Steep: A Review

Steep Review: A full combo meter or bailing on a big trick?

Ubisoft has brought something new to the table with Steep. Never before have we had a purely online, open-world, skiing/snowboarding game. One that allows you to experience the social aspects of the world of extreme outdoors sports and being better than you could ever hope to be in real life.
 
But is Steep the lift up this genre needed, or does it get snow boring quickly? Bad puns aside: Here is my Steep Review.

I’ve written for you all about Tony Hawk so it may not be a surprise that I also played copious amounts of SSX in my long-past youth… The truth is: I still play SSX (2012) today. So, when I first saw the concept for Steep I was fully torqued immediately. This is, believe it or not, the first game of this genre in the last for years (discounting the Snow early access beta). I’m no expert by any means, but with what is secretly my favourite type of game making a return to the scene, I feel as though I have to write it up. (Even if I’m 2 months late to the party).
 
Steep allows us to show off to other players in real-time just how great we are at pressing buttons and moving a joystick. You can hook up with friends and challenge them to see how far you can glide in your wingsuit before face-planting into the side of the mountain, or how fast you can slide down a rocky mountainside before slamming into a tree.

Let’s start with the visuals

With great powder comes great responsibility and the team at Ubisoft Annecy have certainly taken this on board.
Steep
There are little details in the environment that just make this game pop; the only rendering I have a problem with is the trees, but I probably spend too much time up close and personal with the twiggy bastards. Yet, when all is said and done, it cannot be denied that this is an intensely beautiful game (and seeing as I’m playing on a bog standard PS4 without all the bells-and-whistles you’d find on maybe a Pro or a PC… I guess that’s pretty good going). Good graphics are a nice touch, but when you’re hurtling past them trying to line up that perfect jump they hardly matter.

Gameplay

I’m gonna repeat now that I am a long time fan of the snowboarding genre on the whole, and with this being the first in a long time I can hardly complain that this isn’t how I ‘like’ to play them. The way the game runs is immaculate… So, yes, it took a little while for me to get used to pulling R2 to jump instead of “x“, but once I did I understood why it had been changed.

The in-game menus are attractive to look at and easy to use. You can switch your mode of transport quickly and without too much trouble (but paragliding can do one; that pissed me off to the point I had to rage quit and come back) and using the various different equipment (walking, skiing, snowboarding, paragliding, and wingsuiting) at your disposal means there is no part of the mountain that is inaccessible, if you’re determined enough.

You start out with one base of operations and using your binoculars you can seek out other dropzones and start-points. This is a fairly cool mechanic which openly promotes exploration and encourages you to go that little bit further to see something new.

But, and this is a big but, the story is an avalanche of shit; it runs in the same vein as Tony Hawk in that you are trying to capture the attention of sponsors and gain fame. Except it doesn’t execute it very well. The only reason I’ve done any of it, in fact, is so that I unlock some of the totally sick items, so I look totally rad as I tear up the slopes.

Customisation
Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na….

… This brings me nicely onto my next point:

Customisation

Steep allows you to choose from 8 characters, but beyond that, your character customisation options are pretty great. You can choose exactly what they wear – from their hats to their salopettes – and unlock more by completing tasks or (because this is a Ubisoft title) spending U-points. Most of my time spent on this game is just looking at the pretty awesome items of clothing and previewing them on my character of choice.

Despite the models under the clothes being one of eight, I genuinely feel like this is a very personal experience. While the clothes and the boards and the methods of transport do indeed help, what makes this game your own is the limitless freedom you appear to have on the slopes. Steep is about as close as I ever want to get to the real thing; I’m too much of a pansy to go throwing myself down a mountain strapped to two planks of wood.


Overall, while I am no snowboarder, I feel like this game stays truer to the real experience. The other, older, games in this genre feel more exaggerated, more caricatured, and less realistic than this installment. You can’t leave leveling out jumps til the last fraction of a second, you can’t jump over a fence from standing… Basically: It doesn’t feel like SSX. 

But, is this a bad thing? I don’t think so: it is about time we had a game of this type on our latest consoles and against the seriously beautiful backdrop of the game it wouldn’t feel right to have a Tokyo Megaplex-esque stage, or to be grinding high wires.

Steep isn’t the best or most fun snowboarding game I’ve ever played, but it ends the long cold winter which has plagued this genre.

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Resident "Destiny Expert" for Last Life Club. I play anything and everything and can usually find a positive thing to say about any game (With the exception of Sonic 2006).