What can't this guy do?
We all know Shaun White. Red-headed Olympic snowboarder, Target clothing brand mogul, all-american-flannel-wearing hero – these are just some of the ways you might see Shaun in your mind's eye. Another snowboarding game? No way, bro! Shaun's switchin' style, stickin' to the streets, and totally shredding the 'phalt. That's right, all those apostrophes mean I'm talking about skateboarding!
[image1]Video games have been there, done that. What could Shaun and Ubisoft possibly bring to the table that that Tony guy hasn't tried yet? Aside from an injection of youth (Tony's, like, in his 30s now, pssshhh), Shaun White Skateboarding gives the player the ability to affect the environment in a variety of ways.
This doesn't include THUG-style explosions and terrible attempts at humor. Instead, the "Ministry" has taken over and enforced an emotionless bleak world onto society. It's all very Brave New World, except the "New World" is your skateboard. Completing wicked-sick tricks liberates not only the environment, but the population as well, opening up additional tasks for your skater to complete. Finishing those tasks unlocks more of the world. It's like Super Mario Sunshine if you replace that mouthy water-backpack for a skateboard.
Liberating the city isn't a matter of simply landing a trick here and there. Players have to build up the Flow Meter to make an impact on the people and places they skate around. The Flow Meter is separated into sections, and some of the muted citizens and locations in the city will require much bigger combo streaks to be impressed.
The environment lends itself to this mechanic, encouraging the player to trick, grind, and generally score as many points as possible to free up the kind of environmental decorations you'd normally see in a skating game. Neon lines populate the landscape and grinding these lines cause them to expand, taking the player to locations previously unreachable. This general line will take you throughout the area and "liberate" the skate park furniture you can use to really rack up points and fully open the zone.
[image2]Releasing the city from the Ministry's grasp is a daunting task, but Shaun entrusts you with the responsibility from the beginning. Your faceless, customizable skater takes up the mantle as the people's champion, and NPCs fill in familiar skateboard-game roles: the perpetually stoned shop owner, the mysterious underground group leader, fellow skating bros.
The only thing that needs improvement is the trick system, which lacks the accessibility of Tony Hawk's controls and the intuitive simplicity of Skate's controls. It gets easier to grasp as you play, but patience is unfortunately not one of my virtues. Regardless, if Ubisoft Montreal simply aped previous control schemes, I'd be ripping them for that, so it's nice to see they're trying something different.
I'm very happy to see Ubisoft and Shaun White trying something new. With Activision forcing Tony Hawk to kickflip his way to the grave and Skate missing this holiday season, Shaun should have plenty of help overthrowing the Ministry. Shaun White Skateboarding will be on store shelves on October
28 24, 2010.