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Hands-on with Descenders on Xbox One – Mountain Biking Reinvented

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It’s fair to say that since the days of the original Xbox, many have been left craving for a developer to finally take the bull by the horns and deliver us a full on extreme sports game centred around mountain biking once more. For me, the last time I can truly remember racing around on a mountain bike in the world of gaming is either down Mount Chiliad in GTA V or back in the day with Downhill Domination on the original Xbox console. Unfortunately, these days, the best we have of getting in on some serious downhill madness is by watching the Red Bull Rampage events on the TV.

It seems we’re not alone in our wish for an exciting mountain biking game though and thanks to the team over at RageSquid, we can now finally sink our teeth into some procedurally generated courses and hurtle our way downhill once more as Descenders is on Xbox One.

To start things off, players are given a basic bike, some standard rider gear and a neat, if short, tutorial to give you the basic controls. From there it’s just you and the randomly generated world that surrounds you in every trail. There is a practice area where players can have a basic run at things, but it’s the procedural trails that really get things going, bringing the feel of true mountain biking into play.

At present though, Descenders is still very much a work in progress and that shows from the rather limited feel of the content. Whilst each world is randomly generated based on settings such as environment, slopes, steep-ness of each slope, how many slopes there are and how many stunts are included, the feel of each world is still overly familiar to the last. Of course, that could, and likely will, change as development continues and with the gameplay already running fantastically smooth and the feel of each trial coming across as highly realistic, there’s plenty of time for more focus to go into ensuring variety is rife.

Whilst things do feel a bit samey all-around in terms of visuals however, it doesn’t mean the graphics at present are of a poor standard and from grass to trees, jumps to flats and rain to snow, everything within Descenders does look rather fantastic.

What is nice to see is just how each action when out on a run reflects on your performance. For example, pulling off daring stunts will see reputation gained whilst increasing the likelihood of falling off your bike, can leave you unable to complete the course if you bail too many times. Build enough reputation points however then the biking membership opportunities will come your way via way of Enemy, Arboreal or Kinectic. Signing with one of these will see you able to rise through their ranks and work your way up to becoming a world class Mountain Biker.

Finally, we have the soundtrack and as someone who doesn’t usually pay attention to music in games that aren’t of the rhythm variety, Descenders has certainly got something special with the included tunes providing some fantastic sounds to set the tone of the fast-paced riding and racing that the game is all about.

There is still much more needed for this to become a standout game, but things certainly look bright for the future, and with so little in the way of extreme sports games available, let’s hope Descenders can be the game to reinvent the genre once more.

Carlos Santuana (Sly Boogie1993)
Carlos Santuana (Sly Boogie1993)
After 20 years of playing every game I can get my hands on, I can now be found selling my soul for anything Resident Evil, Gears of War, or Gamerscore related... all of which will be mastered after a good cuppa!
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