Steep starts very quickly, with minimal hand-holding. I did enjoy the short tutorial which teaches you the basic controls for turning and jumping before setting you off on your first challenge. With that said, I still find the controls a little ambiguous and have yet to deliberately pull off a trick. I really wish the developers had made the controls a little more “Skate-y” in a way. There were times where more often than not, I would go for a grab/spin trick and end up doing a barrel roll, landing directly on my face and ruining a great line. Thankfully I haven’t come across any ‘do this specific trick’ challenges because I doubt I would have passed.
After getting acquainted with the basic controls for skiing and snowboarding, I was let loose on the mountains. Skiing is a little faster than snowboarding and slightly easier to control. Barring the obvious physical differences, there isn’t much you can or can’t do with either as all the challenges I found for the two sports were interchangeable and could be completed equally. I must admit that smoothly carving my way down the snowy descents, dodging trees and making cuts across narrow dips in the snow, was a lot of fun. The only real drawback was when I would spot something that was clearly supposed to be a jump, line it up perfectly and then stack it at the base of the jump for no apparent reason. This unfortunately happens frequently and lead me to completely avoid trying those kinds of stunts.You’re also introduced to paragliding and wing-suiting early on, two modes that couldn’t be any more opposite if they tried. Paragliding might be the most boring thing I have ever done in a video game. It’s a slow, patience testing ‘go from checkpoint to checkpoint while battling wind conditions’ experience and difficult in the worst possible way. I honestly couldn’t find anything to enjoy in paragliding mode, apart from maybe the scenery which you have plenty of time to enjoy. Wing-suiting on the other hand is such an incredibly challenging, fast paced and rewarding experience – one that I think is actually strong enough that it could have supported its own game entirely. Similarly to paragliding, the wing-suiting challenges are a series of checkpoints that you must hit, but that’s where the similarities end. I always thought that Just Cause had the most fun wing-suiting experience in a game, but I am happy to say that Steep has completely blown me away with how fun wing-suiting can be. I must have spent hours trying some of the harder wing-suiting challenges, which often consist of making ridiculously close shaves through rock formations in the mountains. I was in full concentration mode trying to thread the needle on this one challenge and when I got it, I genuinely felt satisfied with what I had done. Those crazy close calls are something I am sure will be ending up on YouTube as a highlight video, which I will be more than happy to watch because it is very cool. I highly recommend turning on the first person ‘GoPro’ view once you have gotten comfortable with the wing-suiting
Similarly to paragliding, the wing-suiting challenges are a series of checkpoints that you must hit, but that’s where the similarities end. I always thought that Just Cause had the most fun wing-suiting experience in a game, but I am happy to say that Steep has completely blown me away with how fun wing-suiting can be. I must have spent hours trying some of the harder wing-suiting challenges, which often consist of making ridiculously close shaves through rock formations in the mountains. I was in full concentration mode trying to thread the needle on this one challenge and when I got it, I genuinely felt satisfied with what I had done. Those crazy close calls are something I am sure will be ending up on YouTube as a highlight video, which I will be more than happy to watch because it is very cool. I highly recommend turning on the first person ‘GoPro’ view once you have gotten comfortable with the wing-suiting controls, because that is a whole other level of fun.
Exploration plays a big part in Steep and thankfully it is silky smooth to make your way around the map and find new spots. Somehow, there are no loading screens as well, which makes everything work so well. Once you find a spot, simply scan it with your binoculars and then it becomes a new drop off point for you to start your line. If you stuff up, simply hold the try again button and it immediately returns you to where you started. For a game that will have you smashing into trees every 5 seconds, this is a great feature and one that made me want to find new and exciting spots. The map is also quite sizable too. I still haven’t explored it entirely, but I’m completely satisfied with the variations in terrain across the mountains and have yet to feel any repetition. There are also DLC’s coming with new mountains, which again is very cool.
Steep is very much a ‘play it your way’ game, which is something I feel more games should do. I personally have progressed through the game by leveling up the ‘exploration’ side of things. You can also progress through tricks, freeriding, racing, bone breaking and more. I struggled with the tricks, but loved flying around in the wing-suit so ended up gaining most of my experience and levelling up because of exploring. I quite like that you can do your own thing, then upload those custom created challenges for people to compete against you. Most of the challenges I set were timed runs in the wing-suit, because that’s what I spent most of my time doing, but of course you can set trick-score challenges, or whatever tickles your fancy as well.
Multiplayer is a breeze. I would constantly come across other people completing challenges and grouping up was as simple as holding a button. I didn’t experience any of the problems I had during the preview, and joining games was fast and smooth. I loved seeing a bunch of people doing there own thing, while knowing I can join if I wanted to. I’ve always said the best online games have what I call ‘passive interactions’ by which I mean you can just come across someone doing something and not be forced to do anything, which Steep does very well.
Character customization also plays a big part in Steep, and again it’s a feature the game gets right. Everything your rider has can be customised from a huge selection of items and accessories. My wing-suit for example, looks like Batman. My snowboard riding attire is a crash test dummy outfit. The possibilities are immense here and I don’t think I’ll be finding it hard to stand out in an online match any-time soon. There are also real world items and brands for the purists, which is a nice touch.
All in all I think Steep gets a lot right, but also a lot not quite right. There are a few things that are nearly deal breakers for me, like no grind tricks and not being able to pull your parachute after deliberately launching off a huge jump. Then there is the weird thing where I can’t seem to be able to do certain jumps off things that are definitely only there to be jumped off.
Apart from those things, Steep is a game I really like the idea of. The concept of this cool extreme winter sports game, with great online features as well as content sharing features, combined with today’s graphical standards – it’s a great game idea. In execution, there are a few little things that could have made this game go from good to amazing, and I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in that sense. What I’m not disappointed about is wing-suiting, cruising down the gorgeous mountain side online with real people and the incredible sense of scope that Steep offers. All of the things that Steep does right will definitely keep me coming back for more.