Steep Review

Dan Webb

There are few more exhilarating experiences in this world than hurtling down a snow-covered mountain on what is effectively a fibreglass covered piece of wood - or two if you ski. With the wind in your hair - or what's left of it, in my case - and the sun at your back, being surrounded by the wonderment of the great outdoors can truly make you feel alive when you're thousands of feet above civilisation. While strapping your two feet to a piece of wood and weaving through trees at a rate of knots might instil a sense of fear in some people, I would say there's no finer an outdoor experience on this incredible planet of ours. It is this sense of trepidation, of exploration, of freedom, of adrenaline that Ubisoft's extreme winter sports title, Steep, looks to recreate, and for the most part Ubisoft Annecy have nailed what it's like to take to the slopes, but without the fear of breaking a bone or two.

While the SSX franchise might cater to the arcade, crazy trick chasing audience in the same way that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater used to do for skateboarding, Steep is aiming for the exact opposite end of the spectrum; the Skate end of it, if you must. Steep isn't a game about ridiculous, over-the-top tricks - although you can most definitely do tricks - it's a game about physics, about momentum, it's about simulating the experience of going mano-a-mano with the great white.

Carving up that powder in style.

For the most part, Steep succeeds in its mission to be an extreme winter sports simulation game. Its physics engine is robust, its controls reactive and intuitive, and the sense of speed it conveys is actually quite impressive. In fact, I don't remember another skiing or snowboarding video game in recent memory that actually nailed that sense of speed as much as Steep does.

Steep, however, isn't a perfect simulation of the wonderful winter pastime and can be a little rough around the edges at the best of times. It's the unpredictability of the game's physics engine that actually hold the back from potential greatness. You could clip something and it wipes you out completely when other times you just keep on going. Sometimes you’ll land a jump perfectly but your rider will hit the powder quicker than Robert Downey Jr. on a night out in his heyday. And this, may I add, on some of the trickier runs on the harder mountains is one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had this year. There is potential here, but it isn’t fully realised in this first iteration.

The jumping and the tricking aspect of Steep is surprisingly deep when you get used to it. It can be a little daunting at first, as a lot of things come into play really quickly – especially timing that launch off an edge or ramp – but once you’ve got used to the basics, you’ll be Double Cork 1440 Popairing in no time! It’s a case of fairly easy to pick up and play, but a lifetime to master. Well, a few hours at the very least.

Steep boasts a ton of activities to do and various disciplines to master across its digital recreation of the Alps, whether that’s checkpoint races, half pipe point attacks, long-distance races against the clock, crash challenges, there’s even events that reward you for risky racing lines, which gets particularly hairy when you’re dancing through the forests at 8Gs.

There’s even some trippy, speak-to-the-mountain style story missions. My point is, there are a ton of modes and a load of variety to boot too. The best part though is the game’s instant respawn mechanic, which is a saviour and makes the experience tenfold better for its inclusion. Screw up the first corner? Retry. Miss that extra grab on the first jump? Retry. It dangerously instils that “just one more” juice into its gameplay, which is good for the game, bad for our free time.

Of course, Steep isn’t just about snowboarding and skiing – well, it mostly is – it’s also about wingsuiting and paragliding. The former, is bloody tough, while the latter seems like a waste of disc space – in event forms, anyway – but both are handy for navigating the mountain. If I didn’t make that painfully clear, let me reiterate: the paragliding as an event is just a bollocks idea.

The real beauty of Steep, though, is that you can do this with friends – or alone, if that’s your bag – in its seamless online multiplayer environment. If embarrassing your friends isn’t your thing, it’s really easy to team up with randoms too, which is equally as fun. You could argue that Steep only really comes into its own when you’re racing with friends, setting new challenges for one another, all redoing the same run for that best time or that high score, or creating runs for one another, but it’s equally as good a game on its own. With Steep's online comes a problem though: lose connection and you get dropped from the game, even if you’re having the run of your life. There appears to be no offline mode, which means if your net is down or Ubisoft’s servers are, then you’re screwed.

Don't hold that grab for too long, or you're in for a nasty spill.

While the minute-to-minute gameplay is, for the most part, solid, the navigational system and menus are just awful. The only way to look up events is on a 3D representation of the mountain, which in the best of times is difficult to navigate, which doesn’t really make it abundantly clear what events you’ve completed and how you fared. When you’re short of one challenge in a certain area on one mountain it is unnecessarily difficult to find out which one you haven’t yet done. Why there's no list view I’ll never know. Trying to find a certain run is nigh-on impossible if you don’t remember which mountain and whereabouts it is. Okay, not nigh-on impossible, but it’s incredible that no-one stumbled upon this in testing and thought, “oh, we should fix that.” It’s inaccessible and a pain, there's nothing more to it.

From an achievements perspective, it's safe to say that Ubisoft Annecy has failed to utilise them at all. Sure, there's the odd creative one, like riding to the end of the map, but the rest are completion ones. 100% this, 50% that. If you're looking for an easy list though, it's most certainly not here and getting gold in every challenge (of which there are 111) is going to be a hell of an ask. Contender for hardest sports list of the year here!

For Ubisoft Annecy’s debut foray into the extreme winter sports genre, Steep is an admirable effort by the French studio. It’s a title that captures the freedom and exhilaration of carving lines in the powder, one that gives the player complete freedom of a huge expansive and diverse winter playground. Ulimately, Steep manages to convey an impressive sense of speed and adventure, but is let down by a raw physics engine that can be a tad unpredictable at times.


Steep is an admirable effort from Ubisoft Annecy, one that is chock full of decent ideas, but held back by others. This simulation extreme sports title lays down the foundations for what could turn out to be another staple in Ubisoft’s ever growing catalogue.

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For the most part Steep actually is good on the ol’ ears, from the sounds of the mountain to the small, but decent selection of music tracks. The limited voice over phrases are enough to make anyone go insane though!


Steep isn’t going to be in the running for the prettiest game of the year, but it is a pretty game in its own right. Those sunsets, that lighting though! They’re all rather sexy, but it’s not a console leader, that’s for sure.


The simulation physics engine for the most part is a complete joy, but it’s not perfect and those times it doesn’t deliver are truly frustrating moments. Easy to pick up and play, an age to master.


It’s a blast to hit the Alps with a variety of different extreme sport disciplines and events, but it’s a pain in the ass to jump from one event to the other. The 3D map is a great idea, just not a very practical one.


They’re a little bit lacklustre, to be honest. There’s the odd creative one, but that’s about it. Oh, and this list will be hard. So hard. And time-consuming. Approach at your peril.

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