Skate Series(Skate 2)

2009-03-24 22:55:21

Skate Series[Primarily Skate 2](Xbox 360)

The sequel to Skate, the groundbreaking new skate simulation game to be produced by Black Box studios for EA. I have to congratulate the teams at Black Box studios for usurping the Skateboard throne out from under the Tony Hawk series, a series that has moved in a very different direction than skateboard simulation. Firstly, let's look at what has made skateboarding games so great over the years. Skateboard video games as a genre have grown out of the need to have a way to enjoy the rush of skateboard antics, while ensuring the integrity of our bones. Original skateboard games like Skate or Die and the like were just that, simple ways to enjoy the basics of skateboarding while ensuring our children weren't draining the neighbors pool to crack their heads against when they tried some of the very simple stunts you could do in Skate or Die. This was enough for the era, and proved the concept a viable one for years to come. When Tony Hawk became famous for his professional skating career, and the performance of some pretty wicked stunts, the intelligent move was made to turn him into the king of a skateboard kingdom, to make him the star of a series of video games about skating, using the new horsepower of playstation and eventually xbox consoles. The games retained some arcadey things like floating letters to collect but otherwise promoted things like balance during grinds, and keeping your line fresh with differing tricks to increase your scores. It was only once Tony Hawk made it out of "Tony Hawk Pro Skate" and into "THUG" or "Tony Hawk UnderGround" country that we see the designers of the series really lose touch.

THUG entered the arena due to a couple of marketing ideas, 1. Tony Hawk was friends with Bam Magera, of Jackass fame, and 2. Jackass was a popular TV show. As such in order to keep things fresh for the MTV kids, Tony Hawks game series would get "real" and have the players doing all kinds of wacky over the top things, like slaloming in a shopping cart, busting out windows, dodging bulls busting through buildings in Barcelona, breaking their boards when they take a wipe, and just generally showing the douchebaggery side of skateboarding. This turned off a lot of the fans, which came for the skating, but didn't really appreciate the attitude and wacky events surrounding the series at the time. People still bought into the franchise however, since you know, it was the ONLY game in town when it came to skateboarding. This all changed 2 years ago when EA's Black Box team revealed San Vanelona, a mixing of the 3 best places to skate in the world. San Francisco, Vancouver, and Barcelona. The game was dropped on us like a bomb as a demo downloadable from the next gen marketplaces. While the demo had a timer, and was limited to a skate park, it took us on a ride we wouldn't soon forget, we kept playing and playing that demo, so much so that some kids found a way to hack out of the locked in skate park, and explore some of the upcoming terrain of the suburbs before the game launched. Even when we first started playing the demo, we knew this game, was going to be different.

Skate came with a simple premise, You just got out of the Hospital after getting run over by a bus(in the intro to the game) which is used to explain how you get to pick your look, your faithful camera wielding homie Reba accompanies you as you return to the skate park, and get back into the swing of things. As the game progresses you get your footage published by the 2 skateboarding magazines represented in Skate, Skateboarding Magazine AKA the Mag, and Thrasher. As you progress through those 2 magazines, you gain more fame, earning you t-shirt, board, truck, and wheel sponsorships, earning you more money to flesh out your looks and your equipment. You'd also meet and compete with several famous skaters throughout the game. Once the games campaign was finished and really anytime at all that you wanted to, you could freeskate the entirety of the city of San Vanelona, using Subway stations you could fast travel to any part of the town you wanted to visit.

The control system, which hasn't really changed too dramatically between the two games, is an intuitive system that focuses on EA Sports' mission to make all Sports style games use a elite dual analog control system. Only that in Skate, that was the only system you had available, so you better learn quick. Instead of the approach of the Tony hawk games where you magnetically attached to anything you wanted to grind on, you actually had to line up to the rail, and time your jumping to land the correct trick. The control system features left stick for body movement(back for backflips, forward for front flips, left and right for spins/turning) and right stick for foot/board control. by flicking the right stick in certain directions you could line your board up on grinds for different tricks, or pull off different ollies and fliptricks. add the X and A buttons for left and right foot controls(mostly used for pushing) and left and right triggers for hand grabs. The system is intuitive and complex. The simpleton will be able to grasp and perform well enough to get by, while the elitist will be able to pull off amazing trick lines that will grab the biggest scores. This has been expanded on in Skate 2 with the additions of hippie jumps(X+A simultaneously) no-complies, fingerflips, foot plants and handplants. So when it comes to control and trick execution, EA Blackbox listened and did a great job adding on..

