Steep Open Beta (Impressions)

Played on PC

At E3 2016, Steep was an odd little duck. It felt out of place among Ubisoft’s bigger blockbuster, fantasy and sci-fi games like For Honor and Watch Dogs 2. Not only that, but it was promised to be “an entirely new genre”, which just isn’t really true (it’s a combination of genres, sure). But it looked fun, and I like sports games that take you to cool locations, so I was interested. After playing a little over an hour of the closed beta, I can safely say that interest is gone.

The gameplay itself is just astounding in how boring it is. When you hear “extreme sports sandbox” you don’t think “boring to the point of absurdity.” But that’s just what the game is — it’s just so incredibly dull that you’ll find more entertainment in writing down bullet points about it. The actual acts of skiing, snowboarding, parachuting and wingsuiting are just poorly designed. The game creates this atmosphere than encourages speed, tricks and fun, but doesn’t allow for any of it.

But actual movement feels incredibly slow, and your inability to turn precisely adds to the overall sluggish feel of the game. Everything seems to have a delay, and while this may add authenticity, I think my character surviving some amazing crashes nullifies any authenticity that the game may have. The game just feels unresponsive, even in things like the map screen! Everything takes just long enough that it doesn’t lend itself well to the speed the game goes for. And just watching your character ski or snowboard feels slow. Maybe it’s the lack of noticeable motion blur, bad camera angles (for a camera which you can’t control for some reason) or lack of good feedback, your character never feels like they’re going fast.

The act of doing tricks is over-explained in a long tutorial video, as opposed to letting you participate and teaching you as you go, and the system is just not intuitive (though nothing in this game is). Tricks require that you time the holding of a button for as long as you can, and let go for the game to “reset” your character’s position, hopefully in time so that you don’t take damage. It’s an incredibly unintuitive system that takes control away from the player, and I don’t know who thought it was a good idea. The controls in general are unintuitive, and even switching what sport you’re engaging in feels clunky, and it kind of defeats the purpose of the game. Not only that, but menus feel hidden.

Let’s end with the sole positive: the game looks nice. The snow looks good and characters leave tracks in it. There’s a nice brightness to everything during the day, and it sells the game’s Red Bull-fuelled atmosphere. The game looks good, and that’s worth something… in fact it’s all the game’s worth.

So there ya go. I was somewhat excited for this game when it was announced, and playing the beta (which is much more like a demo, given that the game comes out in  a few days) has killed any excitement that was there. Steep looks to be just a badly put together game that manages to negate what should be an obvious winning formula.

Note: The beta ended and I didn’t grab screenshots in that time, so… whoops!

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