Steep Review

  • First Released Nov 18, 2016
  • XONE

A slippery slope.

Mountains are far from uncommon in open-world exploration games, but even in the most impressive ones, they're normally little more than pretty white fences encircling a greener playfield. Steep reverses this concept with some success. Here, it's the valleys and green spots of the world that trigger the invisible walls and the mighty Alps that fill its rocky, snowy sandbox. Steep's gameplay unfortunately falls short of matching the grandeur of its open world, but it's a tough act to follow.

Steep lets you seamlessly zip down mountain ranges via snowboards, skis, wingsuits, or paragliders with a quick click of a radial menu. At any time, you can leap from below the treeline to miles-high "drop points" you've discovered--either by walking or taking a helicopter--and partake in events and challenges that pepper the slopes. The races and time trials you find are fun ways to test your skill against everything from smooth powder to tougher rocky paths. Meanwhile, the freestyle events celebrate and grant experience points for general showmanship, and the "Bone Collector" events add some humor by inviting you to throw your body off a cliff as spectacularly as an avalanche.

The trouble with Steep is that beyond the gratification you get from simply moving about it's impressive world, the best rewards it offers are cosmetic items, like fluffy bunny suits, and newly unlocked events that closely resemble ones you've already played before. The gameplay itself never changes: Your wingsuit might eventually look cooler with that sleek GoPro branding, but it always handles the same way regardless of how it looks. Nor does Steep actually embrace its "play as you want" philosophy as thoroughly as initial appearances suggest; you'll need to rank well in most events in order to level up, even if you find the paragliding events as appealing as a snowman might find the Bahamas.

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That wouldn't be such a problem if some equipment wasn't considerably more enjoyable to use than others. Snowboarding is the best by far--performing spins, flips, and short glides off rocky prominences remains thrilling even hours in, as does navigating through narrow snowy chasms and deserted, half-buried villages. Skiing comes in a close second, although with a slightly more ponderous sensation of weight.

Whether you snowboard or ski, you're bound to encounter frustrating controls. Even after hours of experience, timing jumps remains more of an art than a science, and sometimes your character may refuse to respond to commands that should have sent them flipping through the air for tricks that generate more points.

Steep often comes off feeling like the collaborative effort of two wildly divergent personalities--a John Muir-like wilderness sage, say, and a loud-mouthed Red Bull announcer.

The wingsuit supplies a different brand of excitement, allowing you to jump off piers far up in the peaks and hurtle yourself face-first near powerlines and mere inches above jagged slopes for greater points. The physics involved sometimes seem wonky and fantastical, but they're never impossible to master and the wingsuit events yield an entertaining alternative to the ground-based trials. Steep also allows you to paraglide, but from a mechanical perspective, this approach comes off as painfully dull. Watching Europe's grandest mountains pass below as you glide overhead is initially awesome, but the paragliding suit's simple controls leaves a lot to be desired; it demands little more than occasionally steering toward pockets of air in humdrum events that can drag on for a quarter of an hour. They're not even particularly challenging--in many cases, you can skip off the designated course, over a neighboring peak, and glide right down to the finish line.

Taking everything into account, Steep often comes off feeling like the collaborative effort of two wildly divergent personalities--a John Muir-like wilderness sage, say, and a loud-mouthed Red Bull announcer. In its finest moments, swishing past the pines over a landscape awash in varying shades of white for long stretches at a time, it invites slipping into the meditative trance. But then, without fail (unless you turn him off in settings), the extreme announcer butts into that tranquility and drags you back to garish corporate reality, complete with Red Bull logos emblazoned on the sides of helicopters. The HUD itself sometimes ruins the mood, as the gaudy markers showing the locations of the many events stand out as starkly as billboards might in an Ansel Adams photo.

Some of Steep's commendable exploratory features can tend toward the goofy, as in the "mountain stories" that personify peaks like France's Pointe Percée by giving them voice actors who brag about how they're "the showman, the bombastic" and how "you'll shred snow-caked ruins below my summit." There are lingering bugs to contend with as well, which usually amount to mere inconvenience, but might send you falling under the mountain like Gandalf and the Balrog.

