It's time to conquer snowy mountains, writes Andrew Whitehead
It's clear Ubisoft Annecy is passionate about Steep. Every inch of this game looks and feels like a love letter to its part of the world and its natural beauty. Set partially in the Alps, the game focuses on snowboarding, skiing, paragliding and wingsuiting in an open world designed from the ground up to be a seamless multiplayer experience.
How you get around the map is up to you, and you can switch your equipment at any point. This gives you the freedom to, for example, paraglide to one section of a mountain, bust out your snowboard, and ride all the way down to the bottom. The game also features an eagle-eye view of the mountain range that allows players to teleport to drop zones they’ve already discovered in their snowy travels.
One thing I didn’t expect from Steep is for it to make me laugh as much as it did. And not because it’s intentionally funny. But it's hard to not laugh when watching my poor avatar smash into an oncoming tree, then roll down the side of a cliff.
Trees and rocks will always pose a threat, but players can turn off collision with other players if you’d rather focus on competing without it becoming Mortal Kombat on ice. And if you
players can turn off collision if you’d rather focus on competing without it becoming mortal Kombat on ice
can’t be bothered to finish an event you’re going to lose, just hold down the dedicated reset button. Five or so seconds later and you're back at the start of the event.
The controls for skiing and snowboarding don’t feel quite as videogamy as something like SSX, but that’s not to say the game feels entirely realistic either. You can still pull off complicated tricks like a pro, but you have to pay attention if you want to stick the landing. I did have an issue pulling off the same trick twice, though, as grab tricks are performed by holding down a shoulder button and tilting the right analogue stick. It wasn’t hard, per se, but it’s just not as precise as what I’m used to in sports games.
Up in the air, the controls for the wingsuit are fairly forgiving. It’s easy to bend the rules of how aerodynamics actually work to regain lost altitude. Wingsuit events usually emphasise flying close to obstacles for points or just straight-up downhill racing. Paragliding was the weakest of the four gameplay types and felt more like a way to take in the scenery than an actual competitive sport. All modes are also playable in either first-person or third-person.
The screenshots alone should tell you how great the mountains look. And up close the terrain is brilliantly realised, right down to how the snow moves realistically beneath you. The scale of the mountain range, too, is impressive; it's just calling out to be explored by players looking to find hidden valleys and slopes.
How much fun the game will be in the long depends on how large of a fan base Steep can garner to create new events. But for now, the game feels like a brave step in the right direction for a genre of gaming that has been pretty dormant of late.
Hard to imagine why Ubisoft called this game 'Steep'. Oh, wait... It's a surprisingly populated space for such a desolate place, right?