It is genuinely great to see a major snowboarding game make its way to the PS4/Xbox One generation – especially being that it represents an oddly specific sport genre that I just love. Since the SSX days of old, and even going as far back as the N64 title ‘Snowboard Kids’, I have loved shredding the digital powder. After having a blast with the Steep beta earlier in the year, I was positively stoked to play the final product and have it tick all the required boxes.
Steep, as a game, is incredibly undemanding. The only thing the game asks of you is to have a good time – and even then it is incredibly unobtrusive as to how it wants you to enjoy yourself. It’s a snowy game with a seriously chilled out attitude, entirely happy to let you experience things at your own pace. A short tutorial to explain the controls and concepts of the game leads to you being set free on the absolutely massive mountain range of the European alps, stunningly recreated into a haven of snowborne extreme sports fun. The game world is impressively big: it covers approximately 256 square kilometres and is split into seven massive regions, among which are Switzerland, Aiguilles and Tyrol. What you do next is up to you; choose your sport, get yourself to a spot that looks incredible and throw yourself into the challenges that await.
Smashing, Shredding, Blasting Powder, Other cool phrases for sweet snowboarding times.
The flavours of frostbitten fun include snowboarding, skiing, wingsuiting and paragliding with a massive range of events dropped sporadically across the map representing different applications of each sports’ style. While it has the kinds of trick challenges and high-speed races you’d expect, it’s also a game of exploration, where you’re free to roam and climb every mountain and speed down each breakneck decline you encounter. And exploring does feel incredible – I lost count of the number of times I would encounter what I thought would be the best snowboarding track ever, only to find another incredible avenue around the corner.
Deadly ice fields can kind of harsh your shredding mellow.
The exploration and ‘play it your way’ methodology lends itself brilliantly to perhaps the most titillating feature with Steep – the ability to create your own challenges on the fly. Screwing around in free mode and discover a particular breathtaking jump? Why not hit a button, and challenge your friends to do the same jump, and maybe even beat your score? What about completing a sick ride down a mountain, only to consider that it might be even cooler with company? Make a race of it! Perhaps you managed to wingsuit into a wall at a speed that would make bones turn to jelly – why not see if someone else can eat shit even better than you? Make a challenge out of completely axing yourself – the game wants you to take these moments and make them as rewarding and socially accessible as possible. They even throw in a replay system to make sure you can share the thrill via every avenue available to you.
Now, all this would be meaningless if the actual mechanics of the game weren’t on point. Both the skis and snowboard handle beautifully, with an amazing sense of speed and a true feeling that you’re gliding across different grades of snow and ice. Downhill races are exciting while the trick challenges hit the right balance between epic, painful-looking failure and the promise of a big score (provided you can resist the siren song of SCORE GREED). The wingsuit events are a mixture of tense microsecond-by-microsecond manoeuvring and height management, and even if riding the paraglider takes some getting used to, there’s something oddly relaxing about it once everything clicks.
The European Alps are your frosty oyster.
During marketing for the game, they said that ‘the mountain is yours’, and I can’t agree enough with such an apt statement. I enjoyed every minute I spent playing Steep – it has just the right balance of ‘stuff to do’ and ‘stuff to unlock’ to keep a hyperactive nerd such as myself shredding for days to come. It’s hard to review a game that is distilled to such a rejuvenating and enjoyable experience – but here I am, effectively professing my love for it.
I love you, Steep.
Reviewed on PS4
Sure, that’s how ragdolls work.