I know I know, it’s only just been announced – but i’m still pretty excited and this is based on first impressions from the E3 2016 conference and an optimistic imagination.
Steep has just been unveiled by Ubisoft at their E3 conference and it’s taken the fanbase by storm. While some are shouting SSX reboot from behind their PS2 controllers, others are embracing this fast-paced online open mountain range for what it could potentially be – the extreme sports playground we’ve always wanted.
SSX was a classic game, but was a product of its time in its constriction and boundaries – play through this race on this course to get this medal and then move on to the next. Where SSX was rigid, Steep is proving to be silky smooth and free. The open world basis makes exploring look like both a devil may care joy ride and a trip of a lifetime, while the actual races just look plain badass. Initially I was slightly ware of the GoPro label rudely scraped across the front of this marketing campaign, but i’ve come round to the idea in the two hours of its existence in my mind. While the feature looks shaky and definitely will be an extra rather than a preferred mode of gameplay, it’s a nice element of replay that will serve that PlayStation share button well.
The overall premise of Steep is one of freedom and speed. Players are given access to a mountain range in what has been described as a labour of love for the developers based just outside the range itself. From here they can traverse the terrain on skis, snowboards, through paragliding or wingsuits – Ubisoft showed us a snowboard race that did bear some resemblance to SSX as well as a wingsuit drop.
One of the most interesting things that stood out for me during this presentation was the line mapping of your route, from which you can view each moment of play as well as change camera angles and viewpoints. It’s a nifty feature that will encourage players to scrutinise their actual skills on the slopes and push for this online multiplayer feature so heavily integrated with the feeling of freedom and chilled openness. You can view other players enjoying the mountains as you take in the amazing spectacle that is your scenery and challenge them to a race in real time. There’s a specific emphasis here on sharing – you can slow down your best moves, wins, or crashes and set up different cameras to capture the whole thing in innovative cinematic ways.
Ultimately, it looks to be a game about sharing. You share your experiences, races, and indeed even the mountains themselves with every other player at the same time through the open online model. Meanwhile you share your best moments through social media. Finding tricky parts of the mountain and challenging your friends makes this entire world your playground, handing you the rulebook and a pencil, and doing what online open worlds have had the potential to do for a long time now – actually be a free, living, breathing play space. You now have the ability to fall in love with these spaces at your own pace, in your own way – and i’m willing to bet the entire experience will feel a hell of a lot more personal because of it.
Steep is set for release in December for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Sign ups have begun for several beta phases to roll out before release – get your name in early here.