Still, Steep's reflective moments and the sheer joy of its exploration can outweigh some of its rougher points, and some of the most fun it offers comes from simply traveling to undiscovered locations--just you against the mountain. Most players on the slopes seem to favor this playstyle despite Steep's easy grouping options and its insistence on online play; time and time again, it's challenging to find people interested in grouping up. Most of the time, unless you have some friends to invite along for some real competition, the multiplayer implementation seems best for watching others pull off complicated tricks.

Steep is a game that's never really sure what it is, and its vagueness and lack of meaningful rewards causes it to suffer in any comparisons to the likes of SSX. But there's a quiet thrill to exploring the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, and snowed-in Alpine villages. It's a strangely attractive approach for all its qualifications, and there's a constant sense that Ubisoft is channeling George Mallory's famous response when asked why he wanted to scramble up Mount Everest: "Because it's there."

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The Good
Four different "extreme" methods of transport add welcome variety
Simply traveling down the mountain can feel as meaningful as completing challenges
Large and beautiful environments with zero loading screens
The Bad
Voiced "mountain stories" come off as a little hokey
Paragliding gets boring quickly
Lackluster cosmetic items are the only real rewards
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Steep

About the Author

Leif Johnson writes about video games on a remote ranch near the Texas coast. For the purposes of this review, he completed Steep in 12 hours on Xbox One using a complimentary copy of the game provided by Ubisoft.
34 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for maccarter19

Okay guys. Let's get real. Steep was the biggest letdown in extreme sports gaming. It's lack of sponsors and customization is incredible. For a game that was as hyped as this, you'd expect a better snowboard sponsor than K2. Where's Burton? Where's Ride? Hell, where's Rome? Where are the terrain parks? No rails and pipes? No half pipe? Repetitive competitions is all this game is. I wish I would have never bought this game. The controls are decent, subpar to the quality of video games we deserve. If you're in to rough control and an all out feeling of "not quite satisfaction" go for it. SSX and even (veterans, yes I'm about to say it) Shaun White Snowboarding are leaps and bounds ahead of this game.

Avatar image for balucha

@maccarter19: You should look into signing up for public betas..... I was going to buy this game until I played the BETA. I gave it a good 12-13 hours before I decided it was lacking in a lot of areas. It's missing a LOT.

For Honor was fantastic (played the Alpha). Beta is coming up soon, so sign up asap. I'll be buying it for sure.

Avatar image for tevic

"and its insistence on online play"

Maybe Gamespot could be 100% precise and say the game is always online.

What about having a flag "always online vs offline play" in the description of every game here on gamespot ?

(Also, what about having information about the game being released physically vs DLC ? The current policy aroud games icons/pictures is ambiguous about that so there is nowadays no way of telling on Gamespot if a game is "just" a little 15$ online game or a full retail game.)

Avatar image for soarlozer

I didnt play any snowboarding games before but this was a cool idea, even had fun in beta. But I still do not understand why I couldn't just make my own rider. This is 2016 if the game doesn't have voiced main character i should be able to create myself.

Avatar image for cilvar

You forgot the zero and the decimal. No worries, I'll fix it for you.

0.7/10 There ya go. Don't say I never do anything for you guys.

Avatar image for xcrimsonxsynx

Its actually a good ski/snowboarding game, but the wingsuit and paragliding feels shoehorned in. If this game had more focus it would definetly contend with the likes of SSX.

Avatar image for ohjtbehaaave

So it's SSX without the FUN? No thanks. Maybe when it's $20.

Avatar image for JustPlainLucas

After loving the wingsuit in Just Cause 3, I really wanted to play Steep just for the wingsuit, but it sounds like the rest of the game is a bit sufferable. I still want to play it, but not for the full asking price.

Avatar image for emotiontheory

I miss SSX :( what would be stupendous would be an SSX 3 HD Remake.

I still prefer SSX 3 to the 2012 reboot

Avatar image for xXxKTTxXx

What made SSX so damn enjoyable even for people who don't like board games like myself was the energetic music, fun characters with banter, insane jumps, and overall exciting atmosphere.

I don't know what people were thinking when they said this will be the "next SSX"...
For me, this looks boring and devoid of anything fun xD
Maybe this isn't what they're going for though....

Avatar image for goodgamesguy

This game sucks, more like a 5

Avatar image for deactivated-5c1c32e0b8cc8

Honestly, I'm a bit surprised it even got a 7. It gets so boring so quickly. It's one of those games that you always feel like you wanna play, but then when you finally turn it on, it's not as good as you remember it being yesterday and you get bored within an hour. But then you'll wanna play it all day while you're at work. I don't know. The game sucks, but you feel like you wanna keep playing it, then when you really do play it, you don't want to anymore. Lol! I know I just practically repeated myself, but damn. This is the most confused I've been about if I like a game or not in a long time.

