When I covered the release of Gaijin Entertainment’s Skydive: Proximity Flight last week it seemed to be a niche title released exclusively for adrenaline junkies who spend their spare time flying through the air at ungodly speeds, with their hopes pinned on some well constructed fabric. I was surprised to discover this was not the case and Skydive: Proximity Flight was challenging and fun, for a short while, even to someone whose idea of risk is another half spoon of sugar in their tea.
Looking at this game from the outside you would be forgiven for thinking that it is a specialist title for extreme adrenaline junkies, especially as the central theme of BASE jumping is something that hasn’t been prominent in a gaming industry that has typically faired well for extreme sport titles.
The game, which is available for download from the PlayStation Store for PS3, is one with little storyline, by which I mean there is no storyline. Instead the game is stripped down for quick access and the ability to jump into a small selection of different game modes as soon as the game loads.
Game modes include: Adrenaline Race, Challenge Mode and Freestyle Mode. The stand out performer here was undoubtedly Challenge Mode and it is definitely the best place for a new gamer to start.
It walks you through the gameplay controls, which frankly provide half of the fun of the game, and after about five minutes of exploring the different challenges you’ll be spinning, flipping and flying through the air at excessive speeds as though the staple of your diet is energy drinks and ‘awesome bro’ is your standard response to any situation.
In terms of gameplay controls there are three options available, you can use the motion sensor in a Dualshock 3 controller, tilting and dipping the controller to manoeuvre one of the many characters available to you. Secondly you could use a the console’s Move feature, sticking your arms out in a T shape and moving your outstretched arms to control your BASE jumper. Finally you could use the left stick to careen through the countryside, which to me felt a little bit like owning a Ferrari and driving at half of the speed limit wherever you go.
For me the first option was most appealing, twisting and turning the controller had me jumping in my seat and offered a level of control and satisfaction that the other options did not.
Challenge Mode consists of flying through increasingly hard to reach rings, performing a number of difficult tricks and completing a pre determined task. The first two categories were challenging and fun, the final section however was painstakingly difficult, which soon became the norm for Skydive: Proximity Flight.
Challenge Mode entertained me for a good hour but eventually my interest dried up as things started to get slightly repetitive, which like the ridiculous level of difficulty became a recurring theme of Skydive: Proximity Flight.
It is when you leave the challenge mode that things start to go downhill for Skydive: Proximity Flight, as Adrenaline Race and Freestyle Modes both offer little in terms of entertainment.
Let us start with Adrenaline Race. The concept is a good one, four characters hurtling through the air, navigating beautifully rendered mountainsides and careening through woodland. Sadly this concept is let down by the AI you race against and how impossibly difficult it is to beat them.
Normally when posting reviews I try to avoid mentioning how difficult the game is, after all it’s not the game’s fault if I suck right? Note the use of the word normally, because this time around it seems that it is the way the game is built that makes it so frustratingly difficult.
I say this because no matter how you play or the route you take the AI will always pip you. For example I took what looked to be the most direct route over a hilltop, to my surprise I was overtaken by two other BASE jumpers far out to my right. After they had finished ahead of me I decided to go again and matched the line they took in the previous race, this time however they passed me on the left, taking the very line that was allegedly slower when I took it.
This sort of thing happened in a number of spots, across a variety of tracks, and it was always the same two racers, in exactly the same order. The times the AI were clocking on the maps was also very suspect, as I posted a time on one track of 1 minute 52 seconds, and finished a close second, just being pipped at the post. I would then get across the line ten seconds quicker, which I’ll proudly say put me within the top 50 on the online leaderboard, and still I would be passed at the very last second and come second by the same amount of milliseconds.
For a while this only drove me to try again and again, there was always a feeling that I was so close and that I could beat the AI if I just took one more go, eventually however it became too much and I lost interest in Adrenaline Race, which is a shame because it could have made the game a real knockout.
The reason I say this aspect of the game could have made it a knockout is because the tracks have been built brilliantly and are complimented by the beautiful visuals that grace this game, sweeping and swopping through a variety of climates and mountainsides looks great and is really a lot of fun when you first set out.
I thought for a while that it could have been me, maybe I was missing some advance playing style that was holding me back from leaving my opponents in my wake, however there is very little in the way of advanced playing style, the mechanics you pick up in the first five minutes serve you for the entire game.
Sure there are little ways to get ahead, the game rewards risk, for example if you fly close to the landscape a boost bar fills, but that doesn’t help as the AI always react accordingly and in the long run you don’t make any significant ground on them from boosting excessively.
I don’t think this mode was meant to break any records, it should be seen as an area for a quick fly around and for that purpose I suppose it was okay, you could fly to different climates if you went far enough in Freestyle Mode, which I guess is a nice touch, but ultimately this got old very quickly.
All in all Skydive: Proximity Flight had all the makings of a great game: beautiful visuals, fun and intuitive controls, decent gameplay mechanics and some great locations. This was all let down by two aspects however, a level of difficulty that is more punishing than challenging and a replay value that is frankly non existent. After my first play of two hours I felt I had achieved all that could be done and there was very little that enticed me to fire up the title again.
This is a game that should be viewed as a quick arcade game, it’s fun for a while but wears thin very quickly. The only issue with looking at the game in this light is the hefty price tag of $19.99, which is not indicative of the short life span this game has.
I think this is why I was so disappointed after a couple of hours, with that price tag I was expecting something that would run and run and I would get gameplay hours that would, at the very least, reach double figures. Even the soundtrack, which matched the title nicely and appealed to me instantly started to feel repetitive after a short amount of play time.
It really is a shame that the game had such a short play time as it could have been a groundbreaking title that put BASE jumping games on the map, as I said it had all the right ingredients, it was just lacking in depth.
Of course if you are a fan of BASE jumping you may not have a problem with the repetitive nature of the game, the idea of repeating four races and a number of challenges may appeal to you if you are passionate about the manor in which these aspects are being repeated.