I love snowboarding games. When I was a kid, I had this game called Ski or Die that included a snowboarding half-pipe event. Obviously, this was in, like, 1990, so it wasn’t exactly sophisticated, and for some reason you had to dodge glam penguins and bunnies with chainsaws. But it’s what we had back then, and you kids don’t even know. Then there was SSX on PS2, and SSX On Tour on PSP – I busted one of my analogue sticks playing that game – and Amped 3 on Xbox 360. Those were such rad games.
But this isn’t one of them.
I mean, Steep should be a rad game. You’ve got basically an entire mountain range as your own personal shred zone, with about a million different things to do in it – on a snowboard, on skis, in a wingsuit, or even on a paraglider, it’s up to you. While some events are locked behind level requirements, career “progression” as such is completely non-linear, and you can choose to do this or that or the other thing – or not – at your discretion, dropping in and out and swapping between available events with almost no loading times. The environments are diverse, spanning powdery lanes and vertiginous ravines, and the game’s glittery alpine panoramas are unquestionably magnificent.
And somehow, it’s not much fun. The controls are probably the most egregious offender. Awkward, imprecise, and sometimes incomprehensibly counter-intuitive – jump timing, for example, requires releasing the button way before what you’d reasonably expect – and actually managing to pull off snowboard tricks feels more like a benign accident than any real application of skill or even intention, and that’s if you don’t wipe out instantly or get stuck on pointy bits of geometry. The wingsuit and paraglider navigation is so ponderous and frustrating that I simply stopped ever using them.
And it’s not just out on the slopes. The overhead world view is crammed with event flags, but cursor movement between them is an uncooperative, onerous chore, like trudging through 100 metres of real snow. Which brings me (in)conveniently to the user interface. Those event flags? There’s no way to discern between events you’ve already finished and everything else without moving the cursor over them, and after even two hours of playing and unlocking more events, there are so many that it’s overwhelming. The menus are also disorganised, with rider customisation options presented as an incoherent mess – why are there three separate helmet slots? – and I couldn’t find a map of the control scheme anywhere.
The less said about the embarrassing writing and obnoxious Red Bull and GoPro product placement, the better. I’ve already said too much.
I don’t know, maybe people into more “realistic” sports simulation games will love this, but those of you looking for more zany thrills, spills, and doctor’s bills X-TREEM SNOWBROS ACTION should wait for another SSX.
48The game’s opening screen has one of those obligatory “don’t try this at home, kids” disclaimers. That seems appropriate.