Platforms: PS4, Xbox, PC (Reviewed)
Ubisoft’s latest releases have been geared towards hardcore, shooter-driven gameplay. Steep, on the other hand, allows gamers to relax, enjoy the slopes, and give their eyes a break. Ubisoft supplies us with a wildly extensive world that easily takes a page from their other open-world exploration games.
Based on the Alps, you can explore the huge area by either snowboard, skiis, wingsuit, or paragliding. Think of SSX, but with upgraded physics, graphics, and an actual story line.
Sit back and enjoy the scenery…just watch out for that tree!
You can play Steep at whatever pace you want. You can jump right in and go for the intense trick tracks, or take a break and enjoy the scenery while paragliding over the mountains. I played for about 45 minutes straight just snowboarding around the map and still gaining points. You get rewarded for avoiding objects, finding new routes, and even for crashing. Multiple times I found myself cringing as my character went flying off a ramp and smashing to the ground. As much as it hurt to watch, I found myself purposely flying off cliffs to see how the physics worked in the game. The sound of bones crunching on impact adds to the realism of the game, thankfully without the element of physical pain.
Steep is based on an exploration mechanic along with a storyline. The storyline, however, is pretty weak. As the game starts up you are taken through tutorials on how to move, do tricks, and engage in different activities. Throughout the game there are special challenges called Mountain Stories. These can take you through the dark trails at night while wildly dodging pine trees, or jumping off the highest mountain in the game… literally. These missions start after a cut scene that is typically flashy, intense, and works as a narrative introduction. Different mountains evoke different experiences for the player. Ortles is the inspiration you need in your career, while Aiguille Verte is the challenge that pushes you to your limits. Is the storyline necessary? No. It does add a nice break after several rounds on the slopes. Comedic breaks are never a bad thing in my book.
Steep also has a multiplayer competitive mechanic called Plus Steep. Plus Steep is Ubisoft’s way of integrating online social play, and it works rather well. You share the Alps with other players who are within the same skill level as you. You can quickly team up using the “group up” function and face the mountains together. You can also share shots and videos along with picking the best angles to make your video even more epic!
Glitches and wonky mechanics dominate the slopes
Without getting too deep into all the extras and bonuses Ubisoft added to the game, Steep is at its core an action sports game. Skiing and snowboarding feel very lifelike, as carving down the hills and mountains give you a sense of speed, skill, and frantic exhilaration. When I was doing a mission that required speed more than accuracy, I found myself just pounding the stick forward. However, speed quickly turns from your friend to your enemy. Controlling speed in Steep isn’t the easiest thing to do since literally all your movement is designated to one analog stick. I often found myself trying to slow down and instead going completely left or right. If speed and direction were controlled by both analog sticks, I feel like this would have worked out much better. I also found myself getting stuck in objects often after crashing into them. Of course, the game isn’t created for snowboarders to crash into buildings, but it’s still a flaw. This bug usually lead me to restarting the course or getting aggravated enough to move on to something else.
Moving on isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do in Steep, either. There were times when I went to begin a new course or mission, but I would start backwards. I also encountered a wingsuit mission where I started IN the rock cliff. I would have to manually change my sport or start from the top of the mountain to keep going. Settings are also not the easiest thing to work with in the game. Menus and options are overcomplicated. The 3D map that you use to move around the mountain is hard to control with its zoom in and zoom out navigation, which is frustrating to say the least.