Steep Beta Impressions
The beta for Ubisoft’s upcoming extreme winter sports title, Steep has come and gone and I can’t stop thinking about it. We previewed the game back at E3 but all in all, it’s been a while since I’ve felt the rush of tearing down a mountainside, powder splashing as I weave through trees and the Steep Beta scratched an itch I had almost forgotten about. It has been nearly five years since the last quality snowboarding game dropped and it’s about time we hit the backcountry again.
Luckily for us all – or at the very least, me – Steep seems poised to offer some incredibly exhilarating moments just as often as it provides the serene. The four available sports to check out, snowboarding, skiing, paragliding and the insane wing-suit all offer their own thrills in one way or another. Snowboarding and skiing were my favorite two experiences as they take full advantage of the mountain terrain almost by default due to the sheer variety of freestyle opportunities the sports offer. The wing-suit is definitely the most heart-pounding option available, though. The breakneck speeds and jaw-dropping narrow misses made me clinch a couple times. Paragliding is where I thought Steep stumbled slightly. While offering the best way to get a great view of the horizons, I found the gameplay to be a little cumbersome and some of the challenges frustrating because of this.
“Steep seems poised to offer some incredibly exhilarating moments just as often as it provides the serene.”
What worked for me was the feeling of being on the mountain and how free I felt to do whatever I wanted. I spent a lot of my time in the beta just free riding with new plans, scoping out new locations as I came across them and cutting fresh lines in the waist deep powder. The controls felt pretty good overall as well. Outside of the aforementioned paragliding, of course. Mechanics wise, the trick system seems deeper than they first appeared but I didn’t quite get a grasp on the g-force effect in-game. I liked that I could change my gear on the fly (when not in an event) thanks to a handy select wheel too. There was some solid customization options available including a few zany costumes which brought a little humor to a mostly serious experience. Once I had enough in-game currency to buy the deer head, Steep had it its claws in me. Or should I say, hooves?
It was a slow burn, though. My first couple hours with the Steep Beta didn’t make the greatest first impression. I wasn’t a fan of how easily you could be injured and occasionally ran into some annoying collision issues such as getting stuck in geometry. Also, the damage taken by simply moving slowly or even being at stand-still over rock was a little over the top often resulting in premature knockouts. Once I got a handle on some of the more advanced mechanics, allowing me to throw down some killer rotations and grabs with confidence, Steep became a game I wanted to play more of.
Whether I was looking to get competitive by attempting high-scores in one of the events -which brought forth non-stop “one more try” scenarios – or just chill out by taking a casual glide down the mountain, I felt satisfied with my 7 or so hours with the Steep Beta. Most of my time was spent exploring solo and that was fun but this game definitely feels like it’ll be one of those ‘better with friends’ types of experiences.
One inconsequential thing that bugged me was that I didn’t see a way to turn off the on-screen prompts in the Replay Mode. It would be nice to remove those for those that want to get a little more cinematic by creating their own sports films in-engine.
All that said, yeah, I’m excited to play more of Steep when it launches on December 2 for PS4, Xbox One and PC. I had a lot of fun with it, even with its rough edges. My fingers are crossed in hope that the whole game offers enough variety to keep not only myself but a thriving online community entertained for a while.
I guess we’ll find out soon enough.