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Steep Gamescom 2016 Hands-On: Climbing The Highest Mountain, One Step At A Time


Among the games that have been announced during the E3 2016, Ubisoft's Steep is one of the few that caught my eye the most. The combination of the beautiful mountain setting, and the great feel the game seemed to have impressed me so much that I resolved to check out the game at Gamescom 2016 at all costs. And the brief hands-on session I had with it last week was definitely enjoyable, as it has shown me that Steep will be much more than a straight on sports game.

While the game is indeed a sports game at heart, Steep will come with some additional features that might appeal to those who aren't into the genre that much, such as exploration features. At any point during the game, players have the chance to look around their location, and mark points of interests which may be reached at a later time. These points, which will also serve as fast travel points once reached, unlock additional challenges, so those who will wish to see everything Steep has to offer will have to explore the mountains fully.

During these free roaming sequences, players can traverse the mountains using skis, snowboard, paraglide and the wingsuit, which can be switched on the go at any time. Skis and snowboard are obviously better when going down a slope, while the paraglide and wingsuit offer, in my opinion, the best experience, as it feels great to just jump down a mountain and take a look at the surroundings while gracefully heading down. It evokes a sense of freedom which is usually hard to achieve even in bigger open world games, and the GoPro camera type even manages to enhance this feel.

As already mentioned, the sports game elements are still the central part of the Steep experience, and from what I've seen, the game seems like will deliver its promises fully. Steep will offer events of varying difficulty for the four different disciplines, with the easier challenges not requiring much skill to complete. Performance is always rated, so even the easier challenges might require a couple tries to obtain the best possible rank. Generally, skiing and snowboarding offer the least challenge level, while paragliding and the wingsuit events the highest. These last two are also the most interesting ones, as the more reckless the player is, the better the score will be. Controlling the character during these events requires much more skill than in the other disciplines, so I ended up utterly failing time and time again during my hands-on session. I was reassured I wasn't the only one having trouble, so my gamer's pride hasn't been hurt too much.

There was a very good reason behind my own failings, though, as movement in Steep is governed by the G-Force mechanics, which represent the amount of impact the character can take following a jump and more. The mechanics, which seems to have been implemented to make the game feel more like a simulation, aren't exactly intuitive, requiring some time to get used to, time I obviously didn't have. One thing is for certain: Steep doesn't feel like SSX or any other similar sports game released in the past.

Another feature that will set Steep apart from the competition is its multiplayer component. While the game will be perfectly enjoyable solo, the competitive aspect of Steep will always give each event and challenge a different edge. Participating in events with other players will be as seamless as it possibly can, with plenty of UI indicators that will show the opponent's course, position and more. Just like for the rest of Steep's features, it's hard to say how much multiplayer will impact the game through a short hands-on session, but what I have seen shows incredible promise.

I had high expectations for Steep, despite not exactly being a sports game fan, and the Gamescom 2016 hands-on session possibly made me even more excited for the game, despite some features that might influence the experience negatively. If the open world and exploration features of the game won't take precedence over the actual challenges, and if the G-Force mechanics end up being easy to adjust to, Steep may become one of the best sports games of the year, if not the best, provided you're not afraid of the mountain.

Steep will be out for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on December 2, 2016.