlock customization options and outfits for the player and also the editor mode. But relying too much on user-generated content might be a bad idea. Some of the user levels I played were either broken or totally nonsensical. Spotting one decent level was almost a miracle.
Using a professional snowboarding competitor’s name is a kick in the budget’s gut, which is something this game needed (just to be clear, the budget). Physics aren’t free if you know what I mean. Whoever made this commercial decision prioritized more on the arguable selling factor rather than on the gameplay quality itself. There are plenty of great snowboarding games out there, including Steep which I was lucky to get my hands on recently. It’s not that hard to get the controls right.
I believe the developers were aiming way too high. You can tell they tried their best to make a professional snowboarding game but it should have been way easier for them to try an arcade version instead. Seriously, in my opinion that would have been better for them and us. The controls would’ve been easier and perfecting them would’ve been easier too.
The lack of games of this genre, at least on console, make the perfect opportunity to set the bar high enough but that didn’t happen. There are polished games with plenty of content and there are also the complete opposite. Infinite Air is a major letdown, broken at launch and still having minor frame rate issues after title updates. All that’s left is a mixture between an overpriced bad simulator and a hard arcade snowboarding game. All things considered, hardcore fans may be pleased with this title, not because of how good it is, but as I said, due to the lack of snowboarding games currently on the market. Here’s hoping Steep lives up to the hype.