E3 2016 – Steep Hands-On Preview – Extreme Open World (PS4)
Along with Tony Hawk 3, SSX Tricky was one of the games that defined the PS2 for me. I’ve always felt that extreme sports games are far too rare, and all too often don’t quite get the classic magic right when they do come around. So when Ubisoft announced Steep, I got excited, and then tempered my own expectations quickly. That is, until I got to go hands-on in this open word extreme sports mountain range.
Controller in hand, I headed off down the mountain on a snowboard, avoiding the challenge gate in front of me so that I could get a feel for the game before embarrassing myself by having to quantify my skill, or lack thereof. Steep immediately brought back that desire that I have to play a good snowboarding game. It felt great to carve down the mountain and pretty soon I was even trying out some rudimentary tricks. Ready to take on the challenge, the developer had me push a button and I was instantly back at my initial spawn point. Instantly. No load times. No animations. I was just back at the top and ready to go again.
Starting down the mountain again, I sailed through the challenge gate and the time challenge was started. Again, no load times, no confirmation, just a seamless start. And if I screwed up anywhere along the way? That respawn button would have me instantly ready to try again. And this went for any of the sports. Switching between them was as easy as opening a selection wheel and choosing what I wanted to do (snowboarding, skiing, paragliding, or wingsuiting). My character was instantly equipped with the gear and I could be on my way. This is an online open world, so all around me I saw the other people demoing the game also cruising down the mountain using their equipment of choice.
This sense of instant gratification is really what made Steep appealing. One of the developers showed me how he could zoom out to a wide mountain view and select different drop points on the range, again, moving my character there in an instant without any need to wait for it to load. He had me explore uncharted territory using updrafts with the paraglider to discover new drop points and challenges to take on.
And then after one particularly massive tumble down the mountain, he showed me the instant replay feature, which acts a pretty robust photo mode, video mode, and challenge creator all in one, allowing you to go back to view and tweak runs that you have done before. It’s unclear how far back your runs will be stored, but he seemed to indicate they are looking at recording quite a bit of data. Steep is designed to be a social game, so the ability to challenge other players and quickly share your accomplishments and failures is meant to evoke that sense of community excitement. There’s even a GoPro camera angle that can be switched to at any time.
Steep is quite a surprising new IP from Ubisoft. Not only is it a snowboarding game, but we get skiing, wingsuits and paragliding as well. The varied terrain on an online open mountain range, and variety of challenges promise huge replayability. With how seamless everything is there’s a real feeling of player control and freedom to have fun and play the way that you want to. From my brief time with it, I see a lot of potential in Steep, especially for anyone looking for another extreme snow sports game.