Sky Diving Reader Review
Falling thousands of feet in the air sounds like an exhilarating experience incomparable to many of the world’s most extreme sporting enthusiasts. You are technically travelling faster than any human was ever intended to travel without the aid of a vehicle and this is why Sky Diving for the Playstation 3 seems like a reasonable and fun purchase.
Video games are no strangers to the world of sky diving with ‘Grand theft auto’, ‘just cause’ and ‘AaAaAA!!! A reckless disregard for gravity’ (Which is on PC and is great fun!). All you need to do is to create a sense of force, peril and adrenaline and you are onto a winner. Sky diving on the PS3 for the most part, seems to avoid all of these qualities like a fat child refuses to eat their vegetables, though not in favour of something more delicious but instead to confine themselves in their room, being moody and boring.
You often don’t feel like you have any control of the character on screen. There is a reason for this however and it all ties down to the fact that this is a six axis game, which means that many of the actions are performed by tilting and rotating the game pad. Of course there are titles out there that can use the six axis effectively, from the critically successful ‘Flower’ to the segment of ‘Ratchet and clank – tools of destruction’ where you controlled your character diving through the sky... sky diving as it were.
There are types of game modes, one where you have to work with AI characters in order to complete a formation, and the other is to simply parachute your way onto a target. Let’s start with formation, because it’s the part of the game that creates more trouble than anything else. As you fall through the sky, the AI sky divers begin to get into the position and a red shadow highlights where you need to position your character. Sounds simple doesn’t it? The problem begins when you the game developers chose to put so much pressure on the game pad, they were probably thinking that they were pioneers, testing new and exciting ways to play. Instead they just made it barely playable.
Your character not only needs to move into position but also to rotate. Tilting the six axis moves your character, but to rotate them, you need to rotate the game pad. That little bit of plastic is working overtime and chances are that it will mistake some of your rotation as a tilt, moving you out of position. This is infuriating because putting a shaped object into its relevant shaped hole are the kind of educational play things we had when we were one to three years old; it seems as though the games purpose was to de-evolve my brain to a point where I still wet the bed.
The background shows a landscape that you believe you are getting closer and closer to, but it’s a trick. They have taken one static background and slowly rotate it to make you feel like your falling, if that wasn’t good enough they then make a selection of clouds appear that rise upwards. It surely must not be difficult to make your characters actually fall towards something? There is also a co op mode where two people are able to take part in the formation section. But this just doubles the annoyance because instead of one person fumbling around a game pad trying to get a man to fit into a red shadow, there are two people fumbling around a game pad trying to get a man to fit into a shadow.
How about the parachuting section? You start off, throwing yourself out of an aeroplane and are then asked to perform tricks while in the air, which include flips and spins. The trouble here, is that these flips and spins are controlled by using the six axis which means that instead of reasonably performing tricks with the face buttons – Like in other popular extreme sport games – you are shaking and waving the controller back and forth as if you are fighting to stop Susan Boyle slipping her tongue down your throat.
According to the online instruction manual there are 22 different tricks you can perform while sky diving, but it boggles my mind as to how you can get 22 completely different control inputs from shaking the control pad. It’s all random and they will take your shakes as a suggestion and then do whatever they feel like, it’s the equivalent of letting someone watch rocky balboa and handing them a pair of boxing gloves and a microphone to “interact” with the film. But whatever they do, their gestures or well spoken English aren’t going to have an effect on his punches or his unusual speech.
After your character has finished his aerial acrobatics it’s time for the parachute to come out. Something incredible happens; you begin to feel in control. Parachuting is slow paced and you are able to make smaller adjustments to your landing, so using the six axis to lightly tilt the control pad to assist you in landing sounds like it would work very well. No, they decide to use both the analogue sticks to control your character while parachuting. Granted, pulling the analogue sticks feels as though you are pulling left or right on the parachute, as if it’s a real parachute. But because of the slow nature of this section, the six axis would be able to keep up with my slow movements.
I’m not saying that the analogue sticks are bad, you feel in control and its very responsive, but when you are making a game that has so far relied on motion control and you ditch the easiest programmable segment it’s a bad case of game design. At least while parachuting you feel as though your character is reaching a destination as you close in on the target on the ground. There is a neat little slow mo when you reach the target as you watch where your feet lands too, pretty satisfying when you land dead centre.
The parachute section is by far the most fun part in the game and they are able to perform three of the basic objectives I suggested at the beginning of this review;
Force - Feeling as though you are moving towards the ground Peril - Controlling the parachute and making real time adjustments to reach the target Adrenaline – Success upon reaching the target creates a suspenseful slow motion view of the landing. Unfortunately, there is only one island to land on, and they just move the location of the target, so it’s very difficult to enjoy revisiting the section.
I can’t help but compare this to pilot wings on the N64, its sky diving sections linked formations and parachuting together. But in this title, they are separate game modes. The sky diving in pilot wings was just a small part of the full game and it had several sky diving locations so it’s horrible that a PS3 title is unable to even handle this.
The designer needed to know the limits of the six axis and allow some of the input to come from the face buttons. A dance dance revolution style rhythm action game would have been great to help perform the solo sky diving aerial acrobatics rather than throttling the pad and screaming obscenities at the TV which appear to do nothing. It’s difficult to recommend the title but if you absolutely love real world sky diving you may be able to find some enjoyment here... I’m sticking with just cause 2 however.