skate. Xbox 360 Review
For skate. EA presents gamers with a huge change in gameplay mechanics for the skateboarding genre, a change that almost makes it a sim of the sport, and certainly a huge step away from the near arcadey approach the Tony Hawk’s games are known for. For the game they have pinned their hopes on the right stick to try and offer gamers a more organic feel of control when performing tricks. Simply put all control of the board has been taken away from button presses and have instead been mapped to the right stick, with a vast collection of different flicks of the stick resulting in different tricks. The move is very much the same, although a lot more drastic, as the change they brought to boxing games, taking away the need to hammer in those long bottom combinations with Fight Night’s use of Total Punch Control, and to golfing games with the inclusion of using the analogue method of swinging the club. As with those games it is fair to say that this change is quite a revolution for the genre.
For example to do an ollie in the game all you have to do is pull the stick down and then flick it up. By learning this simple move you can make you skater jump of high ledges, jump over gaps, or just jump for the hell of it. However, by pulling down on the stick and then flicking it a little bit to the left or right when pushing up you can then turn that ollie into a kickflip or a heelflip. Then by pulling it down, rotating it a bit in either direction, and then pushing it up you can do a different set of tracks. In fact, a change of a few small degrees on how you move the stick can result in vast selection of different tricks. Following on from those stick tricks you can mix up things by adding in a few grabs, which are done by using the shoulder triggers to initiate a grab of a board. This addition yet again feels very instinctive, with a press of the right shoulder button making you grab the board with you right hand, a press of the left trigger making you grab with you left hand, and if you hold down both you grab the board with both hands.
Once you get all of that down you can then move onto grinds, which happen automatically once you ollie and land on a grindable object at the correct angle with enough speed. But unlike the Tony Hawk games you cannot approach grindable objects at a 90 degree angle and expect something good to happen, as instead you will just end up face planting into the ground. Once you get a good grind going you can then chose to continue grinding until you come to a stop, or reach the end of the object. Or, if by this point you are really good at the game, you can do another ollie to throw yourself up in the air and either land on the rail again at a different angle, or descend to the ground and skate off feeling smug. Then finally, once you get all of this together, and are becoming proficient you can start to work in manuals to your lines. It is quite easy to do a manual, as you just tilt the stick just off centre backward or forward, but you can also go into a manual when coming out of a trick, which is much harder to time, but lead to more points, and the opportunity to create a better line.
As a result of all this the game ends up being very challenging, with the bigger tricks nigh on impossible to perform in the first hour or so. Personally, with me being a big Tony Hawk fan I could not get the idea of pushing “A” to ollie out of my head which led to many crashes over my first few hours with the game. However, as you advance most of the controls start to become second nature, and most importantly start feeling very fluid. Once you know what you doing you won’t end up raking unnecessary bails. In truth, the more you play the game the better you get at it, and the more satisfaction and rewarding the game gets when you finally manage to pull off that big trick, or set of tricks you thought were out of your reach just a few short hours before.
The games visuals are also top quality, with the world on show in skate., the city of San Vanelona, feeling like a real world, a world where people could go about their lives. But most importantly the environment the game is set in feels very skateable. The city has loads of lines waiting to be taken advantage of to gain some points. The play area is also very big, with secret spots and unlockable areas available as you go, with the X Games Stadium being the big one most will want to go to. Also, as you advance in your career, many different opportunities appear on your map to get your rep up which you can then skate to, or warp to by checking the map in your backpack – via a quick click of the back button on the pad. All in all there is just a vast collection of places to look cool and show off.
Speaking of looking cool, this is very easy to do as your skater, which you can create at the start of the game using a trimmed down version of EA’s gameface technology, is very reactive to the environment around you. You see, depending on how good you land a trick he will automatically move and adjust his balance, using the game excellent physics system along with some quality animation to try and stay on the board. Furthermore, the game seem to run at a very respectable framerate, and I experienced no hiccups during my time with the game at all, which goes great strides in helping make a good looking game even better. The game’s audio also cannot be let by without a mention, particularly a very satisfactory soundtrack with a vast range of artists such as David Bowie, N.W.A, Motörhead, Nirvana, Rick James, The Ramones, ZZ Top, Dead Prez, The Sex Pistols, The White Strips, and many more getting an outing to truly have something available to appease everyone’s taste. Sound effects are also top notch with many different skateboarding noises coming from the multitude of different surfaces in San Vanelona.
So with so much praise, what is there not to like about the game? Well for one, I would like more game to be in there. The basic tasks and challenges you are set are interesting, but they also feel quite limited, and as you work your way through the career you always get a feeling that the game is still trying to teach you more, rather than having you expand on something you have already learned. Also, some of the online options are less than spectacular, with online jam locations being too small which ends up with people bumping into each other more often than is acceptable. In addition, the community aspect of the game where you share video online is also less than spectacular, with the skate. site currently a buggy mess that is at times unusable. However, this could easily be fixed a bit down the line, and does nothing to affect the quality of the main game whatsoever. Finally, and perhaps the biggest problem with the game is that you cannot dismount from your board. Now, while this may not initially seem like a big problem there are times in the game when you could cry out for it. In particular, some of the games ‘own the spot’ challenges need you to be in a specific place to start, and it can get hugely aggravating bumping of footpaths, walls, and pedestrians as you try and ollie your way to the area only to fail the challenge and have to work your way back up there again. Sure, this may be a small blemish, but using one of the spare buttons on the pad to engage a dismount would have made life so much easier to navigate to certain areas.
So, in the end what are we left with? Well, it is a certainty that EA have grown quite fond of using the right stick in their games, with the ones named above, along with the likes of likes of Fifa or Madden, who admittedly use it much more sparingly, showcasing the idea in all of there releases. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that its introduction in skate. is revolutionary to the genre. The concept works and with some practice it is quite exciting to pull off complex tricks, and skate some difficult lines. It goes without saying that skate. is quite a change to Neversoft’s Tony Hawk games, and drastically ups the ante from what they have done in the last few years. Sure, Neversoft may have made many fun games based on their over the top take on the sport. Their most recent effort, Project 8, is admittedly quite entertaining to play but interestingly, EA have also managed to make a fun game, but also quite a different one, and one which is very true to life to the sport it portrays.
In skate., you won’t be seeing any million point combos, or anything near it, but a simple kickflip down a flight of stairs can give you just as much satisfaction that you get from achieving that outlandish score in the Birdman games. It may not be the most accessible game out there, but it is quality, there is no doubting that. However, when all said and done there is room for a bit of improvement.
A great first effort from EA. They should have a new hit IP on their hands with this.
8.5 out of 10