Video Game Review: Steep
Yes, now you can relive the last moments of Sonny Bono!
Longtime gamers will surely note that there’s been a drastic lack of “extreme sports” titles of late, aside from the incredibly disappointing revival of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. The scene is now being completely rocked by Steep, a game developed by Ubisoft Annecy which gives you an entire mountain range of freedom, and the skis, poles and boards to make use of them.
In general, Steep handles wonderfully. Whether you’ve decided to simply slalom down a lane on some skis or you’re darting through a canyon wearing a wingsuit, the controls are typically tight and responsive.
That being said, you might notice a bit of input lag when you’re absolutely screaming down a mountain and the frame rate is taking a hit. Still, that’s about the only time you might feel gypped out of nailing a jump on time.
Left stick controls your direction, but you can also hold up on it to maximize your speed. Holding R2 tucks your rider into a jump position, and when released at the proper time will propel you upwards and outwards in order for you to pull some nasty tricks. That brings us to our other complaint: the stunt system is too complicated to be fun.
Picture this, you’re holding forward to gain speed as you approach a ramp. You hold R2 to tuck and release it to jump. Now, pull R2 again while you’re in the air to initiate a grab, and now shift the right stick into any direction you like and… oops, there’s the ground.
It simply requires far too much input in order to do anything cool, especially considering that most of the runs don’t have traditional ramps set up, but rather snow banks. Those banks are also brilliant hiders of rock that completely sap your speed away while bringing your rider to their knees.
Wow… this game is a looker! Not only is Steep absolutely breathtaking, but it’s highly customizable as well because you can, at any point, adjust the time of day and atmospheric conditions. Do you want a nice, clear day full of beautiful, smooth snow shimmering in the sunlight? Or would you prefer to ride at night letting your flashlight guide your way and cut through dense fog? It’s up to you.
Steep does an incredible job with the snow itself as well. Your rider will carve through the snow, leaving a damn realistic looking trail in their wake. Tiny snowballs can also be kicked up during a hard brake or turn, which causes small trails to appear.
It’s a very neat effect that actually adds to the gameplay and truly completes the illusion of a beautiful, pristine, snowcapped mountain range. The only demerit of this section is the frame rate, which too often makes it difficult to react to split-second happenings.
The soundtrack is really good as well, filled with funky rock and chill techno beats. If you are a boarder or skier in real life, then you’ll likely be very impressed at Steep’s take on speed-induced wind effects and crunchy snow piles. There is voice work as well, much of it being a bit too “extreme” sounding a lot of the time, but over-enthusiasm is a part of the culture.
Once you complete a few short tutorials, the mountain is literally yours to explore. As you trudge around the various peaks you will find opportunities to unlock new drop zones, which act as starting points. Some of these starting points are simply cool places to check out, while most of them feature some sort of challenge attached.
For example, if you’re boarding in the Ortles range, one of the objectives is to “Reach the Dammhaus,” which is like telling someone to find the band aide at the bottom of a ball pit. Most of the objectives like this will be completed accidentally as you are doing other things.
If, however, you’re trying to go out of your way and get these done then good luck, as there’s about zero indication of where to find certain landmarks and the mountain is absolutely huge. Unless you’re a stubborn completionist, it’s recommended to skip these entirely or face frustration and loads of wasted time.
Now that those issues are out of the way, we can talk about what Steep does wonderfully, which is pretty much everything else. Yes the stunt system is a bit wonky and difficult to employ, but the core riding is incredibly fun.
Whether you’ve decided to paraglide, ski, snowboard, wingsuit, or even hike, there’s loads of places to explore and discover. The challenges set up at various locations are very fun to participate in as well, and thanks to the wonderful loading times (see: none) it’s very easy to restart a run in case things go awry.
Steep also has probably the best single/multiplayer integration we’ve seen in a game for a long time. You can opt to ride solo, but other live players will constantly be appearing on your map doing their own things.
If you see someone trying to nail a particular challenge and you think you can out-do them, simply press a button to invite them to a group and in no time you’re having a face off. Seeing tons of other players eat shit while wingsuiting is just a pleasing sight as well, because it makes us not feel so bad for being… well, bad.
Steep is hard not to recommend. Sure, it has a few issues with the frame rate and unfavourable stunt system, but everything else about the game is shiny with loads of polish and care. Ubisoft Annecy did extreme sports fans a gigantic favour by making Steep a worthwhile experience that fans of the genre can be proud to show off.