If like me, you’re a fan of Extreme Sports, specifically super-cold, frosty and all round borderline insane feats of death-defying snow-clad stupidity, then may I be bold enough to direct your attention to the epitome of white-knuckle momentum that is, Steep, from Ubisoft.
I’ll begin by laying my cards on the table, no bluffing, no subtle tip of the cap, no deception. Consider this review to be high praise for a game that I consider to have succeeded in capturing the soul of snow and air based Extreme Sports. There is life in this game, a cocktail of euphoric and at times, jaw dropping speed, mixed perfectly with a deliberate calmness and a sense of being in the here and the now. My experience thus far has been visceral and at times, quite wonderful.
Before the first jump, the first glide or first decent, the beauty of Steep will grab you. This game is gorgeous. The mountains are drenched in deep white snow, glistening in the sunlight. The atmosphere feels cold, shadows are cast across the vast landscapes hiding the jagged edges of bone breaking rock and ice. As you progress though the game, the low sun will move across a cloudless sky. As you reach a peak, a blood-red sunset will light your way, the stars beginning to twinkle in a freezing sky. Then, as you stand, poised and ready, the skies will dim, the mist low and grey, a moody and menacing sensation that taunts you, waits for your first move. In pure isolation you will tackle the steep, the danger, you will hurtle down the landscape with blistering speed, it is you against the mountain, equally beautiful as it is deadly. The creators have sculpted a work of art, the experience surreal and emphatic; it will literally take hold of your imagination. Best of all, you can control the time of day you choose to participate, if you prefer to hit the slopes at night, it’s not a problem, a simple press of the button.
Steep presents the player with a selection of sports, snowboarding, skiing, paragliding, or my personal favourite, the wing-suit; each discipline is available on demand and can be selected at any time, based upon your own preference and desire to tackle the mountain in whichever style you feel would be the best fit, or not, depending on your mood. The game centres around challenges that are located around the mountainous landscape, the challenges are score-based dependant upon their own individual style, for example, a speed run down a treacherous path, or a route filled with dangerous jumps and peaks to gain the best possible score based on the style of your moves, to name but a few. As you progress through the challenges, your character will gain XP and with it your level will increase allowing entry to more difficult challenges, the maximum level being 25. Although, I must stress, Steep doesn’t wholly focus on grinding through the levels, and nor should you, there is plenty to explore and do, the levels will come naturally, as will your exploration of the mountains.
Each discipline has a selection of skill moves that will give an increased score, my first criticism of Steep would be the lack of options available to show-boat your ability, for example, compare Steep with the likes of any Tony Hawks title and the move-set pales in comparison. Snowboarding for example has only a handful of rotations and grabs, the difficulty is increased by the amount of G-force your character can take, which dictates your speed for descent, however I would certainly encourage a greater selection of moves as this can become repetitive, quickly. At times the game can feel like a balancing-act rather than a display of awesome moves. Travel too quickly on a rocky surface, or hit the slope too hard, then the G-force meter will increase, the only way to rectify this is to slow down. This can be tedious and irritating. The same goes for skiing, the wing-suit has very little in the way of signature moves, the greatest reward being given for gliding close to the ground and avoiding objects, which on its own is very satisfying, but again, a little more selection would be more than welcome.
That aside, the challenges can be absolutely brilliant and there is plenty to keep the player coming back for more. I’ve read some criticism from players about a “lack of content” although I couldn’t disagree more. Personally, I believe Steep isn’t here to give us huge world to explore, this isn’t Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft in terms of map size, although the landscape is still sizeable. This is Steep and by its very nature, the game is designed to challenge you and your abilities. I spent 2 hours, solid, on a single track down the side of the mountain. Why did I do this? Simple, I’d reached gold standard and I wanted to beat my best time, so I continued over and over until I did. When I did, the amount of satisfaction I received was insurmountable, I felt I had actually accomplished something, I had challenged myself, I had put in the time and I had been rewarded. This is what Steep does so well.
Steep is not only about challenging yourself, as you progress through the world, challenges will be littered all around the mountains, hover over any of them and you’ll see the scores and times other players have recorded, be it the daily best, weekly or best ever; if you really fancy your chances then try to get onto the international scoreboard and really boast your talent. Steep is a full multi-player experience, it’s simple to meet up with other players on the mountain, join groups, attempt challenges or hang around discovering new tracks. Much of this game can be played by free-roaming the peaks, exploring the landscape, creating new jumps and routes. The choice is yours.
