Black eyes and scraped knees.
Dude, bro, it’s time once again to pick up your board and head to the streets of San Vanelona for some serious skating. And when I say "serious", I mean it. I've said several times that in terms of realism, Skate is the Madden of the skateboarding genre, and Skate 2 is no different. Both titles are considered extremely technical sims of real-life skateboarding. Unfortunately, like some iterations of Madden, Skate 2 is a mixed bag. While there are some vast improvements over the first game, each improvement comes coupled with a flaw.
[image1]Graphically, the game has easily surpassed its predecessor. Although it takes place in the same city, the landscape has been completely revamped. If you played the first game, you’ll recognize a few landmarks here and there, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find the same lines as before. City streets have finer detail and there is far more variation in environments and skateable sculptures. The shiny, reflective marble in the corporate district is particularly impressive.
The environment is much more interactive as well, but it will cost you. If you need a pool drained, some stops removed from railings, or some security guards put in check, you can now call up some buddies on your cell phone for help. They can give you a hand for a price. It’s a clever incentive to get you to earn cash in the story mode and progressively unlock areas in the sandbox world of San Vanelona.
Gameplay has not changed much since the first game. You still use the controls to command different appendages (arms and legs only, perv) on your skater. But you do have some new moves at your disposal, such as the hippy flip and footplants. Unfortunately, they do not make the game any easier to play.
The music is an eclectic mix of tunes. From the minimalist techno styling’s of Fujiya and Miyagi to the hard rocking Motorhead to the soulful saxophone of Sam and Dave, there is something for everyone. I already happen to be a fan of a lot of tunes on here, but this is the first time in my life a video game has introduced me to new bands I actually liked. I have to give a tip of my hat to whoever put together Skate 2’s mixtape.
[image2]The only way to describe the difficulty of the story mode is mediocre. Some challenges can be finished in one run, but you will more than likely waste way too much time trying to nail ridiculously specific tricks. This is where the Madden-like realism works against the game. When you make a bad call in a football game, you are not forced to make that mistake over and over again until you miraculously get it right. And that’s exactly what Skate 2 does, in such a way that you will want to chuck your controller at the TV. Don’t be surprised if you get flashbacks to all the repeated falling and dying of another recent EA game, Mirror's Edge.
Another problem you’ll face on your way to pro skater fame is people. It’s a huge pain in the ass when you’ve been trying to line a trick for days and some A.I. skater come along and gets in your way, knocking you off your board, and sending you back to square one. Security guards are back as well and they’ve been upgraded to Paul Blart status. You can call in your buddy Big Black to help you with security, but a couple times when I used this tactic he just kept throwing them in front of the object I was trying to trick off of or even standing in the way himself.
However, the realism does work great for Freeskate modes. With no pressure or obligation to nail some ridiculous trick in a certain amount of time, you can get much more creative with your lines and tricks. Really, the only reason to push though the story is to unlock all the extras, such as shirts, pants, decks, trucks, and wheels - all things that have more to do with the customization of your character than gameplay.
Since you will be spending a lot of time falling on your ass, they also provide you with a set of “Hall of Meat” challenges. You beat these by accomplishing epically painful bails off your deck. It’s a fun diversion, because there's nothing quite like sending your avatar down a giant half-pipe to his doom while doing a judo kick, but it’s a sad state of affairs when it is easier for you to accomplish bail out goals than anything else in a precision game like this.
[image3]Unlike the first title, you are able to get off the board and walk around the city like a real human being. Sadly though, the walking movement is rigid and stiff. Trying to turn left or right works in the same pivot style as the skating, and it’s frustrating when trying to maneuver around obstacles. Walking just feels glitchy, like it was only about halfway complete when Skate 2 went to print.
The new "create a spot" feature is a good idea, but like so many other parts of this game, does not feel completely fleshed out. With the added ability to move objects you find in the city around, you can set up some fancy tricks. You can then share those spots over the internet. But there’s no real way for you to spawn ramps and set up your own park from scratch which seems rather odd. Or was it presumptuous of me to think an editing tool would allow you to play outside the box?
All in all, Skate 2 end up feeling more like Skate 1.5. It’s got more polish and moves than the first, but most of the new ideas don’t feel like they were given the time to be fleshed out properly. There is a lot of fun to be had in the freedom of exploration, but the game lacks proper balance. And balance is key to being a pro.