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‘Steep’ Hands-On Impressions – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

While here at E3, I just got a chance to play Steep, the extreme sports variety game Ubisoft announced during their press conference yesterday. During my twenty minutes with the game, I narrowly dodged mountainsides in a wingsuit, pulled off gnarly tricks on a snowboard, and bombed mountainsides on skis. I also crashed. A lot.

Here are my Steep impressions: I started out on a mountainside, laboriously hiking my way to a wing suit drop zone. In Steep, as long as you’re in the right kind of area, you can change your equipment with a simple click of the right bumper. Hitting “up” on the d-pad changes the time of day, while pressing down cycles through your extreme athlete’s clothing options.

Steep

After switching over to the wingsuit, I confidently stepped off the edge and began gliding down the mountainside – and abruptly slammed into a tree. The controls are incredibly straightforward: the left stick moves you up and down and side to side, while the right stick activates a small “dodge” to the left or right. In the score attack mode, the objective was to score points by getting as close to the ground, trees and rocks as possible. In another mode, called Checkpoint Race, players have to hit a number of precariously placed checkpoints – mine were through the openings in electrical towers – while racing against a group of opponents. Suffice to say, I didn’t quite finish this race.

Steep

Snowboarding and skiing are very similar, the controls in both are reminiscent of games like SSX and 1080 Snowboarding. Players use the left stick to steer and tuck in, and the right stick to break. Pressing both of the sticks in opposite directions causes the player to begin skiing or snowboarding backwards. Jumping is controlled by holding down either trigger and releasing it near the lip of a jump. As the trigger is released, flicking the right and left sticks in a given direction results in a flip or spin. While you’re in the air, you can hit the triggers again to pull off a grab.

The controls felt relatively intuitive, though I often had trouble gaining momentum as I progressed down the mountain, at times making the game seem less extreme and more, well, recreational. Nonetheless, when you’re on an especially steep incline, the sense of speed is harrowing. The entire experience is made more visceral by a GoPro perspective that recreates the head mounted camera’s shakiness and even includes the subtle rattling sound heard in GoPro footage. It was disorienting at times but a cool addition nonetheless – and it makes me wonder what a game like Steep would be like in VR.

Steep

All in all, I’m pleased with what I played of Steep. I think its success will come down to whether or not they can pack the game with more modes than just straightforward races and time trials. What I played was fun, but I hope they allow you to explore the mountain – which seems massive – on your own terms.


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