With the games charts being almost exclusively dominated by motor racing giants such as Forza, Dirt and Project Cars, it’s refreshing to find a new kid on the block offering a unique take on what has become a predictable and, dare we say it, uninspiring genre. Descenders is that new broom offering us a glimpse into the adrenaline fueled world of extreme downhill freeriding. Yes, read that last sentence again. The adrenaline fueled world of extreme downhill freeriding. The last time we even thought of a sentence like that has to be when we got a chance to play Downhill Domination on the PS2. Just in case you were wondering, that was back in the days when ‘internet’ was something you got at the hairdressers. Yes, that long ago.
Now flash forward to 2018 and the wunderkinds at Dutch studio RageSquid (those of Action Henk fame) have finally unveiled their latest offering, Descenders on the Xbox One.
Descenders is a freeriding game in which you flip, whip and trick your way down a series of procedurally generated environments. Unlike many speed games that you can master by memorizing the course, the fact that Descenders changes its environment every time you play means you can only beat the game by getting better at playing it. Genius. As you make your way through the game, you start off in the Scottish Highlands and eventually progress through to two other unique worlds including cavernous canyons, dense forests and heart stopping mountain peaks. The more stunts you pull off, the faster you ride, the more tricks you nail, the more reps you earn. And with these reps you can unlock new threads, accessories and bikes.
Descenders rep currency also has a sting in its tail; come off your bike mid-challenge and you lose 1 per cent of your rep total. This added incentive to nail each trick and stunt makes Descenders a tense, nail-biting experience that has to be experienced by every speed demon. The amount of reps you have also affects your team. As you make a name for yourself in the mountain biking world, you’ll eventually be able to join one of three teams; Team Enemy, Team Arboreal and Team Kinetic. Join a team, rank up your reps and you’ll be heading for glory.
Graphically, Descenders is unrivalled in its sheer beauty. Take a look at the screenshots and you’ll see what we mean. Each environment has been lovingly and painstakingly recreated right down to every scrub of dirt and blade of grass. The way the sun reflects and casts shadows as you hurtle downhill is something that will stay with you for a long time. Honestly, as we were playing Descenders we had to fight the urge to lick the screen. It really does look that good.
RageSquid have also done an admirable job in capturing the sound of a bike hurtling downhill through shrubs, gorges and mountainsides at 50 mph while dodging obstacles on both sides. Playing this game hooked up to a stereo rig will immerse you in a world that many of us have never experienced in real life. A world that we can’t help but be curious about now that we’ve played Descenders.
The inclusion of a leaderboard means you’ll constantly be monitoring your progress and everyone else’s. And you’ll find yourself returning to the challenges again and again in the hope of improving your score just a little bit more.
For anyone serious about mountain biking, Descenders is probably the only must have game you can’t live without. For the rest of us newbies, it’s a nail gripping, fun and challenging game that we’ll be playing again and again. Go buy.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.