Ubisoft takes on extreme winter sports in this new title, but does it get the job done?
I grew up enjoying extreme sports games like the Cool Boarders series and others. When I first saw Steep my mind hearkened back to those days of being huddled in front of my 12 inch television trying to navigate snow covered trails on my PlayStation. Those are great memories, and I wanted to see if Steep could produce more memorable moments on the slopes.
Steep gives you access to four types of extreme mountain sports; snowboarding, skiing, wingsuit flying, and paragliding. If you have played games like Cool Boarders before then the feel of the game will be easy to adapt to.
The controls are easy to grasp for anyone though, and no matter which sport you are participating in at the time, the controls are responsive. The only frustrating element of gameplay that still makes me squeeze the controller in anger is that the falling mechanic sometimes feels inconsistent. Sometimes you can ride over sheer rock and fall into a ragdoll, and other times nothing seems to happen. It can be very frustrating to lose gold in a challenge because you fell somewhere you rode over in a previous attempt.
Snowboarding and skiing are very similar in how they play. You can easily find yourself skiing down the hill backwards on skis until you get a feeling for the nuances of when you might get turned around. Doing tricks is simple, and the control scheme allows for ample control of tricks, even mid flight. The challenges start off easy and seem to gently ramp up to a challenging level, and they are a good mix of back country, races, and freestyle to keep things interesting.
Wingsuit flying can be quite thrilling and at the same time, extremely difficult. The controls are very responsive which allows for precision flying at high speeds, and it is a lot of fun to zip down a mountain face at high speed knowing that death is staring you in the face. The challenges start off easy, but quickly ramped into challenges that seemed nearly impossible sometimes. Even though I would restart a challenge many times, that one time you make it through a rock tunnel and complete the run it is a rush.
Paragliding seems to be the part of the game that is a moment to take in the beauty of the mountain from a different angle. I quite enjoyed the challenge of paragliding around the rocky peaks. The challenges are fun, and once you get a little practice time in you will find it is very easy to use paragliding. These challenges were tough until I had taught myself the fundamentals through trial and error, but once you get it down many challenges become trivial until the highest difficulties.
Player progression allows you to unlock a wide variety of gear to customize your character. One thing that I felt could have used a change was customizing your character beyond just the preset player characters, but this is a minimal issue.
The story is all about you and your growth as a participant in extreme sports. Even though your guide can sometimes seem a little obnoxious, the enthusiasm rubs off and keeps me excited to keep pushing. Many challenges have their own cinematics to introduce you to what is going on and make you feel like a sports star.
There are other moments in the game such as the mountain stories that give you plenty of time to explore the mountain as you are treated to a narration. These are enjoyable and relaxing runs where you can take your time and unlock various places on the map to find new challenges.
Sights and Sounds
The mountain produces beautiful sights whether you are flying or riding. The snow effects around your character are something I had never seen before and allow you to see whether you are riding through deep powder or a sheet of ice. Your footsteps in the snow really make you feel like part of the world.
The sunsets in the game have had me at times just standing at the top of a hill looking at the horizon. Riding down the hill at night reminds me of riding down the slopes in the rockies with my friends at night. The sounds of skiing through snow or the swirl of wind around you as you paraglide make you feel like you are there in the harness high above the earth.
The music track is exciting, but it changes music each time you reset a run. Maybe it is because I had to reset many times on some challenges, but I wish the soundtrack could be customized or songs skipped on the fly. With that said, the music did add to the exciting mood, especially in wingsuit flying events.
While I was admittedly skeptical heading into this game I have to say that it was quickly dispelled. The game is a thrilling, beautiful, and fun adventure that can be challenging or relaxing depending on how you want to play. You can try to max out all the challenges and then challenge friends, or you can pick a point on the map and just have fun taking it all in. It is your choice how you enjoy the game, and I feel that is one of the greatest strengths it has.
(Reviewed on Xbox One)
Did you pick up Steep? Are you planning to grab it? Let us know in the comments below!