Following the revelation that Poppermost Productions will be bringing their winter sports title, SNOW, to PlayStation 4 at Sony Computer Entertainment’s (SCEE) pre-Gamescom press conference last week, the indie development team took to the show floor in the business halls of the trade event to show members of the media just how far their product has come. Playable on both a standard proscenium arch monitor and as a virtual reality (VR) experience on an Oculus Rift development kit (DK2), SNOW impressed with it’s visual quality as much as it did with it’s grand designs.
The foundation of SNOW is an open-world skiing and snowboarding experience. Only the former was available to play at Gamescom, however there was enough content here to convince that Poppermost Productions weren’t just spinning a marketing line: while many winter sports titles have suggested that they had an open world in which players can roam freely they’ve often been little more than multiple conjoined routes down a single mountain face. SNOW, however, offers a truly expansive take on the theme, featuring a number of unique locations accessible from almost any starting point or piste.
Poppermost Productions took great pride in showcasing the full range of locales and landmarks currently included in the Early Access build available on Steam right now, as well as the huge range of licensed clothing and apparel that appears in the videogame. Authenticity is key, VRFocus is told, and yet all of this failed to hit the mark is was obviously intended too. Though it may be comprehensive, there is nothing here which hasn’t been done before by snowboarding titles more than a decade ago. It’s a nice touch for sure, but it’s all secondary to the gameplay. And this, after all, is what we’re all after.
SNOW is a hugely enjoyable skiing experience. Players will find the videogame sits comfortably between the original SSX style arcade thrills and the more demanding SSX reboot, immediately earning comparisons to Nintendo’s oft forgotten 1080 Snowboarding. It’s a design that has the player thinking three steps ahead at all times; if you’re planning for the tree 4 meters in front of you then you’ve probably already lost, however if that plan was formulated moments ago and you’re looking at it’s sibling 20 meters ahead you’ve clearly already grasped SNOW‘s interpretation of momentum.
During VRFocus‘ time with SNOW the penalty for impacts was mitigated by the fact that there was no competition nor clock timing runs. This was a build made for exploring, and as such the VR component felt right at home. There is no denying that SNOW‘s densely populated courses are far harder to navigate in VR, but there’s a visceral thrill in hitting the steady incline of a ramp at speed and finding yourself several inches off the ground. The feeling of weightlessness is incomparable to anything else currently available in VR; a significant feat given the amount of space-based simulations on the horizon.
As it stands SNOW is an incredibly compelling winter sports experience. There is some work to be done on nearly every area of the production, but this is the beauty of Steam’s Early Access programme: Poppermost Productions have the advantage of directly communicating with their audience to find out exactly what is expected of them and where they can improve. This will of course benefit the recently announced PlayStation 4 edition of SNOW and the eventual final build for VR; a product which VRFocus simply can’t wait to experience in it’s fullest.