SNOW Open Beta Preview – Hitting the Slopes
SNOW is sure to live up to the goals it has set for itself.
We don’t get too many alpine sports games these days. 2012’s SSX was the last major release in the genre, but it threw realism aside, opting instead for insane tricks and massive jumps. SNOW is currently in Early Access on Steam and aims to create a more authentic experience for winter sports enthusiasts.
The game is pitched as an open world skiing game, but in reality it is a series of mountains, each open to explore and traverse. When you start the game you are immediately given a choice between single and multiplayer modes. The only real difference is that multiplayer will populate the mountains with other skiers, making the world feel more alive. I fooled around with the multiplayer but the servers still have a couple of problems so I spent the majority of my time in single player. After playing through a brief tutorial I was presented with a couple of different routes to take. I could choose a mountain to explore and just ski to my hearts content, or try my hand at events.
Let’s get this out of the way first: SNOW looks fantastic. The snow glistens in the light and small details like the ice and dirt flying up behind your skis bring the whole experience together. The time of day can also be changed with the press of a button, which let to some beautiful moments as I saw the different ways the light played off the environments. Each park and mountain looks great and is full of little details like mountainside chalets, broken logs and jagged rock formations.
"Let’s get this out of the way first: SNOW looks fantastic. The snow glistens in the light and small details like the ice and dirt flying up behind your skis bring the whole experience together."
One thing that really stood out to me was the crowd. From a distance they looked like pieces of clipart, but upon closer inspection they were actually blow up dolls with their arms in the air. It adds a bit of humor and levity to an otherwise authentic and serious sports title. The animation is also smooth for the most part. There are some moments that are a little jarring, but cutting through the snow, speeding of the edge of jumps and half pipes, and flipping through the air all look stylish and further add to the over feel of the experience. The music is also great. It stays in the background, never taking away from the gameplay; it adds to the game’s serenity and perfectly matches the title’s tone.
I never found myself fumbling with the controls, whether I was using a controller or mouse and keyboard. Tricks are easy to pull off and turning is responsive and smooth. The game seems to function better when using a gamepad, but using a keyboard didn’t take anything away. The only notable downside with a controller is that you have no control over the camera. The view locked behind your skier and can be switched to first person if you want. If you want to change the camera to get a better look at something or check out your character, you’ll still need to reach for the mouse.
Free play has a large variety of real world mountains and parks, each with its own distinct feel and obstacles. Some mountains are not fully unlocked, but flipping off of jumps and spiraling off a half pipe was still great fun. One of the game’s mountains is much more fleshed out and gave me a real sense of what the end product will be like. I started at the mountain’s peak beside the wreckage of a crashed airplane and took of down the slopes. There were diverging paths, jagged cliffs to avoids and jump off, and rails to grind. Some of the areas were a little barren, but it was still fun to race down the mountain, hitting every jump I could and narrowly missing trees.
"Events are more limited but they have a more concentrated focus. There are six different types of events to participate in: Timetrial, Descent, Slopestyle. Big Air, Freeride and Freestyle."
Events are more limited but they have a more concentrated focus. There are six different types of events to participate in: Timetrial, Descent, Slopestyle. Big Air, Freeride and Freestyle. They all have similar goals, like making it to the bottom of a mountain as fast as possible without crashing, or racking up as big of a score as possible by pulling off insane tricks. They may be a little simple, but it’s still exhilarating to flip and spin down hills to climb up the leaderboards. Carving up the snow, choosing your own path and endlessly skiing remains fun for hours, but the events have some focus that the rest of the game lacks.
There are also challenges for each mountain. These are completely optional and are there for you to tackle as you explore the snowy world, but they do breakup the sometimes-monotonous activity of slowly gliding down the hills.
There are still some bugs – as is to be expected – and some of the locations are still a little rough, but I can already see how well SNOW is shaping up. There are still a few wrinkles to iron out – as there are in every early access game – but SNOW is sure to live up to the goals it has set for itself.
This game was previewed on the PC.