Price: £34.99 Developer: Ubisoft Annecy Publisher: Ubisoft Platform(s): PS4, PC, Xbox One Platform tested: PC
Steep is an odd beast, and I didn't really understand it until I took off down a mountain after Chawouet.
I don't know who Chawouet is, and I never will, but the mysterious snowboarder took me on a surreal journey on Steep's launch day. I was drifting aimlessly down a mountain when Chawouet sped past me - the first time I'd noticed another player anywhere near me on the mountain. It was maybe 30 minutes into the game before I realised the title had always-on multiplayer. I took off after them, overtaking after a tense chase I wasn't sure Chawouet was even aware of. Seconds later, they leapt over my head, character howling like a wolf.
The game was afoot.
Over the next few minutes we rolled down the mountain jumping over each other and weaving through trees. It felt bizarrely like an extreme-sports version of Journey, the two of us interacting with each other only in the way we whistled through the world, endlessly tumbling towards our natural end-point: the base of the mountain.
When we arrived, we both switched to our feet and stood together for a while as we both planned what to do next. Then we were gone, split apart as he went to a base camp further up the mountain that I couldn't access due to my low level. I had a series of interactions like this as I played the game and while the interactions were both long and short, the simple act of carving my way down the mountain on a snowboard was often joyous. Bouncing down the mountain is fun, and it was a calming way to learn the game.
Unfortunately, the better I got at the game, the more the flaws became apparent. Where initially I was getting Journey vibes and likening it to other games you would use to socialise with friends like Burnout Paradise or Skate 3, it quickly became apparent the longer I played that Steep sadly just isn't a very good game and it's flawed in one very crucial way: It controls like a drugged fawn on ice.
This is a big problem because despite the fact you can travel around the mountain by paraglider or wingsuit, Steep is a snowboarding/skiing game, and the sluggish way your character controls ruins the feel of the whole thing. In the 10 hours or so I played before turning it off in a rage, I couldn't find a way to reliably perform even the most basic of tricks; they require you to time your jump perfectly - something the game explains poorly once and never again - if you want to attempt anything more than a mere grab of your board. As a result of this erratic behaviour, I found myself going downhill alternating between visually stunning triple backflips and lamely flying through the air despite performing the same input each time. An overly restrictive safety mode (that you can, in fairness, disable) also stops you from trying any flips or turns if you're not at a requisite height.