From super-cross and snowboarding to street soccer and wave-riding, extreme sports titles have always had a place in the gaming medium. Though some have fared noticeably well than others (chiefly Tony Hawk and Skate) there’s no denying the amount of diversity on offer, especially if you look back at the previous console generation.
With that said, one area that remains largely untapped is the airborne disciplines, the most insane and limitless of which is skydiving. Hurtling through the air at breakneck speeds and wearing nothing but a wingsuit, it sounds like the perfect contender for a video game adaptation. However, as developer Gaijin Entertainment (IL-2 Sturmovik, War Thunder) proves, you need more than a solid premise to make a winning formula. It’s a little off-the-wall and refreshing in places though, ultimately, Proximity Flight comes across as bare-boned and inconsistent, even at the best of times.
Upon starting the game, players are immediately given a variety of options, allowing them to dip their toes in any of the available modes. These include a freestyle option as well as pre-set challenges, races, and routes in which players fly through a sequence of loops.
Skydive’s challenges are easily the best place to start. The game serves up a cluster of basic missions that establish the mechanics in a matter of minutes. You’ll learn how to fly as well as performing tricks and using adrenaline before it tears the stabilisers clean off and drops you in at the deep end.
Subsequent challenges continue to fluctuate in difficulty from mild to unfair, often forcing players to experiment. The routes, for example, require you to follow a set path though losing speed or altitude for a brief moment can often lead to failure and a prompt restart. The four-man races are even harder, demanding players to perfectly navigate the game’s landscapes whilst deploying adrenaline – gained from performing tricks – at just the right moment. After an hour of labouring and remembering the key hotspots I was still only scraping third place which led me to think I was either playing it wrong or hadn’t picked up on a crucial mechanic.
This wasn’t the case however. As opposed to Skydive’s robust difficulty, the gameplay itself is criminally simple. Whatever control layout you adopt (left stick, SixAxis or dual Move controllers), you’re still limited to a small range of actions, all of which are introduced within the first five minutes. Following this brief tutorial period there are no pointers or advanced tips, you’re simply left to experiment and – fingers crossed – get past some of the more frustrating challenges.
These limitations also permeate other areas of the game. Once beating all of the challenges and races, the only incentive you have is to go back and earn additional stars by achieving better accuracy or quicker completion times. Outside of that, sadly, there’s nothing else apart from playing around in freestyle mode but even then the novelty soon wears off.
Skydive’s strongest highlight by far is how the game looks. The locations on offer are diverse and often expansive with surprisingly little pop-in as you bolt through the sky. Everything else may lack the same level of polish or character but for a budget title it’s passable, though only somewhat complemented by the game’s raw soundtrack.
Considering the steep asking price and difficulty issues, it’s incredibly hard to recommend Skydive to anyone. Though its initial appeal is undeniable, Proximity Flight soon reveals itself as a repetitive and somewhat barren extreme sports game with no replay value whatsoever.
If you’re keen on the sport then, chances are, you’ve already snapped it up and may even be enjoying the game. However, for most savvy gamers there is a wealth of cheaper, better alternatives currently available via the PlayStation Network.
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