Skate instantly jumped from being a title I was merely keeping an eye on, to being at the top of my must buy list after the release of the demo. After getting a taste of the campaign at X’07, the deal was sealed and I knew I was going to sink a crazy amount of hours into Skate. Now that the game is out and I’ve had nearly a full week with it, I’m stoked to say that it definitely does live up to my expectations, but with nearly every aspect of the game comes a down-side that hampers the experience, or at least prevents it from as being fully enjoyable as it could be.
From Button Mashing to Stick-Flicking
The single greatest aspect of Skate is the revolutionary control scheme which relies entirely on the analog sticks to perform tricks. Face buttons are only used to push, stop and enter events, while the triggers are used to grab the board with each arm. When I first learned of the controls for Skate, I frowned on it and never thought something so simple could work. Boy, was I ever wrong. Not only does it work, it gives a sense of accomplishment and satisfies much more than a button combination ever could. After a few hours, you’ll have a good grasp on the controls and will be skating city blocks stringing tricks together as you hit different obstacles and building lines. It really does capture the essence of real skateboarding.
Making Your Mark
As others have done in the past, Skate takes you on a journey to greatness. Along the way, you meet up with pros who have challenges for you. There are “spots” through-out the city that you discover which range from a huge set with a kinked rail to a massive gap and everything in between. The idea here is that you out-do the previous high score on the given spots to “own” them. There are also film and photo challenges which have a certain criteria attached to them that will land you in magazines. There are an absolute ton of challenges to do and right when you think you’re getting to the end of them, you reach a level that drops a dozen more on the map. Speaking of the map – you can quickly jump from event-to-event or any given area of the city as you please. So, it’s easy to quickly take care of events if you’re not big into exploring.
There’s a bit of an uneven balance when it comes to the various events that will most likely leave you frustrated to the point of wanting to throw your controller through your TV. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t gotten to that point a handful of times already. The problem is that events are so specific and often require you to do something that needs a great deal of focus and precision, as well as over-achieving a set score. So that task at hand is a difficult one, but to make matters worse, there are pedestrians, other skaters and cars everywhere. It’s to the point where they’re not only distracting, but they often prevent you from even being able to attempt your goal. And this is where the frustration lies. What might normally take a dozen attempts to pull off is suddenly increased two-fold due to all of these obstacles. And someone help you, should you knock over an old lady. It takes her a good 30 seconds to get back on her feet, then another 20 or so to get the fuck out of the way. Yes, I’ve cursed at plenty of old ladies while playing Skate.
Another annoyance that is along the same lines is having to do events with other skaters simultaneously. For example, you’re taking part in a best trick comp with 3 other people who are all skating the same half-pipe for 60 seconds. Needless to say, you’re colliding with other people more than you’re landing tricks and it gets really annoying, really fast.
Skating With Friends is Always More Fun
If the single player mode has got you all worked up, take a breather and jump online. I was so excited when I learned about all of the online modes Skate has out of the box. But mostly for private Freeskate. Skateboarding is a very social activity (nope, I still won’t call it a sport) and it’s all about jumping from spot-to-spot and taking turns doing lines. You can fully do all of this in Freeskate and it’s a hell of a lot of fun! Of course, there’s lots of competitive modes as well which range from spot challenges ala the single player mode to a trick-for-trick battle of S.K.A.T.E. (aka P.O.S.E.R.).
Tapping into the Culture of Skateboarding
I can’t even imagine how many hours I spent crammed into a packed living room watching skate videos with a group of friends before we headed out to our favourite spots. That’s just what we did – watch a video, get all stoked, go out and skate for hours on end. Skate taps directly into that aspect of the skateboarding in more than one way. The entire game is supposed to be you being filmed by some dude who’s tagging along for whatever reason. The camera angle is that of a dude crouching on a skateboard behind you and takes a bit of getting used to. But it also makes it feel that much more authentic.
At any given moment, you can pause the game and go to the Replay Editor – an in game video editor that lets you cut and edit clips which can be saved locally as video or photos, or uploaded to the Skate website. The Replay Editor can be used in single and multiplayer games and is really fun to play around with.
Close, Maybe Next Time?
When I saw that GameSpot gave Skate a 7.5, I was blown away! Having spent a good 20 hours with the demo, I thought for sure it was going to be a high 8 title. But after sinking a good amount of time into the single player game, I see why the lower score. As much as Skate is an achievement in the innovation department, it does fall short in many areas, especially the single player mode. I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction and a fantastic first attempt at trying something completely different. I’m sure the sequels to follow will only get better with each release and I am most definitely looking forward to them. I doubt I’ll even bother with the Tony Hawk games from this point on.
*sigh* I’m still really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Skate. I think it’s because _finally_ somebody has captured the real essence of skateboarding in a game (shame on you THPS) or the trick system… It sure is satisfying.
