Hands On With The Free-Form Winter Sports Of Steep

Pure as the driven snow, you can almost tell exactly the type of game that Steep is from the very first screenshot you see. Whether it’s a lone wingsuit wearing figure stood overlooking a vast drop, or a group of skiers and snowboarders racing down hill, it’s a game that tries to capture the thrill and excitement that people take part in extreme sports to find.

Steep lives very much at the sharper, most extreme and dangerous end of the winter sports spectrum, with wingsuits appearing alongside paragliding, skiing and snowboarding. You’re simply set loose on the Alps to explore and push yourself to the limits.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMY91X7GOO0

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This is very much a game where if you can see it, you can go there, and as you look around through the binoculars, that’s a big part of the appeal, but you do need to get to locations in order to unlock them. It’s fairly forgiving in that regard, as Steep’s downhill obsession wouldn’t play too well with getting to the very top of a mountain peak unassisted. You can walk around on foot, certainly, and the paraglider does let you ride the wind and ascend to a certain degree, but Steep is nice and lenient, letting you get within a wide radius of an event in order to add it to the map and be able to fast travel there.

As you push off for the first time, there’s a pleasing sense of weight and heft to the skiing and snowboarding, but it’s one that takes a little getting used to, after years without a similar winter sports game to keep the feeling in your fingers and thumbs. You need to time a jump just right as you come to the lip of a drop, for one thing, but then it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew with the tricks system.

As soon as you release the trigger to jump, it’s a simple matter of spinning your character through as many turns and flips as you think you can manage (and it’s always one fewer than I seemed to think it was), with the two triggers letting you perform left, right and two handed grabs.

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It’s really about making sure that you stick the landing though, and trying to keep your snowboard or skis pointing downhill. Overcook things, and you can wipe yourself out completely if you go very, very wrong, but a bad landing or crashing into trees and rocks will bring up a G-force meter as a warning, and there’s always the pain of losing momentum and having to build up your speed once more.

That task does get an awful lot more difficult when playing in the first person GoPro view, which quickly devolved into disorientating spinning and confusion for me – any immediate assumption that this view might work with VR is sadly misguided. At the very least, you’ll want to get used to the player handling and controls before you try this view out, but I do feel that the GoPro view will work a lot better with the wingsuit and paraglider, despite how thoroughly different those two types of travel actually are.

There’s a thrill to trying to fly as close to the ground as possible in the wingsuit, most definitely, and you’re constantly having to adjust and tweak your direction to stop yourself from crashing into the ground. The challenges and events quite naturally try to get you to push the limits as much as possible, and one of the small ‘mountain stories’ demoed to us had the player trying to crash through numbered flags for a promotional video that was being shot. It’s a nice little bit of fluff and window dressing to the core game.

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Completing this unlocked a Red Bull Challenge, the next step on the story, but there are of course plenty of challenges that aren’t going to be attached to these light moments of story. You can simply pick from the various time and skill based events, and get to messing around. Your score is divided up into skill, risk – such as going close by rocks and trees – and for snowboarding and skiing, performing tricks when in the air.

You can also be challenged by other players in the game, which requires you to be online so it can populate the mountain with other players. It’s quite neat to be able to follow someone else around, play in coop, compete and challenge each other to all sorts of different things on the mountain. One nice idea allows for one player to take the lead and place flags and waypoints for themselves and other players racing them to try and follow, leading to a more freeform style of play than being stuck with the existing events. The only downside is how it can lead to slightly cringeworthy smack talk between the characters.

There’s maybe a hint of Burnout Paradise’s sublime multiplayer to Steep, which was as much about racing through Paradise city as it was getting together with friends and having a bit of a mess around. This time around, it’s not with cars racing round the streets and hills surrounding a city, but with a gorgeous mountain range blanketed in snow.

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I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!

2 Comments

  1. Nice preview, it sounds excellent! As sickly as some might find it I like the sound of the brand tie-ins, it adds authenticity to extreme sports. Control wise, is it more like Amped or SSX? I always preferred SSX where your character pivots and tilts at the hips, sliding the board or skis to tip, rather than the Amped tilting at the point of contact with the ground as I think that takes away the feel of slippiness on the snow.

  2. “You can walk around on foot” – Woohoo, SSX Trekking!

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