Director: Igor Monceau
Steep is an open world extreme winter sports video game with seamless multiplayer integrations.
End game content can be reached in around 20 hours, but aiming to beat your scores and times can add limitless content
Long has the winter extreme sports genre laid dormant, until Ubisoft awakens a game like Steep from its creative slumber. The team over at Ubisoft does a lot of good with Steep, an open world mountain simulator where you get to, snowboard, wind-suit, paraglide, ski, and walk across a frozen paradise. While the team nails the sense of speed, there are some shortcomings that hold this game back from being truly, genre defining.
Apparent right off the bat, are the recreated Alps, open world in all its beautiful and digital glory. The graphics are near lifelike as I stand atop a mountain that a helicopter has just dropped me off on, and gaze at all the powder that I am about to shred. Character models are detailed well but there are no customization options in terms of how your physical appearance is represented. However, you do get a choice of pre-set character models and you can change the clothing of. This cosmetic only customization is sure to bother some, but the mechanics themselves make up for these shortcomings.
Steep goes for a much more realistic take on the sports than say a franchise like SSX, or 1080 Snowboarding. You won’t be unhooking your board, and swinging it over your head like a helicopter propeller. Instead, the game feels much more like the game franchise, Skate. The tricks are more standard, and less flashy, and I think that works in this game’s favor. Steep still lets you bring the funny as you can don some goofy looking suits, and act out some pretty bizarre furry adventures as you glide down the slopes in a panda costume. The silliness ends there though, as the real focus is on recreating the feelings of these extreme sports.
The controls are rather simplistic, but take some time to actually master. Pulling off tricks is as easy as nailing a jump at the right time and then manipulating a series of R1, L1, and joystick maneuvers to pull off some real life moves when on skis or a snowboard. The sense of speed that is built through these courses is perfect, and nailing a good speed run or a series of tricks is gratifying.
The paraglider is easy enough as you float along, catching updrafts as you go point to point. This event can most often times be more boring than entertaining. I found myself skipping these missions as often as possible. Wing-suiting may be the star of the show. Nailing a perfect drop and course run is intense, and induces the urge to stand up and cheer as you celebrate your close calls as you fly dangerously close to the environment. This is the best feeling wing-suit mechanics in the medium, as I feel like I have absolute control over my glider.
The walking around may be the most polarizing aspect of this game. Steep encourages you to take a moment to walk around, and explore. Doing this will unlock more drop off points to start new races. New summits will be unlocked as you increase your player level, and on these summits are increasingly difficult races and events. At some point the game will force you to walk around. While I may call it tranquil and serene; I have found many that have called it tedious, boring, and time consuming. I will ask that you let your own preference guide you on how the walking portions will make you feel.
Leveling up in this game feels empty. Your character does not get stronger, faster, or better at balancing. The costumes, and clothing, and items you unlock have no stats are baring on your performance either. Everything in this game is cosmetic including your level number, which to me is a shame. I wish these things stood for something more, but there is something to be said about a game that gives you everything at the start, and has you relying on pure skill and not stat boosting upgrades.
My biggest issue with this game is one that had me constantly frustrated. There is no easy way to find a race type you are looking for. When choosing a race to tackle next, the game has you going to a world map and choosing a series of flags that represent a race off of said map. There are so many different types of races and tracks, and I was usually looking for a specific one to show off to a friend of co-op partner. To find that specific race, I would have to locate it on this cluttered world map, with strangely marked iconography to loosely represent the event. This world map is basically littered with these varied races. The events are dotted like chicken pox all across the face of the map as you try and decipher which race is which. I found myself constantly frustrated as I tried to find a specific event type, only to lose patience and just choose any event. This is extremely poor mission design.
The multiplayer is another pillar of mediocrity for Steep. Real players will bleed in and out of your world and races as you explore around and participate in the events. It is not uncommon to see people engaging in the same races you are, but it never quite feels like you are racing with/against them. It feels more like they are just participating in timed events with you, racing against their own times, and leader-board scores. Sure it is a lot of fun to have these players shredding around with you, but it still feels like an empty experience. I never once felts like I was working towards the same goal with my partner or opponent. This is a racing game right? Why don’t I feel that urgency in the events?
There are user created events, and you have the ability to share your own runs down the mountain for others to compete against your time, but I found the menus to be convoluted and confusing. I’m sure some may not have an issue with the navigation, but I felt they could have presented the information in a much clearer way. This content does have the ability to extend the life of the game, but at the end of the day you are still going down the same mountain sides, using the same equipment, with the only goal being to get a better time or score.
Steep truly shines when a singular event has multiple traversal styles. There was a particular race in the game that has you using all modes of transportation as you make your way across the mountain range. Switching between all the mode of transportation to ensure you reach the finish line, is as tactical as it is exhilarating. I just wish there were more moments like this.
Steep has a lot going on for it. It is easily the best extreme winter sports game in years, but then again it has not had much competition. I feel a few updates and additions could fix the issues I had with the game, however its final and last issue I will share may be a deal breaker to some. Steep has very little content. It takes a week or two of play to max out your character level to the cap of 25. The amount of different race types is little as well when compared to others in the genre and their mode types. Perhaps DLC could extend the life of this game, but I think selling a season pass on top of the game’s full price is a tall order to ask of people.
I think Steep can be a perfect pallet cleanser at the end of the year as you come off of huge experiences like Watch Dogs 2, Dishonored 2, and Final Fantasy XV. Is it worth the full price? Well that depends on how much you enjoy striving for bettering your times and scores, because it is hard for me to recommend the game based off the amount of content alone. What you will get with Steep though, is a true sense of speed, amazing controls, and a beautiful open world. If that is enough for you, there will be plenty of fun to be had with this game.