We go hands on with Ubisoft’s ambitious new IP.
What interested me the most out of Ubisoft’s E3 media briefing this year wasn’t the fact that they had an incredible line-up of unique games such as Watch Dogs 2 and For Honor; it was the fact that their final game showcased at the end of the conference — which most developers and publishers hold that spot for their most ambitious title — was in fact an extreme sports game. They called it Steep. Ignore the tall giraffe man and flamboyant choreography, or the overreaction to the new Star Trek VR experience throughout the entire briefing, this move, a brand new sports game IP as their climactic ending had me baffled.
Once I set foot upon a high peak within the mountainous European continent, feet embedded deep within the powdery soft snow capped top, I realized why Ubisoft felt as though Steep was truly something special. I walked down a lightly used path to the edge of a jump point, strapped on my snowboard and jumped. Breath held tight within my lungs, eyes dilated, bright waiting for disaster to strike, then I just went for it: my board caressed the steep, descending path as I crunched into the snow and rapidly found my way down the mountain. Whizzing past spruce trees covered in snow, grinding off cottage rooftops and steep weaving throughout the natural dangers of boulders and cliff sides had my adrenaline pumping.
"Next up was skiing. Another fast paced downhill sport (which all of them are), allowed me to race against several other AI players and make it first to the finish line below."
Next up was skiing. Another fast paced downhill sport (which all of them are), allowed me to race against several other AI players and make it first to the finish line below. The smooth controls which were also so very simple allowed me to slowly catch up to the far superior AI within a handful of meters. Along the way, stunts that involved dashing off ramps and full rotations were also doable. The controls were simple trigger presses and panning of the analog stick from side to side. By the end of the race I felt so good with the flexible controls that I managed to beat the AI and win the race (of course I’m not sure what difficulty they were set to) skiing backwards I might add (I forgot how to flip my character front ways after a few failed 360 rotations).
Next up was the wingsuit. Hurdling towards my death from the top of the mountain towards the bottom at breakneck speeds, winding around boulders and canyons; and following a loose path while trying to stay as close to the mountain as possible — which garners more points the closer you kiss the ground — was the name of the game. Of course after a flew splats into the mountainside, getting used to the speed and fluidity of the controls became more natural as time went on.
Lastly, parachuting around the mountains, slowing taking in the breath of life all around, and enjoying the view. That’s what Ubisoft wants Steep’s legacy to be: a game that allows the player to careen towards his/her death at lightning speeds, or take it as slow as you’d like and enjoy the forest, the mountains, the sky and the freedom of it all miles and miles up.
"That’s what Ubisoft wants Steep’s legacy to be: a game that allows the player to careen towards his/her death at lightning speeds, or take it as slow as you’d like and enjoy the forest, the mountains, the sky and the freedom of it all miles and miles up."
Of course an extreme sports game wouldn’t be much fun without some sort of multiplayer feature. As Ubisoft were not revealing all of their cards with this first showing or gameplay demo, we were able to find out how creating trails down a mountain can be saved, then uploaded online and used as form of challenge towards friends or random online players. So practicing your jumps, hugging the ground in a wingsuit, or doing that perfect set of rotations while on skis could be all the difference between showing off to your friends or just screwing up for a good time. Courses that are designed can then be replayed by the creator and changed up until that person wants to show it off to the world.
Death is also a fun exercise within the game. As not everything is a series of perfect jumps and excellent runs down the mountainside, working off your deaths, and doing several different death challenges within the game will also add a fun and unique highlight to the final version.
As I walked away from the demo, I realized it was not just an extreme sports game from a company not primarily known for triple A sports games, but a game that anyone can get in to without the knowledge or complicated controls of many other franchises out there today. It’s a game that understand the player as the player should easily understand it. And that’s just perfect for a any player like me who doesn’t play sports games.