What happened to extreme sports games? They were more popular than Mountain Dew towards the end of the PSone era, but the genre seemed to fizzle out faster than a ska band’s fanbase. Overexposure certainly contributed to Kelly Slater and crew’s sudden crash in popularity, but with only a half-hearted Tony Hawk to compete with, Russian outfit Gaijin Entertainment’s self explanatory rad-‘em-up Skydive: Proximity Flight is hoping to rekindle your affection for the reckless. But does it land a hairy backflip while flashing the horns, or fall flat on its face?
The premise is simpler than a skateboarder’s vocabulary: you play as one of several Monster-sponsored skydivers, committing careless acts of gravity-defying recreation in the hope of landing a cameo in the next series of Helicopter Rescue. Performing tricks as you dive from one of many vertigo-inducing high points allows you to earn points, while pulling shapes in close proximity to trees, rocks, and windmill farms multiplies your combo. The more stupid the stunt, then, the higher the rewards.
Initially, it’s enjoyable in a dumb death wish kind of way, but it quickly becomes evident that the developer’s forgotten to really build a game around the risk-taking release. For starters, the campaign is restricted to a sequence of challenges which see you swooping through rings or passing score quotas in order to progress. The faster that you complete these, the more medals that you’ll earn, allowing you to nab some Trophies and, well, not a lot else. There are different divers that you can take control of, but despite boasting different stats, they all feel more or less the same in the air. As such, you’ll most likely pick a favourite and stick to it. We opted for the lady in the squirrel suit.
It’s a bit of a shame, because, as alluded earlier, the gameplay is actually quite fun. The studio’s managed to capture a decent sense of speed as you swoop through the air, and this is accentuated by the adrenaline mechanic, which allows you to squeeze your limbs together in order to minimise wind resistance and increase your speed. You’ll need to use a combination of this alongside tricks to ensure that you maintain the momentum required to complete some courses, as later routes leave you in the air for three or four minutes at a time.
Despite this, though, you’ll breeze through the irresponsible excursion faster than a real-life skydive. With the emphasis largely placed upon time attack rather than points scoring, there’s no real reason to play recklessly at times. And that means that you’ll spend a chunk of the game simply moving through brightly coloured rings rather than actually chaining tricks. Even if you do opt for the latter – which is more relevant in the ‘Beat the Best’ leaderboard mode – there are only ever three stunts that you can perform, so it’s not quite as exciting as the releases that it’s inspired by.
Granted, it’s a little more challenging if you opt for the default control scheme, which may just remind you that the DualShock 3 has motion detection capabilities. Unfortunately, it also serves as a refresher as to why the imprecise inclusion has largely gone ignored since Naughty Dog awkwardly opted to employ it as a means to make Nathan Drake lob hand grenades. The technology is just too old to be useful here, and it results in an unresponsive experience. Dual-wielding two PlayStation Move wands works much better, but we spent the majority of our time with the game simply tapping at the tried and tested left analogue stick because that gave us the greatest sense of control.
Still, all credit goes to the team for at least attempting to implement such a varied roster of input options – and the same applies to the camera position, too. You can play the title from a traditional third-person perspective, or mix things up with leg lenses and a first-person view. These angles can be toggled on the fly during gameplay, but unfortunately you can’t use them in the limited replay mode. It’s a missed opportunity, because shooting death-defying footage is part of the appeal of extreme sports in the first place.
Rounding out the package is a handful of races, which allow you to fall with up to three other participants. Like the rest of the release, these are entertaining, but the artificial intelligence tends to close leads with suspicious proficiency, and there are only actually four courses to choose from. There’s no online or local multiplayer, so you’ll have to make do with racing against the ghosts of your friends or strangers, which works fine, but doesn’t make up for the lack of true competitive play.
Sadly, though, that’s all there really is to the game. Graphically, it looks better than a BASE jumper with a broken parachute, but it’s not going to blow your mind. There are a couple of weather effects – such as fog – which change the look of the title, and the environments are quite big, but the texture quality isn’t the greatest, and the resolution is disappointingly low. The music, meanwhile, is much what you’d expect: a brash mix tape of scuffed guitar riffs and punchy power chords, all set to an angry beat that will make you wonder why snare drums don’t rally against domestic abuse.
Skydive: Proximity Flight is fun at first, but it plummets prompter than bungee jumper with the wrong length cord. With little other than a flimsy campaign mode to keep you occupied, the thrill of swooping through a never-ending sequence of coloured rings will soon outstay its welcome, and you’ll quickly be looking elsewhere to get your fix of extreme exhilaration. We recommend going for a bike ride without a helmet – or turning up to work without a tie.