I Like Steep Thrills
I had the opportunity to try out the upcoming expansion to Ubisoft’s Steep, titled Road to the Olympics. This full expansion will add official Winter Olympics events and a career mode to the base game’s open-world skiing and snowboarding gameplay. From the early build I played, Steep: Road to the Olympics had a satisfying competitive atmosphere while retaining the thrill of speeding downhill.
Check out the Video Version for my hands-on preview with quotes from the game director, Arnaud Ragot!
The demo included nine Olympic events, all of which are new and take place in the mountains of PyeongChang, Korea. Of them all, Slopestyle is the event that is most familiar to the base game’s freestyle gameplay, allowing you to ride downhill however you want. The skiing and snowboarding mechanics are identical to the base game. But Slopestyle adds a more technical scoring system and compact course design. The slope feels like a giant playground, and the fun comes in optimizing your score using the course elements to your advantage. I most enjoyed utilizing the numerous grind rails nestled throughout, performing tricks and jumping between them. Though Slopestyle is a simple alteration of Steep’s base mechanics, the increased pressure to win the Olympic gold medal adds a greater sense of exhilaration and achievement.
The other alpine sports provide unique challenges. Downhill and Super-G are thrilling ski races, asking you to travel between sets of gates on the way. There is a tough balance between speeding up and making tight turns, and a single mistake immediately disqualifies you. Of the events, these two were my favorite, satiating not just my need for speed but also testing my abilities at high velocities. There was nothing quite like making a ridiculously close turn at blinding speeds. The rumble and optional first-person perspective added to the immersion, and at times, I felt like I was actually on the slopes.
My second favorite group of challenges was the Slalom events, which are much more technical in design. Herein, the gates you must travel between are much closer to each other. In the case of Slalom and Parallel Giant Slalom, they are literally within feet of each other, requiring tighter movements as opposed to wide turns. These much tougher challenges demand more finesse, and players who enjoy perfecting technique will likely flock to them. It’s frustrating to make it far and fail, though – a far cry from the original’s loose freestyle nature. The Cross event had a similar design, and its only differentiating feature was its hilly terrain, which contributed to more air time.
The final two events I played were of the score attack variety: Big Air and Half-Pipe. At the actual Winter Olympics, the showcase of athletes’ amazing tricks is a delight to watch. In game form, I didn’t find these as compelling. Both events are simple straight shots, one with a gigantic slope and the other with a half-pipe ramp forming the boundaries. Performing tricks simply involves timing analog stick pushes and button presses. The single slope of Big Air felt relatively shallow compared to the other well-designed courses. At the very least, the long half-pipe gives you multiple chances to get in the air and try out different tricks, all while keeping momentum. All in all, the Olympic events aren’t as organic as the traditional freestyle mode, but they test your skills in a more organized setting.
Steep: Road to the Olympics will also have a career mode, which will hopefully enhance the game’s sense of guidance and progression. While the career mode wasn’t in the demo, the game director, Arnaud Ragot, did confirm a storyline incorporating documentary-style interviews with actual Winter Olympics athletes.
Finally, the expansion isn’t limited to the new Olympic events. Going back to the game’s roots, there will also be new playable freestyle mountains based on areas in Japan such as Hakuba and Sapporo. Just like in the base game, you can play with any of the existing disciplines including the wingsuit and paragliding. If you have the DLC, you can also play through these areas with the rocket wingsuit or speed glider. These Japanese mountains are wonderfully represented; you can find temples and gates throughout the slopes. My favorite moment was blazing through a field of cherry trees. The traditional Japanese instruments and light musical tones were the perfect touch to immerse me in the world.
Steep: Road to the Olympics is shaping up to be a unique full-featured expansion. The Olympic events and storyline show promise in offering a better sense of progression and organized structure into the world of Steep. Career mode’s interviews with actual athletes look to be unique storytelling techniques that should please fans of the Winter Olympics. And for anyone who just wanted more of the original, the new Japanese mountains add their own cultural flavor to the classic gameplay. Most importantly, throughout my experience, the downhill skiing and snowboarding felt solid and immersive. I could have sworn I was out there racing down those slopes. The Steep: Road to the Olympics expansion will be available on December 5, 2017, just in time for the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
I played an early build of the PC version of Steep: Road to the Olympics at an Ubisoft press event. Some elements may not be indicative of the final version. The game is slated for release on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.