Ubisoft ended its press conference with showing off Steep, an extreme sports game that takes you to the Alps. It boasts gorgeous vistas, adrenaline-pumping sports, and an open world that connects you with other online players similar to The Crew. This time, however, it's much more ambitious. These elements made me eager to try the game out myself, and luckily I was given a half hour hands-on demo at E3 on PlayStation 4.
Steep features four different sports: skiing, snowboarding, soaring with a wingsuit, and paragliding. You begin in what Ubisoft calls "mountain view," a zoomed-out perspective of the overall open world mountain that is filled with challenges, trials scored by tricks you manage to land, races, and more.
Difficulty ranges between each, and as you select one, you are instantaneously transported to the drop zone. Here, you can interchange between all four sports at the touch of a button. The smooth transition from one area to the next is seamless, and it's one of the mechanics that stood out and impressed me. Seeing players around you, as well as have them challenge you, makes the world feel more lively, but unfortunately Steep still feels devoid of personality. From one area to the next, each looks similar, and a lack of precise controls made me tumble down the mountain rather than swiftly maneuver downhill.
I had a chance to try each sport. Particularly with skiing and snowboarding, you have to time your jumps carefully. As you're about to enter a jump, you press R2. You can perform tricks by rotating both analog sticks as well as pressing R2 again for grabs. Limiting these tricks to these inputs made it feel clumsy; it was difficult to accurately perform the trick I wanted. As a fan of older SSX games and Tony Hawk: Underground, I didn't feel like I had as much control as I normally would. I also wished for a starting menu to choose my character from a roster, as I would in the aforementioned games, but instead I was given a randomly generated character. It's unclear whether this approach will remain the same in the final game.
I also tried out a snowboarding race, where your score and speed increase steadily as long as you stay near the outlined path, as well as a wingsuit activity, where you gain more points by staying near the ground without crashing.
The wingsuit controls are simple: you use the left analog stick to steer, and this sport was among my favorites during the demo. Paragliding, on the other hand, comes across as less of a sport and more of a sight-seeing activity, where you can appreciate the views around you and do little else.
Unfortunately, Steep didn't meet my expectations. With its release date approaching quickly, I hope Ubisoft has time to iron out some of these issues. Its open world environment and choice of extreme sports make it a promising concept, and I'd hope to see better controls once it hits. The open world is large, and with a few improvements it could still aim to impress. Steep releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in December.