Steep: Road to the Olympics (PlayStation 4) Review

By Tomas Barry 15.01.2018

Review for Steep: Road to the Olympics on PlayStation 4

Steep, which released in December 2016 for PS4, Xbox One and PC, has been out on the slopes for just over a year now. Developed by Ubisoft Annecy, it's fair to say the extreme winter sports game, which focuses on skiing, snowboarding, paragliding, and wing-suiting in an open-world multiplayer environment, has had quite a good run thus far. It's proved to be an addictive source of adrenaline and entertainment, outperforming the minimal Winter sports competition, like Snow. It's also been a very popular choice amongst streamers, making plenty of appearances in clips-of-the-week compilations - whether that's for death-defying runs or hilarious Skate-like rag-doll mishaps. Back in February 2017, the Alps were extended to Alaska, freshening things up with Mount Denali and some new content. However, this Steep expansion, entitled Road to the Olympics, is the most significant content injection yet, adding new playgrounds in South Korea and Japan, and more.

In some ways, Steep seems a tad unsuitable to be an officially licenced title for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The Olympic Winter Games is a disciplined and heavily regimented occasion, whereas Steep's core gameplay is all about exploring the open-world mountain, entirely on the player's terms. Although the physics engine is quite grounded, the base game is outlandish, and tends to favour playful and arcade-focused scenarios over the more astutely technical world of winter sports. With that said, considering the licence was previously bestowed upon Mario and Sonic, with Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, perhaps that's neither here, nor there. Indeed, while the partnership does come as somewhat of a surprise, Steep: Road to the Olympics is certainly one of the more compelling officially-licensed Olympic ventures.

Screenshot for Steep: Road to the Olympics on PlayStation 4

The expansion adds a very significant amount of content, although arguably the best of it is withheld until the tedious 'Become a Legend' story mode is finished. This initial section is a linear series of tutorials and qualification events, which ensure the player is well-versed in the big three freestyle disciplines of Big Air, Slopestyle, and Halfpipe. This journey to become the first Olympian to hold the gold medal for all three has its moments, but it pales in comparison to the more natural way (for Steep) content is consumed post-completion. Firstly, its rigid progression structure feels very alien for anyone acclimatised to Steep's ebb and flow. Moreover, the Olympic narrative is far too heavy-handed and cluttered, which ends up putting a significant dampener on the fun factor.

There are cut-scenes that introduce the event types, and these are generally quite informative and well done. However, there's also a third-person narrator who constantly barks on about this rising star throughout the gameplay, sometimes with odd timing. The player, for example, might bail hard and rag-doll down a slope, and that's not a good moment for the narrator to spontaneously wax lyrical about this Olympian's 'natural skills.' The main game also featured an annoyingly detached narrative voice speaking in the third-person, so they really should have toned it down here, but instead it's quite incessant, which quickly becomes a drag. Sometimes, less is more.

Screenshot for Steep: Road to the Olympics on PlayStation 4

In addition, each event opens with interview footage of real Winter Olympians. These videos can be interesting, but they are seldom particularly relatable to the event at hand, and mostly revolve around how the athletes deal with their fears and anxieties. It would have been better if these successful athletes could tangent into interesting stories, but instead they have clearly been instructed to keep things very general. The combination of all these narrative elements is too fragmented and lacklustre to reinforce the 'you're on an Olympic journey' story effectively, and perhaps, if anything, it undermines it.

Several other things should be noted about this story mode. Firstly, despite there being no multiplayer aspect within 'Become a Legend' except stats, disconnecting from the server brings an abrupt halt to your athlete's progress. This is unnecessary and annoying, especially if you're in the middle of a tournament with several events still to take on. Secondly, it seems that grinding, a recently implemented feature that has received some tweaking for this expansion, feels too cumbersome and is far too generously rewarded. If a player is struggling for points, focusing on simple grinds seems like a sure-fire way to win, which undermines the thrill quite a bit. Overall, this mode is bizarrely bereft of fun, and feels too forced in its construction. One must also wonder why it's entirely snowboard-focused, considering the healthy array of skiing events unlocked post-competition.

Screenshot for Steep: Road to the Olympics on PlayStation 4

It's likely that players will find themselves quite desperate to reach the end of this story mode, so that they can unlock and enjoy the rest of the content on more free-flowing and familiar terms for Steep. 'Become a Legend' will help to familiarise people with the two new regions of South Korea and Japan (where all the post-competition content is), but exploring them for yourself is much more fun and gratifying. There's a surprisingly sizeable amount of content to be found in Japan, which is great considering all the new event types, such as Slalom, Giant Slalom and Parallel Giant Slalom, Downhill and Super-G. While these events aren't particularly complex, when permeated with the freedom of the mountain, they are good fun and provide a pleasing sense of contrast. Even the players being introduced to Steep through this Road to the Olympics expansion will probably wonder why the whole thing couldn't have been presented in this more open-ended format.

Screenshot for Steep: Road to the Olympics on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Steep: Road to the Olympics is a separate expansion, meaning it's not included as part of the season pass. That's a shame because, if it was, it would be easier to recommend. For a game all about freedom of choice and spontaneous activity, with quite an arcade-centric physics engine, it was clearly going to struggle to convey the technical side of the Winter Olympic Games. The 'Be a Legend' story-mode seems rushed and ill-devised. The footage of athletes is poorly integrated and the narrating and tutoring is all too intense, especially when the experience is so fragmented and dull. Japan, on the other hand, is a beautiful and large region, which really does expand the Steep world with a new aesthetic, new event types, and new challenges. Hence, Steep fans who persevere with the first segment, will eventually receive an impressive content injection. Fans of the Winter Olympics, however, will probably find this one quite underwhelming.

Developer

Ubisoft

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Sport

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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