If you’ve been following COGconnected’s coverage of Steep you’ll know that I enjoyed my time with the short beta that was released. I was eager to see how the game stood up after having more time to delve deeper into the full experience. I’ve always enjoyed a good winter extreme sports game with 1080 Snowboarding on the Nintendo 64, SSX 3 on PS2 and Amped 2 on the original Xbox being among my favorites. Believe it or not, it may be time for them to move over as Steep might just be the best winter extreme sports game yet. It lacks a few things I’d love to see patched in but overall, like the Christmas season it’s launching in, Steep brings me a kind of video game joy I long for.
For the most part, Steep nails what’s important and that’s the feeling of being on the mountain and tearing through powder. Whether you’re simply freeriding around taking in the sights or hitting restart after restart as you attempt to nab those gold medals, Steep is as exciting as it is relaxing. Three of the four offered sports are pretty great, those being snowboarding, skiing and the exhilarating wing suit. Carving through the snow at high speeds on a snowboard or skis felt fairly responsive, finding a great balance between simulation and arcade gameplay. I found the mechanics of these two sports so satisfying that I spent countless hours just exploring and taking relaxing free rides through the back country. The stunt mechanics are actually fairly deep as well. I was able to grab different areas of my board and tweak each of those grabs as well as barrel roll, spin and flip. Once I had the hang of all the advanced skills, it was nearly impossible for me to pull myself away. The advanced ability to turn off the safe landing mode adds even more control, making speeds checks important and managing rotations and grab releases a more timely affair. I only took issue with the flip button input occasionally as I found it tricky to simply grab the back of my board without flipping, which led to a few unnecessary bails. Unfortunately, Steep doesn’t always do a great job of actually teaching you the advanced mechanics with many tips only showing up during loading screens, like how to easily turn yourself around when riding in reverse on skis.
“For the most part, Steep nails what’s important and that’s the feeling of being on the mountain and tearing through powder.”
The wing suit challenges are stomach sinking at times. There’s less depth here than you’ll find in snowboarding or skiing but the pure adrenaline rush easily makes up for that. Some of the wing suit events had me flying through tight little caves that I wouldn’t even feel comfortable crawling through.
The fourth sport, paragliding, features Steep’s weakest set of events yet still has its purpose. The paragliding events lack the rush and quick moment to moment reflexes seen in the other sports on offer, and I found them a tad boring at times, but I was happy to have the paraglider when just free roaming around scoping out new drop zones. The paraglider makes for a great transport to those tough to reach peaks and because Steep allows players to ditch and swap their equipment on the fly, I found myself using it more than I expected.
Not only is Steep’s playground of peaks, valleys and powder covered slopes absolutely huge and wonderful for pure free riding but it’s littered with hundreds of events and points of interest. I finally reached level 23, the level needed to unlock the final summit, after about twenty hours of play and I’m still at roughly 50% world completion. Fatigue and a feeling of repetition has not yet set in and that’s thanks to the sheer variety in runs available across the varied landscapes and some quirky quests like having to track down a singing tree. The load times are nearly non-existent once you’ve initially loaded onto the map as well. Restarting events literally takes a second which adds to the difficulty of putting the game down.
While Steep satisfies my gameplay needs in many ways, there are a couple small omissions that would have made the experience even greater. There is lots of visual character customization when it comes to gear and outfits, including zany costumes but there is no rider specific attributes to tweak. All the riders perform the same and the same can be said of the equipment itself. It would have been nice to be able to build out my character in more detail, maybe sacrificing some agility in order to have stronger jumps and landings as an example.
“Graphically, there’s no argument that Steep is gorgeous.”
There are also no rails or grinding of any kind in the game. Not that there would be a ton of opportunities in the back country anyway but a few trees hunched over by the weight of snow or some small dividing walls and rails in the villages would go a long way to enriching the overall experience.
Graphically, there’s no argument that Steep is gorgeous. Sure there are a few moments of slightly janky animations, and once in a blue moon I’d run into some collision or clipping issues, but more often than not I was awestruck at the horizons in front of me as I stood atop a peak or flipped over some trees in the setting sun. The level of detail can sometimes lag behind the action but it’s a small price to pay for such a large open world. Audio is solid as well creating a nice, almost serene atmosphere. Birds and wolves heard in the distance, the sound of powder being swooshed away as I sharply turned, or the crunch of crispy snow under my boots as I trekked up a cliff never got old. There are a few missing details in the art department that I took notice of when comparing to the audio though. There’s no wildlife to be seen on the mountain even though it can be heard, and the chair lifts above head are static and unused. These are really minor gripes but noticeable nonetheless.
For those unaware Steep is an always online game so you’ll see other players in the shared world as you explore and can easily pair up with them with at the press of a button, and a crew from your friends list can easily be formed too. Seeing random players in my world never distracted in a negative way and if you choose, playing 100% solo is absolutely an option. The big red flag with Steep’s always online nature is that when the servers are down, you can’t play. This happened once during my review play through and while I was only unable to play for six hours or so, it was still painful.
Despite coming up short in a few areas Steep ends up a very enjoyable experience overall. Even as I type these closing comments I’m thinking about the game and where my next line will take me. With huge and beautiful summits to explore, varied locations and events and the best snowboard and ski free riding any game has offered yet, Steep is a welcomed and satisfying extreme sports experience.
***A PS4 review code was provided by the publisher***
- great visuals
- deep mechanics
- huge summits
- varied events
- minor collision issues
- no offline mode
- para gliding events boring