In recent years the winter sports is one genre that has been lacking in the videogame world. When I think winter sports games mym mind always wanders back to the fun that was 1080 snowboarding on my N64 and in more recent times, SSX. Two games that managed to take the art of high speed snowboarding action and turn it into a remarkably fun gaming experience. In Steep Ubisoft have has gone ahead and taken a major punt that gamers are keen to get back into their winter sports games and have gone all in by providing not just snowboarding but also skiing, wingsuit gliding and paragliding action. It is a big risk to take on multiple facets of adrenaline fueled winter sports, there are the complexities of creating a sound and cohesive experience across each sport mixed in with trying to recreate the intense feelings of speed that provides the adrenaline rush when out on the slopes. Ubisoft is big on creating open world adventures across its franchises and Steep is no different, offering a plethora of exploration across the mountain that can both invigorate and at times frustrate.
The first thing you’ll notice when trudging up the mountainside in Steep is how gorgeous the environment is. I got hold of this on PS4 which meant I was able to take advantage of having a PS4 Pro hooked up to my 4KTV. The visual recreation in Steep is stunning. The snow covered mountains in this world are faithfully recreated and lined with rocks and trees that stand out and contract nicely with the crisp white of the snow. Top that off with breathtaking views and gorgeous skylines and you get an immense sense of why so many people around the world hit the slopes in winter. It is more than just seeking out that next adrenaline hit, it’s about going to the peak of a mountain and taking in nature in all it’s snow cover glory which is something that Steep has managed to recreate perfectly, right down to the marks you mark in the snow as you walk around or ski/snowboard down a slope.
The next thing that will hit you like a tree in the face is the sheer size of the environment and the seemingly endless amount of options that are there for you to take advantage of. Open up that map and you’ll find markers all over the place that are just waiting for you. Open up your binoculars and scan the environment to get a first hand feel of the size and scale of this mountain, doing so will also highlight a few points that you’ll also want to mark and go out to explore.
With a mountain to explore that is as vast as what presents itself in Steep, having the ability to Ski, Snowboard, Paraglide or Wing Suit makes a lot of sense. Fast travel is an option but I found the best way to get around is to take advantage of those abilities our player has. Why Fast Travel when you can traverse a mountain then make your way to your next site by using those abilities. Paragliding is a bit of a relaxing method to get around as it is slower in pace and allows you to take in the sights a bit more as you survey the world from great height. Skiing and Snowboarding will allow you to hone those trick moves on your way down so that you are primed for glory when you tackle a challenge. Wing Suiting will provide the biggest, fastest, fly by the seat of your pants experience and have you at your site in next to no time (assuming you don’t fly yourself into powerlines, mountainside or tree). You can of course just walk around but it is by far the least exciting method, it is slow and quickly becomes cumbersome especially after you’ve just completed an insane high speed challenge.
Each method of gameplay has its own unique style to it and will take some getting used to. To get the most out of the the game I highly recommend going through the early tutorials to get to grips with each style. For anyone that has played a snowboarding game this will feel the most natural as the gameplay is primarily similar to other snowboarding games. Skiing is not far behind since it is not a far cry from snowboarding but not without a few challenges. Wing Suiting is the style that I had the most fun with, it is extremely fast and allows you to try some truly death-defying moves like attempting to fly straight through massive powerline poles (something I failed to do on numerous occasion but is mightly impressive when done successfully). Paragliding whilst relaxing I found to be the most frustrating. The conrols for paragliding feel a little off and seem to suffer from a wee bit of input lag. Numerous times I’ve found myself attempted to move in one direction, not seeing a response then trying it again to find that a few seconds later my character over-corrects and steers himself straight into a mountain or tree. Having the different styles allows players to choose how they want to play the game, whether it be fast paced extreme action or a more relaxed, taking in nature type experience. It is great to have those choices but at the same time it can create a bit of a confused experience as the game wrestles with what it wants to be.
Another area where a bit of frustration can creep in is needing to stop before switching your sport of choice. It may seem like a minor thing but when you have those options to switch it would add a whole new level of excitement if you could switch mid-way through. I’m talking switching from Skiing to Snowboarding on the fly but I couldn’t help but wonder how cool it would be if I had the ability to switch to the Wingsuit whilst going hell for leather to take in some extreme flying.
Where Steep really shines though is that open world experience combines with its always online connectivity. You’ll find players through the mountain to interact with (or ignore). It means that players can have a solo experience or take part in experiencing tracks that other players have discovered and join them on their journey. It’s this co-operative approach that I like. Sure, winter sports aren’t really a team event but that doesn’t mean that it is not a shared experience. Being able to share in the experience with others and hit the slopes together creates that mutual appreciation of this beautiful world and is something that I’d encourage anyone playing to do. The only disclaimer on this is that there are times where it seems like there aren’t that many players online or that they are hard to find. Obviously the world can only be inhabited by others playing the game but this is a game built on interactivity and it really comes to life when you are exploring with others. The pace and experience does slow down and seem a bit sparse when the world goes through periods of low player numbers.
All in all there are some fantastic challenges to be had in Steep and the XP keeps the game interesting long after it should be. The open world is begging to be explored and having multiple sports allows each player to create an experience that suits what they want to get out of the game. Some sports feel more natural than others and respond better to your input which probably highlights that Ubisoft spent more time working on the sports they felt more players would naturally align with. Steep was a bit out of the box for Ubisoft and was not without its risks. FOr a first outing, Steep does pretty well and has plenty of potential for even better follow ups. If you want to experience winter sports on your PS4 or Xbox One then Steep is worth a look, just put the time in to experience everything it has to offer.
- Absolutely Gorgeous Visuals
- Multiple Sports Means there is Something for Everyone
- Big Open World
- Some input lag, particularly with Paragliding
- Can feel sparse at times