Lovers of extreme sports and in particular of winter ones, you can rejoice; finally, four years after the last Electronic Arts SSX, which appeared on the consoles of the previous generation, Ubisoft tries to inherit the scepter of the genre, taking us on the pristine alpine snows in an open world with a high rate of vertigo that responds to the name of steep. The French software house, for the occasion, decided to entrust the project to its Annecy, common on the slopes of the French Alps, lovers of all that the mountains have to offer. Announced at the last E3, the title immediately aroused curiosity among fans, who today, after only six months, can welcome the title on their consoles. SSo cover with us if these danger-loving developers have managed to hit the target.
Version tested: Xbox One
I'm leaving for the "white week" ...Steep takes us to explore the Alpine peaks far and wide ...
“With Steep we want to celebrate the world of extreme sports and the mountains that inspired us“. This is the message that you will read on the screen every time you start a game, and with which the developers want to immediately convey the love they have instilled in their creature. After this warm message we will meet again, previa mandatory connection to the Ubisoft Club servers (to play we should always be connected to the internet), with the boots sunk in the cold and soft snow, to face the exhaustive tutorial, where you will soon understand how much the title of the game, literally "steep", is the leitmotif of the entire production. Once you have become familiar with the four sports available, snowboard, skiing, paragliding e footwear (to be chosen through a circular menu that can be recalled with the RB ridge), here we are completely at the mercy of the very high alpine peaks (Alaska will be added soon via free DLC); the freedom that you breathe after the tutorial is both unsettling and exciting. The mountain range, freely explorable far and wide, is an obviously compact version of the real counterpart, and contains all the most famous peaks we can climb between France, Italy, Switzerland ed Austria: from Monte Rosa to Mont Blanc, passing through Cervino, Tirolo and Aguille Verte, all threatening and splendid. Each of these peaks corresponds to an area full of points of interest, events, tales of the mountain and descents to be tackled at breakneck speed.
… Where to experience varied and demanding challenges
Let's analyze all this freedom in order, through a practical example: first of all we start from a refuge or a point of interest and it will be up to us to find new events to face, which are then the highlight of the title. There will be two rather convenient ways to do it (but not the only ones): find a vantage point and analyze the area with the very useful binoculars callable via the LB backbone, or fly over the rocky slopes with the paraglider and look around, eyeing the binocular-shaped icons that surmount certain unexplored areas. Once the zone is unlocked, we will find a new point of interest and all the events connected to it, if there are. events include scoring or timed challenges, at checkpoints or free, distinct by discipline, on very varied and well-built routes where you can beat the CPU score (unfortunately made up of their ghosts, not real AI-controlled riders), or climb the online leaderboards. A small parenthesis opens the events "Bone Collector", A bit macabre and of bad taste for the most sensitive, literally involve throwing ourselves off the cliffs to do us as much harm as possible (somewhat reminiscent of the "Crash" mode of the Burnout racing saga), fun yes, but a little out of tune with the idyllic atmosphere of the white mountain passes. Discovering points of interest and completing events will earn us money money e experience points (ESP). With the former we will be able to buy snow jackets, trousers, paragliding cloths and much more, to dress our rider as we prefer; with the latter we will level up and, based on this, we will unlock new peaks and sponsored events, for example by North Face o GoPro, definitely spectacular and well characterized. To change the zone, just press button B for a few seconds and we will return to map, made all in 3D, of the alps; this is where the first problem arises. However beautiful and detailed, the map is absolutely uncomfortable and not intuitive, without any possibility of recalling a complete list of the unlocked events or at least of selecting a specific peak, making the search unnecessarily manual, selecting the spots using the cursor moved with the left stick. Not a small shortcoming for such a huge and content-rich title. Nevertheless the exploratory phase is absolutely well structured, satisfying and, thanks to the unprecedented environment for an open world, fresh and fun. Discovering new points of interest will soon become a drug (which will reward you with precious ESP), especially if you love this type of landscape. The ability to explore the world on foot is also a great way to walk and meditate, as well as being essential to reach some particularly inaccessible points.