Nice review, I could tell you were really into this game with all tweets about it. I was kinda mad the demo came out right after my 360 broke (I should be able to try it in the next couple of days, finally) since I really liked the looks of this game. Dunno if I’ll be able to get into it, unfortunately, with the Orange Box and PGR4 coming out so soon.
It’s a totally awesome game, but it does get rather frustrating.
To me, the cars and pedestrians are the worst part of the game. The cars look like they were slapped together in less than a day and behave rather oddly. Pedestrians, like you said, always get in the way and just add to that whole frustration thing. EA should totally release an add-on pack that allows you to pull out some kind of weapon and attack the pedestrians in the game; that’d be a great way to vent that frustration. :p
Have you played Skate on your Playstation 3 yet? (The demo is available in the PSN.) If so, have you any thoughts in comparison to the Xbox 360 version?
I’ve played through the Playstation 3 demo 4-5 times now and it’s not a bad game, but if the Xbox 360 version is that much better… 🙂
I plan on getting it, but for now I just have the demo. The game is great but no matter how long I play it I still have trouble with doing certain flip tricks. I would go for a 360 flip or hardflip and it would almost always be a shuvit or kickflip. I am sure with more practice it would get easier but other than that I love what I have seen so far.
I don’t trust GameSpot for game reviews. Been saying that for about 6 years now. 🙂
I think that Skate has definetly left its mark, although(like you said) theres a number of menacing flaws, its definetly possible for this title to rise to the ranks and throw Tony Hawk off his thrown with more refined sequels.
@Kenneth: Oh man, am I ever excited for The Orange Box. I’ve been going through Half-Life 2 withdrawl since ditching PC gaming and I TF2 looks so fucking great!
@Andre: I don’t mind the cars and pedestrians while I’m just skating around, but when you’re trying to nail something and you have to wait for some to get up and out of the way after hitting them 3 or 4 times in a row is just ridiculous. But yeah, good call on the blowing pedestrians up – that would be great! I tend to just plow into them at full speed when I get frustrated, which of course just knocks them down again and causes me to wait even longer.
@David: Nah, I won’t bother playing it on the PS3. Basically, any game that’s out for both, I’ll play on the Xbox 360 for the Achievements and better online support.
@Kevin: I’d love to say doing the more complex flip tricks like 360 flips and hardflips gets easier, but it really doesn’t. I usually end up doing 360 pop-shuvits or varial kickflips when I attempt them. I haven’t spent a lot of time on them, though. There was one goal that required you to do a nollie 360 flip then hit a rail that I practiced it for, but that was about it.
@Daniel: GameSpot is my most trusted source for game reviews. They seem to be the most honest. I always look back to the Doom 3 release when everyone was giving it high 9s and GameSpot rolled out an 8.5 with the explanation, "Extremely impressive from a technical standpoint yet behind the times from a first-person-shooter design standpoint."
I feel exactly the same way. Love the game, but it isn’t as fulfilling as I’d have liked. It’s bad ass though, and one of those titles I’ll be able to pickup and play for a long time.
THPS went balls up after #2… I still pickup the first one everyone and a while and give it ago on the Dreamcast though.
doing harder fliptricks does get easier! trust me!
after plowing through the 10 or so pro S.K.A.T.E challenges, i got the hardflips and 360 hardflips, 360 flips and laser flips down to a science. it’s all about precision. basically, with the hardflips/inward heelflips. try not to cross the middle. think of the analog as a square if that helps. 4 boxes, stay in two and you won’t do "lame" tricks.
sorry about the bad punctuation.
I really love the skate demo. We still haven’t got the real thing here yet. I feel that skate is something new and creative. It really takes the essence of skateboarding and transform it to a small package that every 360 user can take home with them.
I can’t wait for the future of Skate. I really believe that they have made a mark in the skateboard genre.
I tried to play the Proving Grounds demo. And I couldn’t even skate forward. It felt really awkward. So I’m sticking with skate this time.
I still miss some features like flat land and hand stands. But I guess that’s ok. Can’t wait for Skate 2 if they’ll make one. That game will probably have all the features that a skater need. Don’t know how they will manage to make it with the flickir controller, but I’m sure that they will figure that out.
I love the game so far. 🙂
Matt, your review is perfect! I have the game and boy, those session markers are REALY usefull when you want to own a spot and you have to do a specific thing. Also, I think the level designers did a suberb job because it realy feels like your skating in a city. The city is UGE and very realistic! Well done! The only problem is that its crowded with old ladys that gets in the way! Heheh!
Well I’ve just started playing Skate and have to admit it is taking some getting used to with the controls. The learning curve isn’t TOO steep though that I am not enjoying it.
I’m going to be trying the online mode when I get a bit better as I’ve noticed there are a few big achievements for that 😉
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