Most of my decisions to purchase games are influenced by nostalgia.
Unfortunately, the decision to do this doesn’t always work out for me (as highlighted in my Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 review) and occasionally they do – such as purchasing Assassins Creed: Odyssey after deciding to never play the series again after playing Syndicate.
Steep is one of the games where nostalgia (and the fact it was free on Playstation Plus) played a big part in my decision to download the game.
Let’s just admit something right off the bat: Snowboarding is awesome. Skiing is awesome. Jumping off a cliff in a wingsuit is awesome but I went into this game with visions of Tony Hawkes Pro Skater 2, expecting to do sick stunts and land them consistently to rack up incredibly high scores – this isn’t that.
Aside from the obvious similarities (namely the boards) snowboarding and skiing are entirely different sports to skateboarding is as much as rugby is different to football, but one thing was glaringly obvious to me, we’ve never really been treated to a game that encapsulates just how cool snowboarding, skiing, wingsuiting and paragliding is – until now that is.
Unlike the Tony Hawkes games of old, Steep is an open-world, unlimited playground for you to get your fill of all snow-based extreme-sport activities wrapped in a graphically beautiful package. The game is designed to give you a taste of all the coolness of winter sports without freezing your nads off and experiencing the bruises and broken bones that can come with taking part in them.
The game also doesn’t feature a linear progression and by that I mean that there are no challenges that you need to complete in order for you to progress to the next area or level up your character. There is no content that is locked away behind rankings and completing the previous challenge in order to access them. Simply put, if you can find a mountain on the map, you can jump off it – and this is one of the aspects that I loved the most about the game.
Once loaded, there’s no time to waste.
When you first start the game you’ll be greeted by Ubisoft’s standard disclaimer warning and then you’re dropped into the snow where you get a brief overview of the controls to help you from falling down each and every mountain you come across and then, from here, how you decide to play the game is up to you. The game will help you with some of the basics, such as learning which analogue stick is for direction, which one does the tricks and also holding down R1 will provide you with an access wheel which allows you to. switch between the different sports: opening up snowboarding, skiing, paragliding and wingsuiting.
As you make your way around the mountains exploring and getting used to the controls, challenges will open up for you and, depending on your play style, choosing how you complete them is entirely up to you.
Starting with the controls, it’s fair to say that learning them is easy enough but mastering them is more of a challenge. For example, I got stuck riding backwards on my skis and not knowing how to turn around unless I messed up a trick (the answer is perform a trick and land facing the way you want to go).
The ground-based sports (skiing and snowboarding) felt the same to me with subtle differences, so small in fact that they were barely noticeable until you encounter an issue, such as riding backwards on your skis which doesn’t happen on a snowboard. If anything, skiing may require a little bit more skill to control but, essentially, once you’ve learned how to do something on the snowboard, it’s the same for the skis.
The snowboard will allow you to get faster speeds but the skis possibly require more finesse.
Once you’ve nailed an ollie or a jump once, you should be landing them consistently from then on. Doing tricks requires more skill, however, and I found myself constantly not landing them properly but instead of it being annoying, it does feel a lot more rewarding the times that you do land them perfectly and get maximum points.
Failing to do a move isn’t the end of the world either as there is something oddly satisfying about watching your character hit the snow hard and them pick themselves up covered in snow. Thankfully, there is no dying in the game and if you land a jump badly, which can hurt the rider, they recover quickly and you can carry on riding which gives the game a feeling that you should be constantly moving which removes the stop-start nature that other games have.
Likewise, if you fail a challenge, the game allows you to hold the triangle button to quickly restart, again leading to the idea that the game shouldn’t stop or be cumbersome and require reloads for every failed challenge, either continue free roaming or hold triangle and start again.
While there is a lot of free roaming to do, completing challenges does open up big rewards for the times you do nail a stunt. If you’re not the best at precise button control, then you can stick to free rider or extreme rider challenges where the aim is to complete a challenge in the fastest time – whether it’s on a board, skis or in a wingsuit.
There are also challenges which offer a reward for throwing your body down a cliff, ensuring that you find the most painful and messy way down possible. Basically, whatever your mood is in that moment, there is an option for it in the game.
The game also invites you to explore the open-world terrain in more depth. There are challenges called “Mountain Stories” which offer unique stories from the mountains (yes, they literally speak to you), telling you tales as you follow the ghosts of previous riders down through the terrain. Other stories provide different challenges, such as destroying snowmen, looking for treasure and even launching your body into a church bell. While they’re not the most realistic elements to the game, they do provide you with something different to achieve while mastering the controls.
Overall, the game offers something for everyone, even if you’re not necessarily a fan of winter sports. The exploring element provides a nice break from the fast-paced, trick landing sports and gives you a more calm and tranquil atmosphere which I found surprisingly relaxing.
The actual sports deliver some great moments of game play. As I said, landing the tricks feels rewarding and this applies both in the challenges and in the open-world free-roaming. I often found myself trying to build up speed down random mountain sides to hit tricks without competing in an event which can lead to some epic moments in the game where you are consistently landing tricks – albeit without a reward.
The game is always online and this means that there are multiplayer modes inside the game as well. They allow you to hook up with others who are in the game and in your world. This means that you can compete in events together, against each other, or just take a romantic ride through the open-world, nailing tricks and trying to show off. I didn’t manage to get online with friends, mainly because they don’t have the game, but I did manage to join some random players both in the free world sliding down a mountain and in one of the challenges where the aim was to throw yourself off and see who’s body reaches the bottom first.
I found that a lot of my invitations went ignored, but at the same time, I found myself ignoring a lot of requests as well because I was enjoying the free roaming. If you have friends on the game, you can race against them and even create your own races, you can also share videos of your stunts (and failures) with them as well.
While the online gameplay is a positive, it’s also a negative as well as it means that you need an internet connection in order to play.
This can also lead to server issues which can leave you staring at the start menu waiting to connect. You can also experience server issues where they kick you from the game completely and take you back to your PS’s home screen. When this happens, it can mean that all of your character customisation is gone and you’re back to how you were the last time you loaded the game.
All-in-all, Steep delivers on what it’s intended to do. It’s a fast, free-flowing game which is designed to keep you moving at all times. You’re not locked behind finishing challenges and you are given the freedom to explore the whole map from the start. It’s this no-holding-back attitude which sets Steep apart from other extreme sports games.
The open world and exploring attitude means that you can spend hours in the game either doing challenges or just free-roaming and finding new areas to perform tricks on a choice of different equipment.
In honesty, I only downloaded this game because it was free on Playstation Plus, but now that I’ve invested some hours into the game, I’m glad that I did and it’s actually the game that I would purchase had I have discovered it before.