Every once in awhile, there are certain titles that make a player really excited for the upcoming season in gaming.
In Ubisoft’s case, they have juggernauts like Ghost Recon: Wildlands drawing closer, as well as the fast approaching For Honor. One of Ubisoft’s recent releases was a winter sports style game called Steep that came out on December 2nd. To clarify my aforementioned point, Steep was one of the those “certain titles” I was incredibly excited to play. Excitement is a fickle thing, however, and can lead to over-hyped expectations…
My first hours with Steep were a blast, it controls fairly well and does a wonderful job by setting the tone for the look and feel of a winter-sports style game. Where the experience loses me is the game’s basis for what it presents as ‘challenge’. There’s no story or anything of the sort, unless you count the opening, which, really, just gives you a disguised tutorial opening that borders on lacking. Actually, I say lacking, but the tutorial does a decent job of letting you know what you need to accomplish throughout the game.
But I digress. I mentioned earlier in air-quotes that the game feels considerably low on challenge. To explain, Steep is simply just a series of ‘do it better’ challenge modes. Now I wasn’t expecting SSX style innovation on the part of Steep, nor did I expect deep intricate gameplay that would put this heads and tails above other sports games. What I did expect was variety, and I was sorely disappointed by the absence of any such variety. I understand challenge modes are what works best for this type of game, but maybe it wouldn’t have hurt to throw in single player elements like tournament mode and not base the entire project to online only.
That’s a personal pet peeve of mine, though, and not one that causes Steep to lose many points. The rise of online only gaming is understandable but starts to get frustrating when the inevitable server shutdown commences – then what? Then we have the S.O.C.O.M: Confrontation and M.A.G issue of people that bought full-priced games not being able to play them anymore; but this, again, is a personal peeve and one that I can definitely look past while moving forward. Steep’s online connection, from where I sit anyway, runs decent enough and really does a good job of bringing the competition to another level. As much as I like my offline gaming, Steep’s online only makes sense.
Despite my initial negative opening, there are aspects of Steep that I did very much enjoy. The way that tricks are performed and how you’re ranked based on them put me in a 100% completionist state of mind that I don’t normally go into. The gameplay may lack variety, but it’s definitely addicting. The amount of times I went for the gold ranking on freestyle runs and timed races was frankly saddening. “One more run,” I’d say to myself before wiping out and eating more snow than humanly possible, then I’d just restart the run and do it again. I believe they call that being a glutton for punishment?
Speaking of going for gold, I mentioned above that Steep lacks a certain type of variety when it comes to modes. Where it doesn’t fall short is in the selection for different types of playstyles, so to speak. You can fly along in a wingsuit, shred powder snowboarding, conquer heights with parachute jumping, or ski…I couldn’t think of a clever one for that. Out of these four options, I really found myself enjoying snowboarding and the wingsuit. There’s just something adrenaline pumping about the fact you can fly off the edge of a mountain top. What’s even more fast-paced about it is how you can switch from third to first person view. Yes, this is a standard in games such as this, but the results are breathtaking. Sure, you could snowboard in third-person and pull off sick high octane tricks, or…you could speed down the mountain range in first-person and pray that you don’t hit a stray tree along the way.
One of the last points I’ll bring up is the in-game design. As far as design goes, Steep may not be the most innovative but makes for a dazzling experience. The way the music flows and how the colors blend together truly brings the game world to life. I wouldn’t say that it completely draws you in, but there are moments where you’ll lose yourself. Moments such as speeding past the finish line in first place, traveling through the sky as you look at everything below, and launching off a ramp to perfectly land a quadruple barrel roll. It’s stunning to say the least.
Honestly, all in all, Steep is a decent entry into Ubisoft’s catalog of games. As I said at the very beginning of this review, this title is a blast, It does what it sets out to do and fills a niche left by a lacking of games in this genre. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t blow me away like I’d hoped when I saw the E3 footage. I guess that one is on me. Nonetheless, I definitely recommend this to anyone who has the time and money. If anything, just wait for a price drop.