Long ago there came a game, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, gamers loved the smooth control, semi realistic lines, and general flow of levels. Becoming a smash hit, sequels naturally followed on this unrivaled cash cow, but down the line the game lost its way.
No longer about a smooth real line, or bombing down a hill, as next gen equipment came, instead of making the physics better, or smoother board control, we got cardboard vehicles, shameless marketing of phones, and very, very sloppy plots.
When all hope seemed lost, when fans dreaded the next sequel, fearing it was their only option to release the little skater inside them, out of the blue comes our savior, and from EA none the less, go figure.
While I thoroughly encourage the bashing of Electronic Arts, and their use of advertising, rehashing, dumbing down, and pointless add on frills to sequels that are in essence identical to their former incarnations, I plead with you gamers step back, for they have finally made a game that without all doubt, is true to what it set out to accomplish. What's that you may ask? Finally a free roaming and realistic skating game.
In Skate, you're a nameless face, who just happened to catch the eye of a filmer right before you get smacked by a bus. While it would seem it’s following a Tony Hawk attempt at a plot, this is about as deep as it gets. From there you're whisked off to a hospital during a cut scene showing off the other skaters, and than you get to surgery where you choose how you look. That's it, no "reclaim your glory", no "have to best your rival". It's just you, a board, and a guy who tags along filming you.
From there you simply do as the title says, you skate around the city, which I have to admit, is absolutely massive. A full fifteen minutes is required to cross this city from top to bottom, going up hill naturally means a longer trek, but fear not you ADD riddled children, there is a subway station to take you to several locations.
The areas are separated into 4 areas, the suburbs, rez, downtown and old town. On rez, you can slam down streets at break neck pace, dodging traffic and kick flipping over stairs. Take a trip to downtown, with a plethora of rails and gaps in alley ways that beg your attention. Be warned however as security is at its peak inside the downtown sector, and if you're caught it's 50 bucks down the drain. Old town is essentially the slums, more or less mixing downtown and rez together. Suburbs, from those who played the demo religiously like I have, is the place to go for empty pools to catch massive amounts of air.
Moreover in addition to all of these massive areas, there are a number of areas you can get into, such as the Plan B warehouse, Paul’s mansion, and even the X games. This game is in no way short on places to show off what you got.
This brings me to Skate's party piece. The intuitive control system. Broken down, left thumb stick controls where you go, right thumb stick controls your feet, triggers are your hands. Your days of press left+b+b are over. Overall it feels incredibly fluid once you get the hang of it. "Flick it" down than up quickly for an olie, down and diagonally right or left for a kick flip, semi circle for shove its and the rest are a combination. While it does feel fluid, and it is more realistic, the issue is that a varial kickflip, and a 360 flip are so ungodly similar in execution, you'll end up going through a controller like I did on an attempt to 360 flip to crooked grind.
The same is not for the grabs however, simply catch some air, pull a trigger and move the thumb stick. It can get more complex than that if you want some higher scoring moves, such as a stiffy stale grab, or the rocket (which is hard enough to warrant it to be an achievement).
The graphics look superb, and you'll have no problem seeing which name brand merchandise your advertising on your chest. It is EA after all kids, you had to of expected that much.
To progress throughout the game, you can do a series of challenges, ranging from jam sessions, to races and even full out competitions (big air contest anyone?). None of its forced however, and you can skate at your leisure as you please.
Speaking of progression, there are no stats, your as good at catching air by the end of the game as you were in the beginning, the only thing that increases in skill is you, or at least your frustration, one of the two anyways. While it may seem shallow, it's nice to practice hitting the big stuff right away, rather than jumping 30 times to get your stats high enough.
And don't think by big stuff, that you'll be grinding any power lines or mctwisting over a helicopter, pure realism, all physics. This is most notable in the grinding that's done in the game. There is no magic glue to the rail button, you have to actually land on the rail. To perform any number of grind, simply rotate the board onto the rail for whatever grind you care to attempt. Landed in a nose grind but would rather do a crooked? Simply rotate your board mid-grind and you're there. It's overall control like this that the Hawk series is desperately needing.
Regardless, Hawk is on top because it does at least something right, and it's something EA didn't care to follow. There is no walk option, you're forever stuck to your board, at least until you're hit by a car. It would be a lot easier to gap the stairs, if you could climb up them first instead of circling a block looking for the alleyway entrance.
Another large criticism is its loading. The city is free roaming, and it never needs to load as you fly through it. That is until you decide you want to go back to an earlier spot. You can set a session marker and respawn there any time you wish, which is great for nailing a certain sequence on a rail. But stumble a few feet away at times, and going back to that spot requires a loading screen. It's all fair and well, but it's never any set distance, it almost seems random at time, and its frustrating when you can see the spot you want to go back to, its no more than 50 feet away, but you still have to sit through a painfully long loading screen just to get to it.
The soundtrack fairs decent, but no where near the depth possible for other games of this genre, notably it contains a lot of underground music, mixed with a few big names for marketing power.
The largest gripe however, has to be the camera angle. The perspective is that of someone following you with a camera. While a nice touch to realism, it can be incredibly annoying at times when you go to turn a corner and fly blindly into a wall because the camera crapped out on you.
Regardless, none of that stops Skate from being a game with immense replayabillity. It really does warrant a purchase, not just a rent, as it's one of those play whenever the hell I feel like game do to its free roaming nature
Open ended game play
Graphically superior to most other sports orientated games
Controls a little to similar
Camera man from hell