Winter sports games are few and far between in video games. They don’t come around too much these days, and when they do, they’re not always in the best form. Thanks to Ubisoft’s new IP Steep, this newest addition to the winter sports brethren is an instant hit.
Never before has a winter sports game provided this many options for gamers. Being able to ski, snowboard, wingsuit and paraglide all over the European Alps of Steep is incredible. Anytime I jumped onto the mountain, the form of traversal I could use was totally up to me.
Each sport certainly gives players a different taste for gameplay. For example, boarding and skiing add that more traditional element usually seen in winter sports games. On the other hand, wingsuiting and paragliding create a innovative and essential diversity to gameplay.
Winter sports games of old relied on the basic formula of skiing and riding in either a racing or trick competition. Ubisoft’s Steep blows the lid off of what people should expect from a game like this. The answers to the question of how do you get from the top to the bottom have been embellished two fold.
Let me start off by talking about my favorite type of event found in Steep: racing via snowboard or skis. This is easily my favorite type of event. Steep contains short and simple races, as well as long and grueling ones. I believe it is the Salomon Challenge, which for some can take over six or seven minutes to complete. For contrast, another race I encountered lasted only twenty seconds.
Steep has plenty of variety, both in the type of events as well as their length. The open-world is huge, and this creates greater possibilities. Never once did I feel like I was playing the same event, as these mountains present wonderful variety. Whether you’re talking about density of trees, slope steepness, mountainside exposure, or anything else that you can think of, variety is everywhere.
Paragliding is certainly an interesting style of play in Steep. There seems to be far more nuance to this activity than any other. Accuracy and learning how to use a gust of wind to your advantage took a while to learn. Once I had a firm grasp on how this activity functioned, I was rewarded with gold and silver place finishes.
This activity is one in which patience will be rewarded far more than impulsive movements. It is important to allow your character to glide freely. Almost allowing control to be given over to nature gives you a better chance to understand when you should take over control and when you shouldn’t.
Paragliding, however, pales in comparison to the wingsuiting events. These are so much fun and are home to some of the most brutal crash and burns. This style of play is one of the most innovative features Ubisoft has brought with Steep. Wingsuiting events are intense thrill rides that often times send you screaming past the mountainside, rock fields, and electrical towers.
Understanding how your movements impact your character’s flight is essential. For many races, I had to attempt multiple tries before finally reaching my objective or finishing in first place. The hot air balloon drop holds some of the most death-defying drops.
In fact, one plunge (in the compilation video above), had me jump from the hot air balloon and do a head first dive down to the ground, where I then leveled out, weaved through a winding corridor, which abruptly ended with the finish line. It is one of the most thrilling, heart-pumping events you’ll find in Steep.
Trick events turned out to be instances I truly enjoy. It didn’t start that way as it took some warming up before I got the hang of Ubisoft’s trick system. Once you go beyond doing simple flips and grabs, there are extremely satisfying results to be found in the advanced tricks you can pull off. These after particularly important when you enter trick competitions of a higher difficulty.
There are a lot of different courses you can play trick events at. Some of the more steeper courses present a great challenge for players to score high. For these events, it’s important to understand that when you take to the air, you are fly by a large chunk of the course. This makes it all the more crucial for you to perform high-point tricks and then land them. Any crashes can result in quite the tumble and not having much of the course left to earn points on.
Trick events can also be found in the more traditional style of location: the terrain park. There are parts of the world in Steep where you’ll be able to show off your best moves with ease. These events have jump after jump after jump built up for the player.
Of course, landing your tricks is important here as well, but, if you do fall, it isn’t the end of your run and there’s still room to make up the ground. Trick events started off as activities I wasn’t interested in much, but they are now ones I look forward to competing in, almost as much as wingsuit events.
One of the biggest elements that ties the entire Steep experience together is its seamlessness. Older winter sports games like SSX would force you to endure a loading screen when restarting an event. Having to restart is something that happens a lot, no matter the event you are playing. Being able to press one button and then find yourself back at the starting position, ready to try again, is an absolute treat.
This means that when I have invested four minutes in a race like the Salomon Challenge, I don’t have to worry about a loading screen standing in my way before I make another attempt. Steep’s seamlessness is absolutely brilliant and creates a deeper sense of immersion for the player.
Another unique part of Steep are the drop zones you can discover. When close enough, players can pull out their binoculars and zero in on a specific part of the mountain. After a synching period, that new drop zone is unlocked. This makes another feature of Steep even more fun to use.
Gamers can create their own challenges for other players to try, and the discovered drop zones are the best places to create them. No events in Steep are held at these locations, so they are tailor-made for player-created challenges. I thoroughly enjoy experiencing events other players have made because they give the game great replayability.
Steep does have a progression system. Leveling up is done through acquiring experience points. Those are earned in everything from finding new drop zones, placing in the top three of any event, completing a mountain story mission, free-roaming and so much more. Mountain stories are a great source of experience, but the actual events themselves lured me in the most.
As you level up, new gear, races and locations are unlocked for the player. Ubisoft does a fine job of giving players enough content to experience as they level-up, without confining them to a small area of the world. Gamers can express themselves through customizing their character’s outfit, gear and gender. This helps you stand out on the mountain from all of the other competitors.
You can group up with other gamers on the mountain, and they are present in your game as you play. While it is fun to meet up with people and shred the mountain with them, I found single-player to be my primary mode of play, and it is an absolute blast.
Steep is a wonderful experience that delivers the biggest thrills and most satisfying gameplay of any winter sports game released over the last half decade. If you’re someone who enjoyed the SSX series then Steep is for you. Thanks to paragliding and wingsuiting, Steep adds never-before-seen experiences gamers will love. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on video games. Ubisoft provided We Write Things with a PS4 review code for the purposes of this review.