Hands-on: Steep – closed beta (Xbox One)
Steep is not SSX. It’s also not Amped, Coolboarders, 1080 Snowboarding or any other snowboarding game you’ve played before. It’s Ubisoft’s very unique take on the genre that places the focus on the realism of the sport. The real question is – is it any fun?
The Steep closed beta was much bigger than I anticipated. In the full game you’re invited to challenge several mountain peaks that have been divided into several regions, namely: Tyrol, Aoste, Mont Blanc, Aiguilles, The Cursed Mountain, Aravis and Switzerland and each area caters to a level of skill and difficulty. As the name suggests you’ll not be participating in events on The Cursed Mountain and you also won’t get to check out Switzerland, Mont Blanc and Aoste – these are areas only available to those who buy the full game. Make no mistake, these areas are massive and had enough to introduce the ins and outs of Steep.
Take on the mountain
Steep is an open-world snowboarding game where you have complete control over your experience. In it you’ll take part in events that focus on the wingsuit, paragliding, ski and snowboarding disciplines. Seeing as it’s an open-world you also get to walk about on-foot when and where you please, when not in the middle of a race. Press and hold RB and you can switch between the different sport types. Before doing anything you’ll want to discover some drop zones in this big open terrain. Tap LB and you’ll pull out your binoculars to search for new unfound zones. Once you’ve discovered a new area press and hold the B button and the new drop zone will show up on the enormous map. It’s here that you’ll head to one of the many base camps to take part in events.
Once at a base camp you have the option to switch between the various available events by literally walking between the different drop zones. Snowboarding and Ski events are basically made up of the some routes, so it’s up to you to decide which of the two you enjoy most. Once you head down a slope it’s in essence a case of ‘you vs the mountain’. You’ll have to dodge trees, make leaps of faith and hope you pull off a decent landing and also learn to control the speed that you’re going at. Controlling your snowboard feels great, and you never feel as if it’s anyone’s fault but yours for taking the wrong line or smacking into a tree. The right analogue stick is used to control your speed. Press up to gain speed and down to slow yourself down a bit. To come to a complete halt you pull back on the left analogue stick. On your way down you’ll have to pass through various checkpoints – miss a checkpoint and you’ll need to restart the event (by holding in the Y button). Steep is unforgiving, but that’s part of the charm for those who love the sport. The Paragliding and wing suit events follow the same principle; it’s just that in both cases you need to learn to deal with vertical space better to pass your checkpoints. Also, when you get to the finish line in either of these two sports you’ll have to learn how to land correctly; otherwise you’ll meet your end. It’s heart-breaking to spend all that time in the air only to ultimately mess up right at the finish line. Once you cross the line you’ll be awarded a bronze, silver or golden award. That’s great, but why are you taking part in events?
According to the beta there are 9 unavailable story missions, so it seems the full game will at least have a story, but in the time I had to play the aim was to level-up. Levelling up gives you access to new and tougher events that you would not have access to beforehand. Once you get to level 3 you’ll have access to unique stunt events where you need to meet certain requirements. One such event that I played had a Hollywood production company requiring snowboarding footage and I had to meet certain goals for them. In turn it would unlock lots of XP, but I’d also get new gear for my character and a wack of credits. These credits can be spent to buy more gear in the pause menu. The biggest focus comes in the form of community. Should you see other players (in-game) you can press and hold X to join a group of players to tackle various events, or you can post a challenge and see if anyone can better your time. The social aspect is going to be huge in Steep… considering there are enough players.
I’ll be lying if I said that Steep is not feeling a little lifeless and repetitive. Each and every event I participated in had me getting from point A to B as fast as I could by passing checkpoints. The game will very likely come alive as soon as you have friends playing online, but if you do not enjoy ‘racing games’, then I’m not so sure if you’re going to get all that much out of it. There are events that require you to build up a score by using the few trick manoeuvres, but when compared to games such as SSX it feels very simplistic. From what I’ve played it’s obvious that this is Ubisoft’s next take on a community game to try fill the gap that The Crew did not. Hopefully the full game comes with some extra bells and whistles, as it plays really well and comes with MANY events, but just needs a spark to create a snowball effect.