It’s been 10 to 15 years since the heyday of extreme sports titles, and aside from the SSX reboot four years ago it’s been a quiet genre – until now. Following closely after Mark McMorris Infinite Air, Ubisoft’s Steep takes to the slopes on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
We recently reviewed Infinite Air, and felt it needed more to do inside the game world. Steep doesn’t completely take that feeling away, but definitely provides you with a lot more versatility. That starts with the fact that Steep isn’t a straight up snowboard simulator, even though that’s a mode that many will spend the majority of their time in.
Steep allows you to explore an alpine wonderland in ways that suit your play style. That sounds awfully vague, but what it means is that you can stick to snowboarding if you enjoy stringing tricks together, or you can play skiing events if you enjoy fast downhill racing. You can even take to skies, where you choices range from a hot air balloon ride to plummeting down at breathtaking speeds while wearing a wingsuit.
With all this versatility, Steep feels like a giant playground in the snow. It’s a gorgeous playground as well, and it really shows off the fact that Steep is this season’s AAA winter/extreme sports title in terms of production values. The landscapes look wonderful, as do the animations – although a few technical issues popped up that should’ve shown up in beta testing. Characters can get stuck in the scenery, or be glued to a starting platform. Every now and then, you’ll start an event facing the wrong direction – something easily fixed by either turning around or restarting, but it feels sloppy.
As with any good playground, it’s time to go home after a few hours – even though those hours were filled with fun and wonder. The third time you play, Steep becomes a little less wonder-filled, as you slowly uncover all the challenges that the game world has available for you. This is the point where the game’s social elements come in, and where Steep loses traction as a single player experience.
Steep – especially in the long run – is best enjoyed with several players at once. The game currently doesn’t do too much to facilitate chance encounters (through matchmaking), so you have to actually know a fellow player to get the most enjoyment out of the game. This is the game’s biggest dilemma – if other players move on to different games, you’re likely to quickly follow. This is because, no matter how wonderful this snow-covered playground is, it’s not fun for long by yourself – unless future addons provide brand new thrills to re-ignite your spark each time you play. Until then, this is a great winter sports title for the modern era – but a little lacking in long term appeal, especially as a solo experience.