Steep, the extreme winter sports game, had so much potential but falls flat where it counts—creating any sort of connection between the rider and mountain.
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I used to be really into snowboarding games. I had tons of fun with 1080 on N64 and spent way too many hours with friends playing Shaun Palmer’s Pro Snowboarder on the PS2. In fact, my roommates and I developed a drinking game based on Palmer’s “Horse” — the winner of the round earning the privilege to drink, where the loser was only allowed to sit back and watch the sweet nectar dribble down the winner’s chin. Of course, there’s also the Tony Hawk games, but my favorite of the “X” sports was always surfing—Transworld beating out Kelly Slater by just a pinch.
With that, Steep was a promising concept. Take a massive open-world and allow the player to endlessly explore a mountain region through a variety of mediums—snowboards, skis, wingsuits, and paragliding. A big part of the game’s objective is to scout out and discover new locations and earn helicopter drops so you can hurl your character off of a new cliff or down a new mountain face. Pretty sweet.
In order to earn XP and level up, which unlocks new locations on the map, gear, etc. etc., you must compete in events. These events vary mainly between downhill races and freestyle point totals, each with different difficulty ratings. A generic checkpoint system is used—cross all of the checkpoints with the best time or point total and win. That’s basically the entire game—do this on repeat indefinitely throughout different locations on the mountain.
The controls are where this game falls apart. They suck—all around. The feel of the controls is the most disappointing. It feels like there is no connection between me and my rider, and mainly no connection between my rider and the mountain. For some reason, Ubisoft has failed miserably at mimicking any sort of floating or sliding sensation within this game. This is a massive disappointment as your character spends a great deal of time carving through powder or soaring through the air.
Your snowboarder or skier looks and feels like they are a train on track, rather than digging in, cutting, and compressing the snow—there’s no sensation of carving. There’s also no transition in feel between deep snow and ice. The entire mountain rides the same no matter where you are or what the surface appears to be. Because of this, the game is extremely unrealistic and destroys the fun of making big turns and cutting while bombing down the mountain. 1080 back on the N64 did a way better job of emulating the real feel and response of snow—I don’t know how Steep, a game based solely on snow, failed to recreate this. This oversight is basically why I’m done with this game and it will be quickly shelved, with little chance of it being rediscovered or appreciated down the road.
The second complaint about the controls is that is seems like a button mash-fest when doing tricks. I probably have about 5 or 6 hours into the game and have ranked up to Level 10 XP. After this amount of time, I still have no idea what kind of trick I’m going to do. I just hurl myself off of a jump, push a bunch of buttons and 90% of the time my character does something fancy and lands without crashing. The sticks control rotation and flips, the triggers control grabs, however there’s no specific control in knowing that “I’m going to do a 720 nose grab”—you just get what you get when you go off the jump. This makes the whole trick system unrewarding. There’s no mastery and or incentive to perfect a trick with a smooth landing.
For the current price of free for Playstation Plus Members, Steep is worth the download. I almost purchased the game when it originally came out in December of 2016 for the full price of $59.99 (not to mention the Season Pass and all of the other pay-for content), and I’m really glad I didn’t. I would have been extremely disappointed.
Steep is an adequate game for mindless cruising. The events aren’t terribly engaging and I’m not super motivated to level up. However, exploring the vast open world and taking in the scenery of the game while flying down the mountain is rewarding in its own way. As soon as you start to take the game serious—wanting to perform tricks and dig your edges into turns when competing for time—you’ll quickly be left frustrated and underwhelmed.
Steep had so much potential. The way these current generation machines can handle big open worlds begs for a totally reconstructed “extreme sports” game, but sadly—this isn’t it. Should Steep 2 ever come out, I’d give it a shot but I won’t be pre-ordering or an early adopter. Ubisoft has significant problems to overcome—and if they can do it—this game would be absolutely amazing.