Avatar image for Raphy_Turtle

@jayskoon93: It's because it has this nice feel and atmosphere that hits you from time to time when you actually do feel in control as you snowboard/ski down slopes... But then it gets boring and repetitive, if not outright frustrating when forced to go through certain sections of the game you can't withstand.

Avatar image for SOul_FUNk

@jayskoon93: I guess the game just doesnt meet your expectation, u are looking forward to play a game that could offer more that Steep.

Avatar image for wrikeowing

This would be perfect for VR, right?

Avatar image for xcrimsonxsynx

@wrikeowing: The first person camera is crazy. Downhill skiing and tricking is so disorienting.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

Snowboard Kids all dy.

Avatar image for thelostscribe

@frosty988: I do wish Nintendo would make a new one, or remake the first and second and combine them. By remake I mean simply redo all the graphics to Switch graphics, since that's the best graphics we can get from Nintendo anyways.

Avatar image for no_one

Would be fun if it was made for VR.

Avatar image for darthrevenx

A slippery slope indeed.....lolz

FFS even the vids that have made the rounds all looked boring as F......i'm no snow sports fan but compared to this if someone said we're destroying all games but you can play one of these, Steep and SSX, I'd go for SSX.......but probably i'd be like pass and go to the library and pick up like 10 books to read.....

I was always more of a fan of the Skateboarding games, THPS, Street Skater, Groove Session etc.....I even liked the Skate or Die games and T&C Surf Designs on NES......

Avatar image for sleepnsurf

@darthrevenx: No SKATE on your list? WTF? Skate 2&3 beat anything anyone mentions on this thread.

Avatar image for KingKalo

@sleepnsurf: I hold true to amped 2 and cool boarders 2. I still play amped 2 on my 360. Truly, my fav of all time. Skate 2 over skate 3 also IMO

Avatar image for deactivated-585fd68e1a31d

@sleepnsurf: skate has shitty controls

Avatar image for darthrevenx

@sleepnsurf: Well i'm no skater IRL so to me Skate was too hard and not a lot of fun...the presentation was cool but i found trying to do simple moves like the ollie to be way way more difficult than it had to was the same thing that killed THPS8 I think it was....with the flick well as Ride/shred put the last nails in the coffin, yeah, when you expect players to have a deep understanding of actual skateboard mechanics that's where you enter the realm of the game being very niche cus only a few will really see the value in it.....Maybe Skate is good IDK but from where i stand it's not anything I ever got excited over.....

Avatar image for iloveyourface

ubisoft is not going to like this, GS. ya better give them a gift quickly.

Avatar image for grungeman91

Coming from a fan of SSX, 1080, Amped and even Cool Boarders. I knew Steep was gonna be garbage when I played the beta on PS4. They should've changed a few things before going gold.

Avatar image for dkjenvey

@grungeman91: Nice to Amped and Cool Boarders get a mention. Everyone goes on comparing this to SSX like it's the only snowboarding game ever made.

Avatar image for jyml8582

Wow a 7? That's pretty "steep", don't you think? hahaha :P

nah but really this game's shit.

Avatar image for deactivated-5aafce418120b

@jyml8582: hahaha i just fell off my chair reading this.

Avatar image for judaspete

Will probably check this out. Doesn't sound perfect, but even the mediocre snowboarding games are still fun

Avatar image for d9000

I think this proves that downhill sports games benefit from a little pizaz to make them a more exciting.

Maybe they need to add snowmobile racing... And a Rob Zombie soundtrack.

Avatar image for grungeman91

@d9000: dat Sled Storm reference :)

Steep More Info

  • First Released Nov 18, 2016
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    In Steep, players can use the innovative trail feature to relive their most inspiring rides and trailblazing achievements, and share them on social networks with friends. Along with sharing ride replays, players can also use this feature to challenge friends to outrace them on a shared path, create epic stunts or set out to discover the massive mountain playground.
    Average Rating41 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Steep
    Developed by:
    Ubisoft Annecy
    Published by:
    Snowboarding/Skiing, Sports
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.