Ubisoft says its Steep extreme winter sports video game is highly realistic. And to back that up, the French video game company made a couple of snow sports stars available to talk about it at a recent preview event at GoPro’s headquarters in San Mateo, Calif.
I interviewed the athletes about what it feels like to do the real thing and to see it depicted in a video game. Professional snowboarder Samuel Luebke has competed in the Freeride World Tour on Mount Blanc, which is one of the central mountains in Steep. It is the mountain nearest to Ubisoft Annecy, the studio that created the game with extreme skiing, snowboarding, wingsuit flying, and parachute gliding. The game comes out on December 2 on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.
“I’ve traveled to these mountains depicted in the game, and it’s relatively close to reality for me,” Luebke told GamesBeat. “It feels awesome. I’ve been waiting for a game like this to come out for a long time. It’s great if you want to try new things out, like paragliding. I’m a gamer, and having more variety in the game makes it so it doesn’t get stale.”
He added, “It’s hard to communicate the realism of snowboarding. But this one gets me excited about going snowboarding. I try to do what I would do on the snowboard. It translates pretty well.”
But he likes the parts of the game where it goes into the fantasy of being a superhuman player.
“Going off a huge cliff,” he said. “I’ve been trying the wingsuiting a lot. It’s fun whipping through the rocks.”
Julia Mancuso, who won the Winter Olympics gold medal for giant slalom in 2006, told GamesBeat that she thought the game was exciting. She has been near the mountain in the game, but not on it. She hasn’t flown in wingsuits before, either.
“I love being able to free ski,” she said. “Fresh tracks is every skier’s dream. It’s fun. It makes you feel like you are out there in the mountains. I love the lighting and seeing the different places turn real.”
Mancuso said, “The difference between a video game and really doing it is hard to compare. When you don’t have the wind in your face, I feel like I’m going faster in the game. It’s scary how fast. With the wind in your face, it makes you feel calm. I feel totally normal going 100 miles per hour on skis. But this seems really fast.”
But Mancuso feels like the game makes you feel a little too superhuman. Normally, when she is skiing down a mountain with fresh powder, she maps it out meticulously. She studies the landscape and figures out where she’s going to turn. She memorizes the whole route.
“You have to inspect it when you get up there, but it always looks different from the top, and sometimes you make bad decisions,” Mancuso said. “Your intuition may tell you to do something against the plan that you made. It takes a lot of visualization.”
One wrong turn can send you tumbling down the mountain to your death. One time, in real life, she crashed on some rocks since she thought she was going off a 10-foot cliff and it was really a 50-foot cliff.
“The whole thing seems superhuman,” Mancuso said. “You fall off a 100-foot cliff face, and you say, ‘Oh, I’m just going to put my skis back on.’ That’s the beauty of video games.”
Here’s a video of Luebke talking about Steep.