Steep is a strange game. Much like No Man’s Sky it aims to be an experience rather than a game. Unlike the previous artistic experiment, people expect Steep to be much more of a game than it really is.
To break it down, Steep dumps you on a huge mountain and leaves you with pretty much no direction to make your own fun. There are set races but you never feel the threat of real competition. You seem to be permanently racing against the clock and the times are poorly spaced. Bronze times you easily beat even if you almost kill your character on the way down, silver is what you usually end up with as you miss gold by a few seconds. If they were all a touch harder then you would feel more compelled to carry on. One challenge run I found, hooked me nicely, it started with a massive jump that you weren’t guaranteed to make and then continued with tricky checkpoints until the bottom of the mountain, as there was a stunt score element in this as well, I enjoyed the multiple efforts it took to clear the challenge in a time I was happy with.
Unfortunately, moments like this in Steep are few and far between and it seems to be the games own fault. There are four disciplines, Snowboarding, skiing, Wingsuit and the truly awful paragliding. To get to these challenges you have to scan with your binoculars to find ‘drop zones’ that unlock a good few of these events. Like an Ubisoft watchtower in Assassins Creed or Farcry, you struggle for a bit, unlock the tower then seem to make some progress before repeating the process ad infinitum. You can fast travel between them and quickly reset to them if you stray off course or wipeout. Unfortunately, you have no idea what you should be prioritising as there is no XP system. XP in this game simply unlocks costumes and events. Your character never gains any skills other than what they begin with and all the disciplines are basically unlocked from the off.
A bit of structure would fix this game beyond belief. The core mechanics of all the disciplines are represented well. The wingsuit is as you would expect, but unfortunately not as much fun as the equivalent in Just Cause 3. Snowboarding and skiing are pretty interchangeable and come down to your own personal choice. The real stinker is paragliding. Had they made you fall from a plane onto a target like in GTA V or the classic Pilotwings, then it is worth doing, instead, you have a pointless glide that exposes how inconsistent the collision detection is on tree tops. Sometimes your feet glide through other times you crash to the bottom of the mountain. It is just a poor choice of discipline in a game full of poor choices. Why not add skydiving, snowmobiles or some way to have fun when going up the mountain instead of down?
All you would have needed to do to fix this game would be to add some structure. Have a dedicated free roam mode and competition mode. Instead, you spend ages actually walking up a mountain in waist deep snow trying to find another drop zone to trigger some new events. Have this be a separate mode where you can have your free roaming multiplayer, course design and exploration and have a just race section with actual AI. It should be like Forza Horizon on snow instead it is just you alone on a mountain. There are no collectables, spot challenges or anything interesting to keep you hooked as you trudge from point to point. Even worse most of the walking has to be done because you are travelling uphill. Sure you can warp to a point much higher and ski down, but the precision needed to trigger some events negates the benefit of this. Often you fly past the exact area you need to be at as hurtling down a slope is not an exact science. After that, your option is to try again or select the on foot option and slowly walk up the side of the mountain.
This game could have been something special with a bit more structure, but perhaps I am missing the point. Maybe this is what people want in gaming now. I don’t play online as much as I used to and as such don’t have the group of online friends readily available with the same game. In a group of friends this game may come alive more than it does alone.
Despite the flaws, this game does have a relaxing eerie beauty about it. At times it is very liberating just jumping from the top of the mountain and picking your own path to the bottom. Like the previously mentioned No Man’s Sky, you can explore and walk about until your heart is content, time limits and the threat of an objective are miles away. In fact, maybe crack open a beer and just enjoy skiing around. Even create your own Jackass style fails as you crash in the wingsuit. With the excellent graphics and reasonable physics, you get the feeling of being on the mountain. What the game is lacking is a VR mode for PSVR. If you could go into the head of your character all of this game would suddenly make more sense. Staring out over the vistas, taking in the incredible heights and looking at the near permanent sunshine against the snow, would all be incredible in VR.
As it stands though Steep is an interesting distraction which is hard to recommend even at the heavily discounted price I managed to pick it up for. One to avoid unless you are an avid fan of the sports represented
you can get it here