Unfortunately this is where the happy bus breaks down. Up to this point I've been smothering the game with praise, as it is truly superior to it's backwater relatives from Neversoft. Sadly EA has a reputation to uphold in being shitty about making games, cutting the corners and frills off the game and not polishing it enough. Where the single player was great in Skate 1 Multiplay was abysmal, you accessed the multiplayer features through a t-mobile sidekick(insert major advertising deal here) where the netcode was as shit as T mobiles marketshare. The game lagged online, making online play a slideshow experience, and making a game where timing was everything anything but fun. It was garbage, and I quickly forgot about the online portion of the game. Another major pain in the original Skate was load times. You were given the ability in the game to set session markers, a means to restart a sequence at the beginnning without having to manually skate yourself back there, which at times could be tedious, especially if part of the sequence included a drop from great heights. if you bailed within 5 feet of your session marker you were lucky, and could instantaneously revert back to the marker, but if you moved much further than that, you would be fuzzed out to a long loading screen that in some cases, would take longer to load than simply skating back into position. It quickly became the most aggrevating part of Skate in that you would perform a 20 second line, and restart having to wait up to 2 1/2 minutes to get back to the beginning and try it again.

Another major pain in Skate was the fact that you were chained to your board, you couldn't walk, so you would often have to find other solutions to getting up areas featuring staircases, this also made getting where you needed to go longer as you would often times have only 1 alternative to climbing stairs and it would be a significant distance away. Thankfully all the things I just mentioned have been fixed in Skate 2. the Netcode is better, so multiplayer is actually fun, loading times are reduced as you can travel further distances from your session marker before the game considers it too far to revert you and loads instead. They also included walking as a new feature so you can actually climb stairs, and also happily enough recover from bails without collapsing into a heap. As nice as it sounds though it isn't without it's own set of flaws. Mostly that apparently EA didn't do any testing on the walking physics before releasing the game, or if they did they didn't listen to criticisms about it. Basically you tap Y to jump off your board and get walking, unfortunately the walking controls look like this: Left stick forward to walk forward, right and left to swivel and back does nothing. X jumps and A runs. The missing feature here, is the ability to back up, a pretty fundamental part of human travelling is the ability to correct the course in which we are moving, and sometimes, we might need to back up a couple of inches to get past something, or to get on mark if we accidentally overshoot. But not in Skate 2! fuck walking backwards, we should only be so happy that we can walk at all!

Another new feature which is pretty fun is the ability to move objects like trashbins and benches around the environment to create your own lines. Not only is that a great feature but it also facilitates the other great features of the game. We're going to talk about Web 2.0 now. Web 2.0, user created content, is something that Skate started out with, with the ability for users to take any part of a session they were just doing, edit it, placing cameras around and editing their speed and style to create the ultimate skateboard movies, and then upload them to EA's website. EA's website would only hold about 3 videos, but it wasn't terrible, and it wasn't long until people figured out how to clip out those skate vids and reupload them onto more open web 2.0 sites like YouTube. This feature got enhanced in Skate 2 in that you not only can make footage of your skating antics to share, but you can also setup unique spots to skate and score on and upload those to challenge your friends. Thus making Skate 2 one of the only titles that permits user created maps on a console.

Sadly EA's nickel and diming is still in effect, where you can pay 400 Microsoft Points to unlock everything in the game, and there are camera editing packs and other add on packs. The Camera editor is pretty generic originally when you first get the game, and it advertises the cameraman package to download, doing so unlocks a few more cameras, but as far as I have seen so far there has been nothing that allows you to apply the styles you used to in Skate 1, Skate one you could bronze things or add film grain etc, not so in Skate 2, where you only get a clean but flexible camera to use in your post production.

Reason Rank
Start 10
Most realistic Skateboarding Simulator. +8
Intuitive Controls. +4
Unable to walk Backwards -7
Micropurchase Jamboree! -4
Great Multiplayer and fixed Netcode +2
No camera style filters for post production. -3
Total 10/10

Skate 2 ends up with a 10/10, which means as a series it fucks up as much as it does great, making it a mediocre title, a little more polish would bring this game up to amazing standards, but for now it'll just have to settle for being the best skateboarding game invented to date. Now they just need to focus on not being edgy and shitty, letting Tony Hawk continue to create shit salads.