Extreme sports were all the rage on the sixth generation of game systems, especially snowboarding. Led by SSX trilogy from EA Big label, the discipline captured the attention of all those who didn’t dare go to the slopes for real. Sadly, the next generation saw a rise in greater need for virtual violence leaving little room for exhilarating simulations of cold outdoor sports. EA tried to evoke the excitement once more with a rebooted SSX but sadly, the lackluster game only helped to bury the genre into the snow. Come eighth generation and only Ubisoft, in their tireless need to please every democracy, bothered to dig out the snowboard and hit the slopes again with Steep, a multi-purpose view of the winter sports. Released originally two years ago, the game has enjoyed a quiet success, ensuring a steady flow of add-ons, the latest adding X Games for some new snowy fun.
My previous experience of Steep was on Xbox One, so coming back to the game for the sake of the review on PlayStation 4, I had to it start from the scratch. I was happy to notice that somewhere along the line after the game’s release, a threshold to jump in has been lowered, as the super-annoying wind suit part is removed from the mandatory tutorial to its own challenge! Hurrah! I had so many belly landings in it at the day that I didn’t want to experience it ever again. After I had a given a chance to change my rider, I chose a cute Japanese girl (obviously!) and decked her out accordingly from a nice supply of available outfits. The sun is shining on the slopes, so of course she has to wear a bikini, duh!
The gameplay is probably the best I have experienced in virtual snowboarding since 1080 Snowboarding back on Nintendo 64. The physics - the weight of the rider and touch of the movement – is impeccable, really driving you in there and biting the snow with a wooden plank strapped on your feet along huge open world mountains Steep has for you to ride on. Whatever sport you will take on, the animation of the rider is so natural, with postures flowing from one to another and contouring vertical shifts of the surface, taking up in the air and nailing those rotations you’re looking for. Simply put, beautiful to watch and feel. I would have been content with snowboarding alone but as is so typical to Ubisoft, they once again overdid things and brought many needless disciplines along the way, like the aforementioned wing suit. Luckily, X Games brings much-needed focus to the action because the featured events must be played either on snowboard or skis.
Before you can compete for medals in slopestyle, big air and superpipe, you have to go through five training sessions that teach everything you need to know to perform well. For the uninitiated in X Games terminology, slopestyle is a discipline where athletes snowboard or ski down a course including a variety of obstacles, like rails, jumps and other terrain park features. This discipline is especially dear for us Finns, as our Enni Rukajärvi is a multiple medalist in X Games, World Championships, and Olympics, even notching gold in the first two. Big air, as the name suggests, sees one large jump to be performed for high-scoring tricks. Superpipe, in turn, is a half-pipe but only larger in scope, allowing more height for some stunning tricks.
When the medals have been awarded, seven freestyle rides are unlocked which can be ran either on snowboard, skis or a sled. They combine all the X Games disciplines together, incorporating elements mostly from the slopestyle, but also having big jumps and half-pipes scattered along the way. You will soon learn that hitting rails and grinding along them, all the while changing weight and stance, and jumping from a rail to another (preferably accompanied by a neat trick), grant the most points to the score.
The presentation of the X Games is a bit lacking, though. While there’s an effective live commentary for medal events, enthusiastically praising the performance (or giving stick), there are no proper medal ceremonies, just a canned replay of the ride with a medal plastered on the screen. You can’t even use the comprehensive replay mode in those, which is really strange as it’s available everywhere else in the game. That’s why you won’t see fancy screen captures of the medal races in this review! However, the events are rewarding in themselves, and freestyle slopestyle is the most important discipline the X Games brings to Steep. The rides are so fun but also challenging to play as the score requirements are, quite fittingly, steep when compared to most other races in the game.
While the X Games content might be quickly exhausted, there’s still plenty to dig in the base game. For newcomers, Steep X Games Gold Edition is a great entry point to hit the virtual slopes. It’s modestly priced and includes the base game and Winterfeast DLC alongside the X Games pass. I could almost say that the pass is mandatory for the previous owners of Steep, too, because slopestyle is such an essential addition to the game. Hoping to see you on the slope!
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.