At first glance, Steep is quite a departure from Ubisoft’s standard fare. It’s an open-world, free roaming extreme sports game, allowing players to make their way down snowcapped mountains in a… creative fashion. After being announced at E3 2016, the game was already available to demo on the rAge 2016 show floor.
Steep aims to recreate the exhilaration of plummeting down a mountainside, either on snowboard, skis, wingsuit, or parachute. The rAge demo let players select a launch point, then make their way to the end of a course. There is a certain degree of freedom of choice, but the launch spots are clearly catered more for one discipline than another. For example, trying to ski from a wingsuit launch point will just result in multiple faceplants.
The game takes some getting used to initially. In an attempt at realism, the athletes movement’s are weighty, so there is a slight delay to all of your actions. After slamming face-first into a tree a few times you should start to get the hang of it though. And once the gameplay clicks, it is glorious. There is a beautiful sensation of speed and movement, the animations are lifelike (particularly the brutal wipeouts), and the visual style is highly immersive. The camera is slightly uncooperative however, and the first-person view is only recommended if you don’t suffer from in-game motion sickness.
By far the most interesting design element of the game is the open-world gameplay. It encourages exploration, experimenting with new sports, and figuring out the best way for you to race. It’s an experimental design, and deviates from Ubisoft’s standard open-world structure. Instead of collectibles, towers, or feathers, it’s just you and the mountain, which creates an intriguing mix of serenity and adrenaline.
Despite a few glitches, and an unintuitive trick system, my time with Steep left a positive impression. It’s unlike most other sports games, with its mix of challenges and finding your own way, and it could become quite a popular competitive title. Steep launches for PC, PS4, and Xbox One this December.