STAFF REVIEW of Mark McMorris Infinite Air (Xbox One)

Thursday, November 10, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Mark McMorris Infinite Air Box art I have to admit, I'm a closet snowboard fan. I've never snowboarded in my life, yet since the days of 1080 on the Nintendo 64 I've been hooked. I loved virtually riding from massive jump to massive jump while threading between trees and watching the powder kick up. Recently HB Studios released Mark McMorris Infinite Air, and if you're wondering why the name HB Studios sounds familiar, it's because they created The Golf Club. Priced at $49.99, HB Studios has traded the links for a mountain, so let's see if this game is up to the challenge.

Starting off, Mark McMorris Infinite Air throws you right onto the mountain with a snowboard on your feet and away you go. Having never played this game, or even understood what controls do what, I found myself smashing buttons constantly and crashing nonstop. After some frustrating minutes had passed I pressed start, and low and behold I found a tutorial section and it seemed that all my prayers were answered. Or so I thought.

Given that this game claims to have their tricks based in the world of physics, I found that the tutorial is incredibly frustrating due to the steep learning curve. Some of the basic moves are ok, but when you're talking split second timing and multiple button presses do the same thing, you can really find yourself on the wrong end of a boulder or tree, fast. Having gone through the tutorial, I rapidly became aware to the fact that this is not an arcade style SSX game, but rather it leans towards a more simulation experience. Twists, spins, and grabs were fairly easy to learn, but once you started to try and attempt flips you soon found yourself swearing up a storm. The reason for that is thanks to Mark McMorris Infinite Air's physics and timing the game plays more like Skate due to leaning on more of a realistic feel.

Normally when you're playing an arcade style snowboard game there is usually a crouch or jump button that you leave pressed to not only gain speed but you release it whenever you want to gain full height. Not here. Any amount of time after 1 second will instantly deplete your available power for jumping, which means if you think you're going to hold down LT or RT, or both (buttons you use in tandem with the Right Stick) for an elongated period of time and get full height, you're mistaken. Think of it like a car's power curve. There is a certain apex of power that you must hit in order to achieve maximum speed or horsepower. The way I practiced this absolute vital piece of gameplay was to simply find a flat piece of land and just start jumping. I wasn't moving, I was just jumping and trying to practice how long I had to hold the triggers down to get maximum height.

Once you have attempted to get the mechanics down, it's time to dive into the game itself. The Circuits is this title's campaign section and it is split into six varying "tiers", and each one of them is broken up into four different events with each event having five objectives to complete to unlock new gear for your rider. You'll start with some pretty basic objectives, such as gain so many points, or land a trick worth so many points, etc., and throughout the events you'll experience the many different styles of Mark McMorris Infinite Air. But once you arrive at the end, you'll be racing against another pro, and should you win you unlock the new professional rider, and obviously at the end of it all you'll have Mark McMorris himself to challenge.

Now, I want to shift your focus to what I consider the highlight of Mark McMorris Infinite Air, and that is the World Editor feature. Think of this like a massive open world sandbox where you create your very own mountain to play on. This game packs a ton of features and items to place, and the cool thing is that you can edit this all from the air as you fly a helicopter around to make sure that your mountain is just how you want it. On top of sculpting your unique mountain like an artist, you also have in depth control over the objects within your world. Rotating, scaling, manipulating the tilt and height, and snapping them to the mountain to literally create every single angle you want to be in your world. This is without a doubt the best feature, and mode, in the game itself, and there are some AAA titles that don't offer this much creativity in their world editors. When you've got every flake and angle the way you want it, publish it and let riders all over the world explore and have fun on your own creation.

Now when you have a game that is supposed to be centralized on a scenic environment, Mark McMorris Infinite Air tries hard to deliver such an experience. The environments look very serene, and one thing that stood out a great deal were the lighting effects. Transitioning between heavy forests, where the light slips through the cracks, to a massive jump out in the middle of nowhere while the sun beams down hard as soon as you clear, is just some of the ways the dynamic lighting really makes the graphics shine. Now I did experience some frame rate issues when playing, but nothing that would be considered game breaking. And what about the audio you ask? I'm just going to come out and say it, that I'm not a fan at all of the soundtrack; however what I am a fan of are the sound effects and the ambient sounds of nature that you hear while you're riding. They added to the experience of cutting through the snow. I ended up turning the music off and just enjoying the mountain as it was.

Is Mark McMorris a quality snowboard game? Yes and no. I say yes because it's a dramatic step in the right direction, but I say no because the execution in some instances could use much more polish. It goes without saying though that Mark McMorris Infinite Air by HB Studios offers an incredible amount of replay value through its World Editor, but outside of that you will most likely struggle to find the same type of enjoyment in the other areas of this game.

Overall: 6.8 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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