We’ve seen snowboarding, skiing, paragliding and even wing suiting in video games thanks to Just Cause 3, and yet we had never seen anything quite like Ubisoft’s latest IP: Steep. Steep combines all of these fantastic, adrenaline pumping sports together in what promised to be a fast-paced, action-packed extreme sports adventure, but does it live up to that promise?
Ubisoft came to the floor at this year’s E3 to showcase its new I.P, Steep for the first time and to tell the truth, I was blown away by what the developer showcased. Steep‘s graphics were genuinely impressive, its gameplay looked smooth and the game seemed like the extreme sports title that we so desperately needed, especially after the rocky release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5.
Steep: Xbox One [Reviewed], PlayStation 4, PC
Publisher: Ubisoft Annecy
Release Date: 2 December 2016
Price: £54.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
Steep is very much governed by a play anywhere, anytime philosophy although I feel that this idea is possibly relied upon too heavily throughout. After around 2-3 hours of time spent navigating the picturesque Alps, I noticed that I had completed all the events available to me at that time and was already past level 10. Obviously, as you progress throughout the levels you unlock more events but at an alarmingly slow rate.
For each level I’d move up I would maybe unlock 2 or 3 new events but these new events weren’t ever going to offer me enough to ensure that I reached the next level. Thus, I’d end up spending much of my time inside the game’s map scouting for new locations I had not yet discovered or events I had not already achieved gold on. Searching for new locations and events completely took me out of the experience, and while I discovered new locations, the vast majority of the time, no event would unlock for me to participate in. This left each level feeling like more of a grind, while never really earning or accomplishing anything.
There isn’t much of a story to Steep either. Due to its sandbox nature the game purely consists of the player being an up and comer in the world of extreme sports, so performing well in various events and advancing in a similar style to Tony Hawk’s Project 8 is key. Although, given the fact that there is no actual ranking system on offer leaves the game with no meaningful progression other than a level system that simply unlocks new events. Whilst not quite an MMO there are some elements such as randomly bumping into players in the world that Steep borrows from the genre, but is it enough to make the game enjoyable?
I found myself encountering other players occasionally but not nearly as often as you would expect, and only ever in bursts of two or three every 15-20 minutes or so, making for an open game world that did not feel truly populated at any point. During events I would be joined by 3 A.I players (one for each group) and however many players I had in my group, but whilst this was a fun experience, it failed to live up to the E3 gameplay showcased so brilliantly this past June in any way whatsoever, leaving me sorely disappointed.
Now, of course, Steep‘s graphics were never going to be as good, the situations would never be exactly the same but the fact remains that even when in a race with 6 other competitors I would rarely see them, if at all due to the Steep‘s events being either ridiculously easy to blitz through or insanely hard, where each player would be restarting at different times just trying to get past a treacherous first jump, and that is another major issue that I had with the game, just how inconsistent and unbalanced some of Steep‘s mechanics are.
Tricks in Steep are performed using either left or the right trigger to jump and then pushing the left or right stick in a direction, and that is essentially it. There are no fancy directions or hard to pull off tricks, although the game should be applauded for that. Too many times, sports games such as the Tony Hawks or EA’s Skate series become difficult to navigate due to complicated button inputs designed to help players pull off amazing set tricks. Steep’s system is simple and works exceptionally well, just as its controls for wing suiting and paragliding are easy to master, pleasing and work nicely enough. Your G-Force meter, which is essentially your balance in-game on the other hand, sadly does not.
After each large jump, the player meter takes a significant hit and must recharge before they are able to pull off another ridiculous stunt and yet, this wasn’t always the case. I found that during my playthrough the simplest of tricks off of the smallest of heights would do more damage to my meter than say ploughing headfirst into a tree at stupendous speeds and that truly made the experience feel less immersive as I found myself becoming frustrated with how inconsistent the G-Force mechanic was.
Steep boasts a variety of different events ranging from trick based and races to bone breaking feats, Steep has a little something for everyone, although, be warned as some events only have one or two other events in their category such as the G-Force challenges, which pits the player in a battle against gravity to see just how much G-Force they can acquire before slamming hard into the snow below. That brings me on to one thing that Steep truly does nail in the final product, its setting and atmosphere.
Steep takes place a top the Alps mountain range and truly feels authentic. I spent a good chunk of my time towards the end of the game simply taking in the games epic surroundings, watching as the sun shined down upon the snowy mountains, soaking up the breathtaking atmosphere that Steep offers. And I mean it sincerely when I say the game truly is beautiful and yet somehow manages to accommodate the havoc that you wreak upon it during the events, and amidst all of that havoc, Steep wonderfully surprises with some extremely rewarding moments, with the Alps offering some fascinating moments of exhilarating fun, it’s just a shame these moments are few and far between with free roaming the mountains with fellow players not feeling nearly rewarding enough as it should have.
The shimmering snow and setting sun is not enough to bring Steep up to true AAA standard, and that’s not to say Steep is a bad game at all, but I don’t feel that it’s a great game either. Steep is very much a game that I’d suggest waiting to pick up in a sale as whilst the game is fun, it is not 54 quids worth of fun in my eyes. Overall, Ubisoft’s latest I.P delivered some fun moments and boasts a beautiful setting but the lack of direction with events, the mainly bland free roam and the inconsistency of mechanics really did pull me out of the experience altogether at times.