If you’re not interested in sweating profusely whilst trying to hit the high score, then Steep caters for those of us wishing to experience the beauty of the mountain, there are a host of narrative style journeys that are narrated by the mountain itself. A poetic and emotive guide from the peak to the frozen lakes below, this is often merged with what can only be described as a perfectly selected mix of music from a host of artists. On one occasion I decided to hit the slopes and glide amongst the trees, the snow, thick and unspoiled; as the sun descended into the horizon, the track To Build a Home, by The Cinematic Orchestra started to play. The moment was perfect, and in my 30 or so years of gaming, for me is one the most definitive moments and something I will never forget, it actually gave me goose bumps, seriously. I appreciate how cringe-worthy this may seem, but the moment, at that moment, was pure bliss. The visuals were jaw-dropping, the music selected perfectly, the mood was visceral, I was in awe at how the game made me feel and I could do nothing but smile and enjoy it. Game design of the highest order.
From a collective stand-point, Steep rewards players with a range of skins and costumes to decorate your character, these can all be unlocked through in-game currency which can be obtained by completing challenges and the-like. Some of the designs are hilarious, imagine hurtling down the mountain dressed as a giant giraffe, with each bump and fall complimented with a comical squeak, or if you’d prefer, you can go classy with a Tron style glow in the dark suit, or a giant snowman, obviously. Although the skins and costumes aren’t a necessity, it gives you something else to aim for, some of the skins can only be unlocked by reaching gold standard within a particular challenge, which is a welcome inclusion in the game as your efforts rarely go unrewarded.
Unfortunately Steep is not without its flaws, for example, although acknowledged by the developers, there is currently a bug whereby character clothing will reset to default each time you log into the game, this isn’t a huge issue, but it is tedious when changing clothing back to suit your own preference, each time you log-in. Apparently this will be patched at a later date. There are other issues, which thankfully Ubisoft will be addressing in the future, the clothing bug is the only issue I have had personally, nothing else to report and I welcome the new patch.
Clearly, there has been issue with the cost of the game, I have read criticism from some users that £40 is a little expensive for the content of the game, however again I disagree. Steep is a game that you can continue to return to, keep it installed and in your downtime hit the slopes and enjoy the experience, or take it to the next level and try to accomplish all challenges, get the high scores, and then try again. Steep is an experience to enjoy, a venue to challenge yourself and others, that will never get boring. I bought the game from Steam around 3 days ago, I’ve already ploughed over 20 hours into it and I doubt I’ll be stopping any time soon. To be blunt, I’ve spent more on a night-out, had nothing to show for it other than a raging bad head and the taste of pizza and vomit in my mouth! So, in comparison, the £40 for Steep is without question value for money, in my most humble of opinions.
I can appreciate however that some players are frustrated about the release of a game that bolts on additional DLC at the time of release, again, I’ve spent the additional £15 on this too. I’ve recently tweeted that I’ve never really been against DLC for games, or spending extra money to access them. I don’t understand the criticism from gamers about this particular issue. Is it uncommon to pay extra to get more? No. If you’re invested in a particular game, then the option is there to access more content should you wish. It’s like anything else in life, you pay for what you get; I don’t agree that for games, one set price should include absolutely everything, which I feel gamers expect. An archaic attitude in my opinion. I have a deluxe coffee maker in my kitchen, now we all generally have kitchens, but you know what, I forked out the pennies to get my coffee just to my liking, and if you want the same, well, you’ve got to hand over the cash! If not, well, that’s just your choice. I appear to have gone off at a tangent…
To summarise, Steep is a sensational title, it really is. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve had a real spiritual connection with a game-related experience. Steep accomplished that in the first 10 hours. Steep has captured the heart and soul of the sport, the sense of being completely isolated and yet amongst other like-minded enthusiasts, all with a common goal and drive. Steep is beautiful in more ways than one, and will keep you hungry for more, it gives you the platform to challenge yourself as well as others. Although it is not without downsides, for example the lack of skill-sets, irritating clothing bugs, the title continues to give and give. In this instance, content is what you make of it, rather than expecting to be given. Enjoy the game, the experience and your own personal challenge. This is a top-title and I’m more than satisfied with my purchase, inclusive of DLC. I doubt I’ll be removing this from my collection any time soon.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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