Steep: Road to the Olympics Review – Going for Gold (PS4)
When Ubisoft’s ambitious open-world snow sports simulator Steep released at the back end of 2016 into an already tightly-packed schedule, it didn’t leave many tracks. Many felt that the game went almost too far in its open-worldliness. It all but dropped people on a mountainside and told them to go and have fun, without providing a clear path to progression for those who wanted it. Riding a ski lift through to the present day sees that even though the game is still overlooked by many, the development team have been beavering away at bringing things up to scratch across the course of many updates and a handful of game-expanding DLC packs.
Steep: Road to the Olympics is the latest (and largest) of the bunch, coming complete with new sports, new mountains, and an official PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics license to give it that authentic touch. The games themselves are a couple of months away yet, but this expansion offers a wave of new events at which to try your hand. Big Air, Slopestyle, Halfpipe, Slalom, Parallel Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G, and traditional Downhill are available on the South Korean mountainside which, of course, is festooned in as many of the Olympic logos and liveries at which you could shake a ski pole.
Carving a New Path
Aside from having a shot at the new event types, a new, more guided campaign mode – Become A Legend – has slid into view. Here, you begin as a no-name snowboarding scrub and must learn the ropes (or rather, the slopes and rails) as you attempt to become the first snowboarder in history to take three gold medals at the Olympics. In a wise move, new players get the opportunity to take on the main game’s tutorial before they move on to the Olympics campaign. Once you feel a bit surer of yourself, you’re thrust into a series of must-win training events, tutorials, competitions, and championships, before heading to PyeongChang itself. The entire Become a Legend campaign is punctuated with talking-head videos of real Olympic athletes — alpine skier Lindsey Vonn being the most recognizable — which gives a nice feeling of weight to proceedings. A commentator is also on hand to provide something of a sense of TV-style presentation during events. He isn’t perfect and gets a fair amount of calls wrong, but it certainly amps things up over Steep’s usual audio presentation.
Offsetting that is the documentary-style voiceover that plays during the road to the Olympics. A gravel-voiced actor trying to provide third-person gravitas as if presenting an episode of Behind the Music really wasn’t needed, especially when there’s no dynamism to the words he’s saying. Land a few quadruples in competition, and he’ll roll up three in-game months later to prattle on about how the world’s first ever quadruple flip was landed that day. Even so, the campaign is otherwise well put-together, though even new players will likely breeze all the way through it until they reach the Olympics themselves, where the difficulty bar is understandably set higher.
Outside of that guided mode, some may be let down by the structure of Steep’s Olympic-style events, since they feel a little half-baked. Far from the officially-licensed multi-event sporting packages of old, you get to take on the Olympic final in each sport in what is essentially a single-round challenge. You can’t set up a list of events and take them on in order in your own custom Olympics, or take part in multiplayer Olympic competition. That’s even more disappointing when you realize exactly how good some of those new events are. Downhill, Super-G, and Giant Slalom are thrilling and challenging adrenaline rushes that finally provide some variation and excitement to Steep’s previously lackluster skiing component. Riding the line between chaos and perfection at 90 miles per hour is an incredible feeling, especially when you get it right and put together a superb run. So good are these events, in fact, that I’d be happy to see Ubisoft spin them off into their own game or expansion along the lines of a traditional single-sport simulation.
Slalom and Parallel Slalom are even more challenging and technical and will be the cause of many leaked curse words and thrown controllers. Some may go as far as to say that they’re too tricky to handle at times, but practice makes perfect. Traditional ski jumping is absent, which is a shame for those who want to play as British legend Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, such as myself. Snowboarding Big Air events take part on what is essentially a ski jumping hill, so if you try Big Air first, you’ll naturally assume that Olympic ski jumping is on the cards later, but that isn’t the case.
Even with the structure of the Olympic events being lacking, there’s still more than enough content here to justify the asking price. The Become a Legend campaign will take a few hours to get through, then there are all the traditional Steep-styled challenges, Mountain Stories, and the like that take place in the new Japanese and South Korean mountains. There’s certainly plenty to do in Road to the Olympics, and that’s before you even consider the number of times you’ll find yourself perched at the starting gates on the downhill course, getting ready to try to beat your best time just for yucks.
Steep: Road to the Olympics review code provided by publisher. Version 1.13 reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.