Hands-On with ‘Steep’ at E3: Ubisoft Looks to Conquer the Mountain

During my time at the 2016 Electronics Entertainment Expo, I spent a little time with Ubisoft Annecy’s open-world extreme sports title, Steep.

The demo began with a wingsuit leap from atop one of Steep‘s numerous mountains. In the game’s expansive open world, positions can be picked and reset at any time with the press of a button. I decided to see how close I could glide to the terrain racing below me and managed to go pretty darned fast before I crashed headfirst into a pine tree.

Rather than a health bar, Steep features a dynamic “G-force” meter to measure the force of impact. Bad enough crashes will kill you, throwing up a skull and “Wrecked” across your screen, but it was pretty forgiving in the demo I played.

Once I got onto the snow itself, the experience felt less like SSX than it did the more realistic 1080 Snowboarding on the Nintendo 64. That I’m going several console generations backward should give you an idea of how sparse the competition is in this particular genre.

I was pleasantly surprised by the control of both skis and snowboards on the various types of snow and ice — all of which change the way your chosen tools handle. The snow itself also looked wonderful, and I kicked up a lot of powder as I cut my way down the slopes.

Less than impressive was the texture work. While characters themselves were covered in a random variety of gear and accessories — something I assume will be customizable in the final release — the cliffs were jagged and blurry, a little bit too similar to the aforementioned game from 1998 for my tastes.

I’m honestly not sure whether that represented a bug in the texture streaming whereby I experienced the lowest level-of-detail textures instead of loading higher resolutions as I approached, or whether they were perhaps unfinished. Either way, they’ll need a significant seeing-to if they’re hoping to pass muster with consumers.

Wingsuits, parasails, snowboards, and skis will all have their own challenges. You can also take any route you like down the mountainside from just about any point on the map, then save and create your own races and tasks on the fly.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about my experience with the game. I absolutely love snowboarding games and have spent more than a little time with just about every one to be released in my lifetime. What I experienced with Steep was essentially what I expected, with the addition of an open world that felt almost entirely superficial to the experience. The graphics hovered moment-by-moment between beautiful and hideous, and without any taste of player customization or a career mode, it was hard to assess the long-term appeal.

Nevertheless, I’ll still be keeping an eye on the title, if only because I’m a sucker for the experience it simulates. If they can bring the disparate parts together into a competent whole and give players a reason to care about the fact that the courses technically take place on a giant open mountain range, it could become a compelling experience.

You can take to the slopes yourself when Steep releases this December.

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.


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