Remember those ethereal dreams we have where we can fly? Mine always took the form of an Icarus-esque vision of having my own wings… and that’s obviously not going to happen (without some freaky future genetic engineering going on). However some real-life experiences can get close to that, and skydiving is possibly the best example of this.
Skydive: Proximity Flight is a new game coming from Gaijin Entertainment, and it helps to emulate the feeling of flight with the use of a squirrel suit, and it does so really well. So well in fact, it actually scared the crap out of me a couple of times!
Released on October 1st for PS3 via the Playstation Network, the game applies a Pilotwings-style approach to base jumping providing circular waypoint rings to go through. (Yes, the title is a little misleading, although you can jump off a hot air balloon).
The game is really uncomplicated, which suits it well. There’s no story or any badly-explained narrative to worry about thankfully, and that’s completely fine – everything is challenge-based, be it stunt-orientated or a race.
There’s a wide choice of skydivers to use – 14 in fact. Each character has their own set of statistics in regards to speed, maneuverability, and weight. There’s also some legendary real-life base jumpers included: Joakim Sommer, Haluor Anguik and Andrey Karr along with some more fun ones like Dracula and Squirrel Girl. The legends are all unlocked by completing full sets of these challenges, and typically have some of the highest-available stats in the game.
The controls are really straightforward, despite there being two options to go for. Being a Playstation Move title, you can use the motion controls to increase the realism side of things, which is incredibly good fun, and allows you complete freedom of movement.
I don’t have a Move setup on my Playstation though, so I went for the straightforward controller setup. The left stick is for movement, and the right stick for camera control. The X button is for enabling tricks (when you combine it with the left stick), the triangle button changes the viewpoint so that you have it under the arm (a leg-cam) or in a first person viewpoint (and this really can be brown trouser time when you’re going particularly fast or doing barrel rolls).
The square button deploys your parachute (a wasted mechanic, as you have little control once you’ve done this, and are even given an option to skip the parachute part once you’ve pulled your ripcord), and the circle button rewinds time in case you faceplant onto the side of a canyon… which will happen. A lot.
This rewind mechanic sounds like a cheat, but it’s not thankfully – it’s just like getting another option to slightly alter your trajectory as you whip around a cliff face. This is still fairly limited, rewinding perhaps 10 seconds or so… so it’s not like you can rewind back to the start and take a different route.
Despite the responsiveness of the controls the game can sometimes be really unforgiving, as if you massively fail and have to rewind, you’ll sometimes lose momentum slightly, and if you’re a little too close to the ground, it doesn’t matter how far back you rewind… you won’t be able to get enough height to continue.
Lastly you have the adrenaline button (the right trigger) – this gives you a burst of speed, and is limited as well. You fill your adrenaline bar by performing tricks and stunts, and the rewards get bigger with the riskiest feats of lunacy – doing backflips near a cliff face for example.
These suitably insane acrobatic tricks are referred to as “Proximity Tricks”, and all involve maneuvers that will potentially shred the skin off your face as you skim past walls and trees.
In terms of game options, there’s a shedload – the base challenges initially act like a tutorial, teaching you how to do barrel rolls, backflips and forward flips, and proximity moves as well as use your basic movement skills.
You have a freestyle option which, as the name suggests, allows you to do whatever you like until you land. There’s also an “Adrenaline Race” option which is purely a race option against computer-controlled AI, or friends.
The great thing is when you’re playing in this mode, there’s a coloured trail of light which follows your opponents, and if you’re finding a section rather tricky, you can always just follow their route should you wish to.
This mechanic also helps to point out alternative routes you could take – I’d often be zipping through a chicane-style canyon, then see a coloured trail appear below me… pointing out that there’s a separate cavern route, so of course I looked for that route the second time around.
There’s a leaderboard so you can compete with your friends, as well as the option to create a challenge for them… this could be something as simple as get to a certain point in the map within a certain time… or performing a certain number of barrel rolls in a row. You can make your challenges really evil if you wish, providing a really tricky route and a certain point score, as well as other criteria.
Aesthetically-speaking the game is beautiful (especially for a downloadable PSN title), the coves and valleys that you swoop down into are rendered really well, even at the extreme high speeds. From what I could see as I clipped over trees and around cove walls (it’s really hard to pay attention sometimes as you’re ducking under rock formations at over 100mph), there was little to no popup or drop in framerate. The bloom and weather effects also help to boost the game’s stunning looks.
The only thing I noticed that could possibly use bolstering was a lack of water effects – this doesn’t come into play very often to be honest, as there’s only a few maps where you drop into the ocean.
The soundtrack is awesome though – the title screen starts with a typically extreme sport-orientated track, with a bit of an Alice In Chains flavour (It’s a band called Tarsha though, a track called Second Life). I loved it from the off, and I sat on the title screen bouncing my head for a good few minutes before I started playing.
The sound effects are great too – I imagine playing this with a headset on would be particularly immersive. The sound of the wind whipping past as you’re screaming along the base of a canyon is awesome, and so too are the crunching noises as you make a spectacular cock-up!
The only thing that would make this game more exhilarating would be using this on the Oculus Rift (which is planned for the PC)… and to be honest I have a good feeling I’d either make myself sick, or actually fall on the floor playing this using that tech – it’d be fun, but insane!
Overall I’ve really enjoyed playing Proximity Flight – it’s great fun, and gets your heart pumping (especially in first person or leg-cam mode). If you’re a bit of an achievement/trophy whore, then you’ll love this too – I unlocked about 10 in my first event just by messing about pulling off tricks. There’s 51 in total!
All things aside though, once you’ve unlocked all the available characters there’s not a great deal that will pull you back to the game, unless you’re really into base jumping and skydiving in general. The multiplayer aspect is a great draw, as is the challenge creation option… but the main aspect of the replay value is striving for perfect scores on the challenges.
Is Skydive: Proximity Flight worth your time and money? Most definitely. If you’re a fan of games like Pilotwings or SSX, then you’ll enjoy this… even more so if you’re a completionist. Now the edge of my seat can finally get some rest.