But look how fast these extreme sports are learned!Snowboarding and skiing to tackle daring slopes ...
The exploratory side is therefore excellent, but now you want to know if everything is playing well and above all how. Let's get rid of any doubts immediately, the four sports available are extremely fun, easy to master and give the player back a great feedback as for their natural element, whether it is snow or air. Snowboard and ski they represent two sides of the same coin, in fact there will be no events that will involve the exclusive use of one of the two equipment, leaving the player free to choose. Both styles are controlled via the left stick, which when tilted upward will cause the rider's center of gravity to lean forward, allowing him to gain speed. THE trick, will be performed by loading the jump by pressing and releasing the right trigger, then tilting the left stick to obtain the desired rotations; the same trigger of the jump will then allow you to make the famous g of the board or skis, spectacular and extreme, useful to further increase the multiplier, which will load up to “4x”. The multiplier will remain active until you fall badly, making the approach to the races reasoned and simulative. Forget the variety of tricks of an SSX anyway, steep, in this respect, relies heavily on realism and on tricks that professionals can perform even in reality, without the crazy evolutions of the EA series.
… Wingsuit and paraglider to rule the skies
Let's now move on to the exciting air sports, this time diametrically opposed. One of the greatest strengths of the title is the use of the wingsuit, protagonist of base jumping and of the most adrenaline-fueled events (or free descents) of the title. Once we have reached the spot that we consider most suitable, or the metal structure that surmounts the beginning of an event dedicated to it, we can dive into the void: dizziness and speed are beautifully rendered, while the rocky wall whizzes below us and through the inclination of the left stick we will have to avoid natural obstacles by changing the inclination of the body. The right stick instead occupies the most sudden and desperate discards, almost like an action game dodge. The gameplay of these sections is all here, without unnecessary frills or complications, absolutely functional to the extreme events that we will face, which will see us go through checkpoints positioned in very narrow crevices between the rocks or between the pillars of an overpass. Once we arrive safely at the end of a descent, the joint pressure of the two triggers will make us open the parachute with a sigh of relief. The scoring system for this category fits perfectly, rewarding us for grazing flights and dodging at the last second, always keeping the player on the rope. If the wingsuit is speed and instinct, paragliding is (as well as a great way to travel around the game world) reasoning and calculation. The left stick tilt remains, but some interesting features are added. The first is the control of the brakes through the left trigger, which can be used both during landing and to voluntarily lose altitude; the second is the possibility to rotate on its own axis using the right trigger and the left stick, to make simple evolutions or quickly change course. Furthermore, near the rocky walls, we will meet forts updrafts which will allow us to quickly climb the mountain, being careful not to hit its ancient ledges. Some call it boring, these sections are instead in our opinion very accurate, allowing you to further vary a playful offer that is already particularly rich in itself. The trait d'union that binds the various disciplines is one admirable creation of animations through motion capture, with realistic and well-linked movements. A sore point are some problems in collisions and a bit bizarre physics in winter disciplines, especially in the management of the g-force (a half-moon bar that accompanies our rider). In fact, sometimes it will happen to find yourself with your face in the snow despite the correct closure of a trick, while much more fearful clashes will see us continue the race as nothing had happened; fortunately these episodes are however sporadic and do not particularly damage the gameplay.
… But do I go alone or with friends?Steep can be played in both single and multiplayer
Since the presentation, Steep has been presented as a product from strong multiplayer component, allowing you to create groups of up to four components, be them friends or strangers, to compete and explore in company. While friends just invite them to join our game, unknown players must be reached directly on the game map (2-3 players always appear at a time), and then ask to join us by pressing the X button. Once accepted the invitation we can ski freely or face together the various challenges that the game offers. We will also be able to share with other players i tracks created by us; at the end of a descent, by opening the map we will be able to view the line just drawn and choose to set a challenge (with the same parameters as the pre-packaged ones) to share with the players who will join us. Surprisingly and fortunately, the game finds its precise dimension even in the single player, thanks to the freedom of rhythm and the wonderful winter atmosphere that the title offers, garnished by the various "tales of the mountain". During these events the solitary setting is sublime, giving us particularly original descents while the mountain in turn speaks to us, threatens us, compliments and tells itself; persuasive mountains with a female voice, peaks angry at the men who have left the ski resorts to rot on their glorious slopes and even slightly mad peaks that scoff at us, always pushing us to the limit.
