Before this weekend, if you wanted to play a decent winter sports game you would have to look at least a few years back. SSX, which was released in 2012, was the last serious attempt to reboot the sub-genre. It came and it conquered, but unfortunately didn't inspire sequels or rivals to come forward. It took another four years for the next serious entry to arrive.
Last Friday, #Steep was released on #PS4, #XboxOne and #PC, introducing the most ambitious and exciting extreme sports game we've ever seen. It takes what we've loved from the last 20 years of winter sports gaming and then builds on it to create a thrilling, massively multiplayer open-world experience.
What Games Paved The Way Forward For Steep?
I'm not sure how many of you will remember SkiFree, but this was the game that most people will consider the one that kicked off the sub-genre. It arrived in 1999 and was featured in the Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack, a collection of 16-bit games that was later released for Game Boy Color.
The game, as you can imagine, was fairly simple. But that meant the simplicity of skiing was effortlessly captured. You took control of a skier with either your keyboard or mouse as they flew down an endless slope full of obstacles, with your aim to avoid these obstacles and perform some awesome tricks along the way.
There were several game modes to play including Free-style, Slalom, Tree Slalom and then the famous Ski Free mode. But, I'm sure most of you will agree that the most fun came from trying not to be eaten by the Abominable Snow Monster that appeared once you had completed a run. The same snow monster that Youtuber Andrew McMurry brings back to life in the video above!
SkiFree Gave Us Freedom, But Cool Boarders Gave Us Personality
Also released in 1999 for PlayStation, Cool Boarders 4 made the next step in the gaming world of extreme sports. It allowed players to choose from real life snowboarders, which included a 16-year-old Sean White, as well as giving players the opportunity to customize their own character and board.
Players could choose the weight, height and the color of clothing for their character. Also, players could choose the design and color of their board, on top of being able to tweak it according to speed, response and stability. This feature was especially useful because the game had a wide variety of unique events to master.
These events were spread across five real mountains from around the world, something that built on the previous three installments to the series. Each previous game added mountains, courses and tighter controls, but it was Cool Boarders 4 that really brought it all together.
The SSX Series Changed Everything
Released in 2000 as one of the PlayStation 2 launch titles, the original SSX game gave us a larger than life version of snow boarding that we had never seen before. The game brought with it adrenaline boosts and turbos, insane courses and tricks that would kill any real snow boarder. What made this game really different was how well it blended racing with performing tricks. Ultimately, it meant that to win races you couldn't ignore doing tricks as they gave you extra acceleration going down the mountain.
Next up was SSX Tricky, a game that was even more insane and built on the arcade feel of the original. It introduced new characters, new courses and a massive change to the tricks system. By maxing out your adrenaline bar you could use the Uber tricks and by performing them you were given access to the super tricks, the most outlandish and wild tricks in the game.
From 2003 onwards, the SSX series added four new games that continuously improved and updated the core elements of the game. However, the biggest improvement to the series was the way in which these games dealt with the environment. Players no longer had to race down a set course. Instead, the open mountain was introduced which delivered freedom to roam and explore.
With the open mountain came extra environmental elements such as changing weather, natural disasters and a feeling of danger, essentially bringing the setting to life.
Where Does That Leave Us Now?
This is where Steep comes in, the next big thing in the winter sports genre. The developers of this game have basically recreated a huge section of the Alps for players to snow board, ski, paraglide and base jump in. There is nowhere you can't go and no area that you can't explore.
But, in this massive wintry landscape, you are not alone. This game has arrived at a time when players want to experience massive open worlds together with friends. Steep lets you do that. You can seamlessly meet and explore with others playing the game in a way that could reignite the genre like we have never seen before.
By meeting with other players, you can compare stats, share experiences and perform some insane tricks together. Also, with GoPro being heavily involved in the game, everything you do, whether that's in the 1st or 3rd person view, is documented and can be played back, edited and shared online.
This game takes elements from all the games that have come before it in this sub-genre, but seems to build on them in a very original way. Players are able to explore, perform tricks and compete for high scores together using either a board, a pair of skis, a paraglider or a wing-suit — which you can switch between at any time — all in an extremely realistic open world setting.
Will Steep reignite the genre? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!