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A Thrill Ride With Ubisoft Annecy's 'Steep,' Hands On At PAX

Sometime in 2009 or 2010, I spent countless hours playing EA Black Box’s Skate 2. I wasn’t a skater myself, but the game’s simple mechanics combined with open-world gameplay appealed to me. I could execute multiple tricks, from a simple ollie to a daring Christ Air with the analog sticks and the trigger and shape buttons (I played on the PlayStation 3).

Fast-forward to this year when Ubisoft revealed its snow-based sports game, Steep, at E3. Initially, I wasn’t interested in what it had to offer because I had little to no experience with snowboarding and skiing. However, my time with an early demo of Steep at PAX West made me realize that it could the next Skate-like game that I and other fans have wanted for so many years.

Descent

In Steep, you can use your skis, snowboard, wingsuit or paraglider to compete in events located throughout the map. To start the demo, I was told to participate in a downhill race with the snowboard. The controls for movement were easy enough: All I had to do was move the analog stick in a direction. Throughout the snowy course, there were multiple crests where I could try out some tricks.

As it turns out, Steep uses a similar control scheme as Skate 2. You can move the two analog sticks to perform flips and turns in the air. If you want to add a little flair, you can press one of the trigger buttons to grab the board with one or two hands. There are also similar controls for skiing. You obviously can’t grab a ski with your hand, but you can still use the analog sticks to create some jaw-dropping moves.

Once the race was over, I found out more about Ubisoft Annecy’s open-world approach in the game. At any time, you can zoom out from your current location and fast-travel to the starting point of another race or challenge. In the early stages of the game, this will be your main method of moving around in the world. Later on, you get access to a helicopter that will drop you off anywhere on the map (I didn’t see this in the demo, as it wasn’t ready yet in the current version).

Of course, the ride isn’t free; you’ll need to pay with helicopter tickets. You can gain these tickets as you play the game, but you can also purchase them in a with real-world money if you’re desperate. However, the developers wanted to reiterate that you don’t need to spend a cent to finish the game.

Airtime

After a few minutes on skis and the snowboard, it was time to try out the wingsuit in an event. There was a computer-controlled opponent in the same event, but we weren’t jockeying for first position once it started. Instead, we played a game of chicken against the numerous mountains around us. Points were awarded for getting close to a cliff face, narrowly trees or getting as close to the ground as possible without crashing. By far, this was the most intense part of the demo.

On my first try, I survived the flight to the finish line. In subsequent attempts, I was more aggressive. I inched as close I could to the mountainside or skimmed the snowy surface in an attempt to score more points. I exclaimed and winced in pain when I hit something and yelled in delight as I played the role of a daredevil in the sky.

After some time with the wingsuit, I opted for a calmer experience with the paraglider. Even though I could race with it, I used it as a way to admire the surrounding alpine landscape, which,needless to say, was beautiful. The many peaks of mountains provided a picturesque view of the sky, and small clusters of rocks, trees and small towns dotted the never-ending blanket of snow on the ground.

Just The Beginning

Steep’s gameplay puts a heavy focus on an online experience. With each race, you’re trying to beat a high score or a faster time set by other players. However, it seems like you can still have some fun playing by yourself. With the ability to switch between skis, the snowboard, the wingsuit and the paraglider at any time, you can test your skills on any mountain with one of the four options.

It's been a long time since I played a new game that gave me the same enjoyment that the six- or seven-year-old version did, but Steep did that for me. There aren’t any huge or elaborate skate parks in the alpine region, but there are some majestic mountains and hills to descend, and Steep scratched an itch that lingered after I stopped playing Skate 2. We’ll undoubtedly learn more about it before its December release, but the demo I played made me excited about this type of sports game again.

NameSteep
TypeSports, Adventure, Open-World
DeveloperUbisoft Annecy
PublisherUbisoft
PlatformsPC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release DateDecember 2, 2016
Where To BuyUplay Shop