I like to go snowboarding once a year and while I like doing a fairly decent run down a red, green or blue slope, I never really go down tricky blacks and certainly don’t head off-piste for some gnarly action that could get me killed. That’s where Steep could help me out because it lets me roam around The Alps and explore at will without my insurance company having a heart attack.
Developed by Ubisoft Annecy who usually take care of the multiplayer side of Ubi’s games, they are in fact the perfect developers to do this, as they’re actually based in The Alps anyway and have had perfect inspiration all around them. You can take part in four disciplines here. The two you’ll be most interested in are snowboarding and skiing, with the other two aerial activities being paragliding and the kamikaze sport that is wingsuit flying. There’s no denying that it’s the ground based challenges that are more fun, with the other two being distractions at best as you fly through hoops Pilot Wings style or try to get as close to the ground without catching a tree and ragdolling the rest of the way down the slope.
One thing’s for sure, the mountain itself is also a character here and the essence of being on a crisp glacier or sun-soaked slope has been perfectly captured here. The snow moving under the board, the reflections, the sound, even the shadows really do conjure up memories of being on a genuine slope and the character movement is also down to a tee. Even small nuances are captured which really add to the realism. You can even take your board off and trudge back uphill through the snow if you so desire. You may need to occasionally so you can unlock new ‘drop points’ by observing them through your binoculars. You’ll then get more challenges ranging from easy to hard that you can attempt when you’re a high enough level.
You earn points through pulling off tricks and riding through tricky terrain but it’s up to you how you ride. Timing jumps and spins is tricky so at first you may want to bomb through tree-lined slopes to rack up your points. This certainly isn’t SSX so don’t expect to be filling up a meter and doing crazy impossible stunts here, it’s kind of a sim which will disappoint anyone wanting an arcade-style experience. This game is more about exploration and finding sick new areas to rip up or fly over. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this game will only really appeal to people who have done the real thing when it comes to boarding or skiing. You can even replay your runs and the GoPro views and camera angles you can choose really do feel like the real thing. There are also a tonne of accessories to unlock that don’t actually do anything in terms of how the game feels but it means you can rock your favourite brands as you wonder where the après-ski is.
Another of my criticisms is that the game can feel a little bit lonely at times. You can meet other people online and invite them into your crew so you can do things together, and you can even enter observer mode to watch how they’re doing at any time, but still, it mostly feels like you vs the mountain as you attempt new trails or just go freestyle and drop down a slope to see what’s there.
The game also seems rather directionless at first. Once you make your way through the tutorial, you’re left to just pop into the world map view and select races that appear on the map. You’ll then be instantly teleported to that destination so you can start the challenge. You’ll be jumping all over the place which is great for the sense of freedom and for instant restarting, but not so good if you’re trying to find your feet. Persevere though, and you’ll soon get into the swing of finding new drop zones and picking runs that suit your play style. Steep is a beautiful game that perfectly captures the feeling of being up a mountain, but for me, it doesn’t feel as extreme as I’d like so it gets a very good 7 out of 10.
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