"Guys, what a view!"Breathtaking views but unfortunately bare
Useless to turn around, what makes Steep so special is its unprecedented alpine open world (without any uploads) and the views that arise from it. The glance is spectacular, with a visual horizon that extends as far as the eye can see; whether you look from top to valley or vice versa, the view is heavenly and enchanting. Through the d-pad it is possible to change time in real time, enjoying the thousand shades of the day that affect the valleys, meditating on the top of the Matterhorn; the white expanse hit by the setting sun becomes fiery, while we fly over it guided by the wind on our paraglider. A poetic image like a thousand others that you will experience, including the night descents armed with a torch, with the howling of wolves (whose only presence is sound) in the distance. Atmospheric also the small villages, villages and huts, where the birds sing and the bells mark the hours we spend in this gigantic snow park. There is no lack of other typical details of these localities, such as the classic temples inside which a Madonnina shelters, which watches over the population and sportsmen. But something is missing, that something that would have made the experience even more engaging and unforgettable. The game world unfortunately lacks vitality, and soon we will realize that the beautiful nature at times so real, is actually plastic. The trees do not move in the wind, the weather is not dynamic, except in some certain events; it would also have been wonderful to be able to meet wild animals but unfortunately we have to be satisfied only with their calls. Even more serious is the lack of life in the various countries, which are just a pretty agglomeration of stone houses and churches, without a soul, while they could be exploited as hubs for multiplayer for example, teeming with NPCs and players in the flesh. and bones. The same goes for the events, no helicopters in flight, no screaming fans, no cameramen and, as mentioned before, no rivals, only ghosts of bronze, silver and gold. A real shame that we hope will find a remedy in a possible sequel. Realistic and impressive, on the other hand, is the snow yield, as expected; our every move, step or fall will leave a precise imprint on the white mantle so dear to this season's lovers.
A pair of headphones under the helmet
The sound sector is instead taken care of in every respect. In our descents we will be accompanied by mainly instrumental pieces by the French artist Zikali, who has created a soundtrack that ranges from strongly rock sounds to others that are decidedly more ambient and suggestive, passing through pressing electronic tracks. During the races instead we will be able to listen to an extremely heterogeneous selection of songs, from freestyler to the Bomfunk MC's, world hit year 1999, up to the immortal and irrepressible Valkyrie's ride di Richard Wagner. Applause also goes to the sound effects of snow on air; the sound of footsteps sinking into the white is absolutely realistic and will be immediately recognized by our eardrums, while cutting through the air at 150km / h during a flight with the wingsuit will generate a very engaging “windows down on the motorway” noise. The dubbing is also excellent, well acted by all the performers.Verdict 8/10 Only polenta and venison are missing! Comment Steep proved to be a great starting point for a future (hopefully) franchise, as well as a perfect experience to accompany the cold winter evenings. The title is curated and the passion of the developers for the Alps and extreme sports is felt at every game. Unfortunately it seems that they have done some things hastily, leaving out details that undermine the atmosphere, basically fantastic, and make the game world devoid of that vitality that would have decreed the excellence of the product. The dual single / multiplayer nature is well blended with the backbone of the game and makes the title fun both alone and in company. A title for those who love to immerse themselves in nature and are looking for simple gameplay to master but varied and full of challenges. Ubisoft Annecy, you are on the right track! Pros and cons ✓ 4 sports, all fun
✓ Immersive exploration
✓ Solid and intuitive gameplay
✓ Also enjoyable in single
✓ The Alps are a marvel ... x ... Which lacks vitality
x Bizarre physics
x Cumbersome 3D map