We imagine there’s little to beat climbing a mountain in the Alps, turning around and looking in awe at the vista before you. Well, nothing except throwing yourself off that mountain, opening your wingsuit and soaring over the tree tops and through the valleys and ravines below. And that’s STEEP; soar, ski, parachute and snowboard your way through an astonishing snow-filled open world.
Set in the snowy mountains of the Alps and the Pyrenees, Ubsioft hopes to breathe some much-needed life into the extreme sports genre, and capitalise on the absence of white powder and laminated boards since 2012’s SSX. With STEEP, Ubisoft has delivered.
The world is very much open for you to explore. Equipped with four main pieces of equipment, your wingsuit, snowboard, skis and a parachute, it’s both task and pleasure to explore the mountains looking for that perfect line – just you versus mountain. And there is no better place to do it than in this world.
It’s almost impossible not to drop a jaw at the impossibly beautiful mountain world. As you explore you do more than just leave tracks in the snow – the powder flows and shifts just as you would expect it to if it were several feet deep. At speed, or when paragliding high above the landscape, it’s a flawless representation of classic European snowy mountains. Get real close, though, and there’s a disappointing lack of detail in rock and tree texture. It’s only noticeable if you are uncomfortably close though – not recommended when you’re hurtling down the mountainside at speed.
You will, though, find yourself making friends with those rocks and trees with alarming regularity, in the early stages at least. The controls take a bit of getting used to. No doubt representative of the learning curve experienced when strapping a plank to your feet and pointing it downhill for the first time, working out how to get the best from each piece of equipment takes time. Eventually, you’ll get used to moving the left and right stick controls in perfect harmony; speeding up, slowing down and leaning into the perfect lines becomes second nature, and the initial non-responsive feel will fade.
STEEP is all about finding the perfect line, and while one possible line is marked for you in events sticking to this may not always be the fastest way to your destination. You’re on your own – for better or worse.
Holding B opens the Mountain View map showing all your bases, events, and discovered locations. Navigating the map is at first simple but as more things are discovered and unlocked the map starts to become a little messy, and finding what you are looking for can become something of a challenge.
The levelling system is simple enough at first glance. The more extreme your ride, whether it be in an event or just while you are exploring the world, the more XP you get – and you level up faster. Be careful though; you are constantly experiencing G force as you ride and too much of this can make you black out so, sometimes, less can really be more.
As you progress through the game the levelling system becomes for complex and nuanced. There are six categories in which you level up: Freestyler, Pro Rider, Extreme Rider, Free Rider, Bone Collector and Explorer. Some categories are levelled through events, and others through simply exploring the world.
As you complete events and challenges you will unlock more gear to customise your character – there’s a whole host of different looks and styles for you to try. Everything’s cosmetic, though – there’s no stat-boosting equipment to earn. To help you fill out your wardrobe even more there are daily and weekly challenges that give you even more things to do.
While there’s no traditional story mode – this is at its heart an open world explorer – there are story events that you can find and unlock. These impart stories of the mountain as you ride or glide, following an apparently mysterious rider. These add a little light relief to the intensity of the standard events, and the narration – an almost unearthly voice – gives a sense of other worldliness to the mountain scenes.
If you are just a casual player then the events can become a little repetitive, as there are only so many different courses that such a location can present. Some of the harder events can be very frustrating, as you run out of time or are outfoxed by a stationary tree. Some events can take a lot of practice and, to become the real king of the slopes, you will have to practice a lot and start to rely on that muscle memory to get the fastest times possible; a gold run requires every kink to be ironed out.
For the most part, STEEP is the extreme sports game that we were looking for but, unless you are only here for the view, maybe only the dedicated should apply. This is a game that can be enjoyed with a little practice, but to get the most out of it you’ll have to put the hours in. There is a lot to do here – the only problem is that most of it feels the same.
STEEP is available from the Store, with an RRP of £54.99. The game is currently discounted to £43.99 – or just £38.49 for Xbox Live Gold members.
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