Review: Steep (PS4)
When Steep was announced earlier this year, it caught a lot of us off guard. It’s not anything we expected, but we certainly took notice, especially those of us who enjoy extreme sports games.
The first question a lot of people might ask is will it cure that SSX itch that a lot of fans of that series might have. The simple answer: Not really. Steep is a pretty unique game, and while it shares similarities with the beloved franchise from the PS2 era, it has it’s own mechanics and systems that for the most part… works.
Steep is a simulator, and everything you do on the mountain is based on real snowboarding, skiing, wingsuit and paragliding. Hell, you can even get off the board and walk for a bit if you’re that way inclined. But for the most part, you will be going down a hill on a snowboard or skies. The mechanics are pretty simple, but very hard to execute effectively and consistently. You steer your avatar with the left stick, and do jumps with the R2 trigger. The idea is to hold the R2 button as you approach a jump and release it as you reach the peak of the ramp. You use the left stick to spin or rotate in the direction that you chose, but you need to do it before exiting the jump, or you will not execute it properly. You do grabs with the left L2 and R2 triggers, and you move the left or right sticks to grab the board on either side.
It for the most part works okay, but it is not easy, and after an extended period play, I was still struggling to pull it off. It got a bit frustrating and felt like it was out of my control. The margin for error is tiny, and that is not ideal for a game that’s supposed to make you feel like a bad ass pulling off some sick tricks and lines.
Beautiful snow covered in an ‘always online’ world
One thing to take into consideration is that Steep comes from the folks over at Ubisoft and, as is the case with a lot games in its stable, it’s an open-world game. I have to give credit to Ubisoft, as it looks amazing. Whether you find yourself among some ruins, or on a barren glacier, or in a forest of pine trees, the world feels authentic and varied, which says a lot for map that is mostly consisting of snow.
You can explore the map at your own pace, even getting off the board or skies to walk up a hill to get a better look at potential challenges and lines. You do this by scanning your surroundings with your binoculars. Once you have tagged a point of interest, you are free to go there and see what it has to offer. It’s also very seamless with no loading times.
Steep is an online experience, and you can set high score or time trial challenges for other players, or compete in other challenges set. It is worth keeping this in mind before buying the game, as it needs to be online to work. I had one instance where I couldn’t connect to the Ubisoft servers, and the game flat out refuses to start up if you are not online.
The game’s performance is also solid, as I didn’t experience any frame rate dips. Everything runs buttery smooth and very well, which points to a very well built game. Overall, I am impressed with Steep in this regard, but unfortunately it has a few things that do bother me a bit.
There’s not many extreme sports simulators on the market at the moment, so Steep should feel fresh and unique. Well, initially it does, but after spending a few hours with it, it starts feeling very familiar. But why? Well, Steep suffers from a condition I like to call, ‘Ubi-open world syndrome’. The world is littered with things to explore and do, which initially looks great, but after a while you realise it’s all just the same stuff over and over again.
There’s no real sense of progression, since any gear that you buy with the credits you earn is mostly cosmetic and doesn’t improve your character in any way, so after a while it becomes a bit pointless. The only sense of progression comes in the form of unlocking more areas and events, but after a few hours that won’t interest you any more.
Another gripe I have with Steep, and it might be me nitpicking a bit, but its the use of strong language in the game. For a game with a content rating of 12, I found it a bit odd to hear the avatar using strong words to express himself when it looks like he is in for a crash. It doesn’t mention anything more than the dog’s business on the lawn, but it just didn’t fit. It happened quite often, and felt a bit at odds with it overall considering that it’s about ‘family friendly fun’ this game is trying to portray.
Straight down the hill
Steep starts out with a lot of promise and potential, but due to a few design choices, it ultimately falls a bit flat. It is very well designed, and it plays great once you get in the zone, but it ultimately feels a bit underwhelming. There will definitely be some people who will play and love this game, and that is great, but for more casual extreme sports fans, you will very quickly get bored with what is on offer. It’s a shame, because I had really high hopes for it.