I can commend Ubisoft’s consistent efforts in investing into new video game IPs over the last few years. In an age where AAA giant publishers like Activision are avoiding market risks by banking on a thoroughly tested and successful business model by releasing a new Call of Duty game every year, Ubisoft on the other hand have been a pioneer in launching new IPs like Watch Dogs, The Crew and The Division. And although they were not without their own share of problems, they were largely successful games. Continuing their strategy of taking risks, doing something completely different and instead of launching an action adventure game or a third person shooter with online elements, Ubisoft went ahead and released an open world extreme sports video game titled Steep.
However unlike other extreme sports games in the past, Steep places heavy emphasis on online multiplayer set in a open world free for players to explore. Activities are divided into four different types: Snowboarding, Skiing, Wing-Suit Flying and Paragliding. One of the coolest things about Steep is that it kind of doesn’t bind you to use a specific play style although preferring one over the other is important for achieving the highest reward. Some levels are designed in a way that will only likely work best for Snowboarding whereas others may be best suited for paragliding. At the end of the day, the game gives you the freedom to choose between any style you want but ultimately the level design is going to dictate what kind of style works best.
"The game’s world is surprisingly huge which means there are a ton of challenges to participate in such as check points, trick competitions, and daredevil challenges."
As mentioned before, Steep is set in a wide open world however unlike other franchises, the game encourages you to find the next set of challenges using your binoculars. Although the game automatically pops up new challenges every now and then so that binoculars is never needed but using it adds a bit of exploration feel to gameplay. Various hidden races and secret areas can be unlocked using your binoculars which adds more content to a game which is already pretty dense with challenges.
From a gameplay perspective, it’s easy to draw comparisons to SSX, however Steep takes a more realistic approach. The open world is divided into seven different regions with the Aravis location being the easiest before you play through the game and reach the harsher areas of Matterhorn. The game’s world is surprisingly huge which means there are a ton of challenges to participate in such as check points, trick competitions, and daredevil challenges. Going to a challenge point (known as drop zone in the game) is extremely easy. Players can either open the in-game map and select the point and you will be transferred there instantly, or they can also use the binoculars and point it towards the challenge they want to participate in and press the required button. In other words, Steep features no loading times when switching between different types of challenges.
The activities in Steep are heavily dependent on the momentum you will carry through a particular level. It’s essentially building up speed as you race down the alps, avoiding obstacles and performing out crazy moves and tricks. If you fail to do so, the game allows you to quickly restart the challenge by merely holding a button. This along with no loading screens is a testament to Ubisoft’s efforts towards building a game that prioritizes gameplay over anything else.
"Steep looks absolutely wonderful during the night time. There is a sense of calm when racing down the alps as the shadows of the night converge towards the player."
The initial few hours of the game are undoubtedly going to be a bit rough as you acclimatize yourself to the difficult control scheme and this is where one of my biggest complain with Steep lies. For some reason or the other, the controls are somewhat non-respondent at times. I found this to be specially apparent while jumping off a slide…the controls simply won’t respond. I understand that all activities in Steep are based on timing but there seems to be some level of input lag which results into an uneven experience at times.
The game also tries to place emphasis on narrative by allowing the spirits of the mountains to tell their story of the day. It just feels weird…I mean how can the player hear the mountain speaking? Are there supernatural elements in the game? No explanation is given as to how and why they speak. It seems that the developer added the narrative angle just for the sake of it and it feels really out of place.
Steep looks absolutely wonderful during the night time. There is a sense of calm when racing down the alps as the shadows of the night converge towards the player. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said when the sun is out which exposes some of the several graphical shortcomings of this game. We played the game on the Xbox One and jaggies and pop-ins ruled the roost during day time. It felt jarring and we prefer playing the game in late evening, early morning or during the night time. Fortunately, performance seems rock solid and we didn’t witnessed any noticeable frame rate drops.
"Despite featuring a robust physics and gameplay engine, Steep suffers from a ton of glitches. I got stuck inside rocks, got cramped up inside a narrow lane or found myself stuck in a hoarding several times."
As I mentioned before the game features online modes with up to four players in a group. Leaderboards play a big role in the online mode but besides that it’s a ton of fun playing the game with friends. I found this to be a nice little feature where a couple of friends can get along, form a group and race across the amazing vistas of the Alps.
Despite featuring a robust physics and gameplay engine, Steep suffers from a ton of glitches. I got stuck inside rocks, got cramped up inside a narrow lane or found myself stuck in a hoarding several times. And although the challenges can be restarted anytime, moments such as these are frustrating. This is perhaps down to the weird design in some of the levels I played through…they were too narrow and there was no way to get through them comfortably.
However despite its glitches and uncomfortable control scheme, there is a lot of fun to be had in Steep. The sense of racing down the mountain and competing with other players is second to none. Pulling off insane and over the top moves is a lot of fun and the games encourages you to participate in a plethora of actives set across this massive open world. If anything, Ubisoft’s Steep scratched the SSX itch.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Tons of activities to participate in, games looks amazing during night, amazing sense of speed.
Control scheme is lacking, the Xbox One version suffers from jaggies and pop ins during day time, glitches drag down the experience.
Steep excels in what it sets out to do but glitches, controls issues and graphics inconsistencies during day time (on the Xbox One) drag down the experience.
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