Mark McMorris Infinite Air Review – Infinite Bail (PS4)
My first impression with Mark McMorris Infinite Air was not a positive one. I was undergoing the snowboarding game’s tutorial and got to the part where I got to learn how to do flips. It showed me the prompt (which is holding the right stick up or down, by the way) once and then expected me to do it. Fair enough, but since I didn’t know that the timing had to be precise (I had to let go of the jump button before I hit a ramp for the flip to work) I ended up failing the tutorial repeatedly.
Typically, when I fail a tutorial, the game will show me the prompt again so I can figure out what I did wrong. Instead of that, Infinite Air just told me to “Try Again!” and then gave me some advice without actually giving me the instructions on how to perform a flip. I ended up pressing every button I could on the controller trying to figure out how to bring the help prompt back up (since surely it had to be there), and ended up accidentally quitting out of the tutorial and finding myself in the middle of a mountain with no guidance.
Afterwards, I simply went into the main menu and did the tutorial (which isn’t actually hard once you know what to do), but the point is that Mark McMorris does a horrific job of introducing concepts to the player. That would be a minor quibble if things eventually got better once the game opened up, but that isn’t the case. Learning to play is just the appetizer to what is a full course meal of disappointment.
Infinite Air has a campaign filled with 24 different challenges that each have five different objectives to complete. For example, during a “big air” event, I had to perform certain tricks, get a high score, and finish in first place in order to fulfill all five goals. At first I only had access to four of these challenges, and had to go back to events I had already completed in order to grind objectives until I had enough to continue on. That isn’t a fun structure.
It doesn’t seem too ridiculous at first (you only need 24 out of 40 to unlock tier three), but it gets ridiculous by the end where I needed to complete 80 different objectives out of a possible 100. This reeks of the developer realizing that 24 events only takes an hour or two to play through and then tacking on a terrible progression system in order to make it seem like there is more content than there actually is. It’s absolutely dreadful, mainly due to the challenges not being particularly interesting or well designed.
As you can see in the gameplay video above, an early competition simply had me doing one trick and then riding down the slope to the end of the mountain. The problem is that it took me 10 seconds to hit the jump, about five to actually pull off a trick and then 20 more seconds to finish my run. That is 30 seconds of inactivity and that’s just the first of three runs. Why is the ending marker not closer to where the jump is? Who thought it was a good use of the player’s time to have them travel down a hill slowly as they do absolutely nothing? I don’t know the answers to these questions since I’m absolutely baffled as to why they weren’t brought up within the first session of playtesting.
The poor event design could at least be excused if the actual gameplay was fun and rewarding to learn. Sadly, despite playing hours of the game and even managing to ace some events to where I got perfect scores, the trick system feels like a complete dice roll. Players have to pre-load their spins and flips before they hit a jump, but there’s not much control once in the air beyond being able to grab your board by holding the right trigger or barely rotating the snowboarder with the left stick. This meant that I basically had a 50/50 shot as to if I was going to land a crazy backside 3060 sextuple cork nuclear method (seriously, check out that video) or crash right on my face. There might be some nuance that I’m missing, but the game’s terrible tutorial never communicated it so my successes felt just as meaningless as my failures.
Ultimately, Mark McMorris Infinite Air is best described as just that – meaningless. There’s an entire mountainside that can be ridden upon, but the game’s world feels empty and shallow. Unlike a game like Forza Horizon 3, where I would have scores to beat and collectibles to find, there’s just a boring open area to snowboard down until I would reach the bottom. There’s no incentive to actually do anything while riding, as the only progression is in the awful career mode. Since the actual gameplay isn’t fun, I mostly found myself going to the highest point and then watching my player ragdoll down the mountain.
It doesn’t help that the game feels shockingly unpolished as well. Whenever I would crash, the game would respawn me exactly where I just crashed. That’s fine in theory, except when it keeps spawning the player near an object and they are stuck in an infinite animation of them crashing. Whenever I found myself in such a situation, I would have to give up the run I was on and restart from the very beginning. Throw in some of the worst visual pop-in I’ve seen on PlayStation 4 (I could constantly see trees sprouting from nowhere in the distance) and just a general clunky feel to the snowboarding, and it becomes clear that this game needed some extra time in development.
It’s really too bad. There are some really smart ideas here, including a cool system where players can customize the mountain and create their own sections to ride. That would be a rad addition to a fun game like SSX Tricky, but instead it felt like the developer wanted me to make interesting levels since they couldn’t. Nothing seems fully fleshed out, and the gameplay being sub-par makes every mode or feature feel like a chore.
Mark McMorris Infinite Air is not the snowboarding game that fans are looking for and that’s a huge bummer. There’s still hope that titles such as Steep and Snow can fill that void, but I know for sure that Mark McMorris needs to stick to riding down real mountains instead of virtual ones. Avoid this poorly structured game as if it was a tree in your riding line.
Review code for Mark McMorris Infinite Air provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.