I would not be surprised if Infinite Air gets a large number of comparisons to Steep. We’ve been living in this lull of snow sport games since SSX (Although I do recall a Tony Hawk game having some snowboarding.) On first looks, you have a snowboarding game set in a mountainous region with travelling via map screen which is pretty much all we know of Steep.
I will try to refrain from making allusions to this comparison. It’s rather obvious, and as long as the comparison is positive there is wholly no issue. But Infinite Air is pretty much Steep-lite. All the features we expect with the risk of being less polished.
Where Infinite Air excels in its own right is in the map creation. Using several variables you can get the game to spawn a random map for you to trick around. Moving around these maps is mapped to the Y button and at any time you can go back in the helicopter and move somewhere else.
It was pretty much the only feature Infinite Air needed to get right: the freedom of movement, and they have hit very close to the mark. If you find yourself stuck somewhere you can simply shift somewhere else. The characters movement is very fluid and carving your way down a mountain is a surprisingly cathartic experience. The movement is not without some niggles sadly. The character tends to change stance of their own accord while carving which slows you down, and it’s difficult to maintain momentum if you’re not travelling nearly vertically down the mountain. If you fancy, you can make tracks and share them, giving some competition to the game.
What drags this experience down is all of the background recording action. What the game actually does in the background is somewhat of a mystery to me, with its main benefit being your ability to rewind time back to before you bailed. However the recording does not seem to be continuous, and sometimes rewinding can takes you several minutes back up the route you have taken. While the tutorial does a good job of covering the basics of movement you are sort of left alone to deal with this aspect.
The other issue is one I see appearing with Steep as well. There isn’t much past what I’ve described. This isn’t a problem inherent to this game, as I remember this problem as far back as Cool Boarders. While people can sink hours into customising the world, designing tracks and parks and competing with friends, it’s overall rather thin and for those with short attention spans for this sort of play you won’t get an incredible amount out of this game.
It feels like comparing Infinite Air to Steep is the wrong comparison. In a sense the game is far more akin to the Skate series: A far more individual experience with the customisability and passive online elements to remind you that this is a competitive sport. But what Infinite Air shows more is that the snowboarding genre is not as dead a genre as everyone believed.
Plus it’s out in October, so you don’t need to wait.