For so long the skateboarding genre has been crying out for something new, fresh and exciting. Fortunately, it looks like EA have hit the mark with a brand new formula.
In a genre that has literally been dominated by one franchise for so long, Skate looks to have produced something remarkable. Finally that spark has been created, the one that looks powerful enough to knock the skating king, Tony Hawk, from his uncontested throne.
Over the past year, it looks as if EA have started to get their act together. For so long, they seemed content with producing annual clones of the franchises they own. However, it seems now they are trying to change their reputation and are starting to release original titles that are actually worth the customers’ hard earned cash. The release of Def Jam Icon saw a totally different style to the fighting genre, which many welcomed with open arms. Although it wasn’t particularly successful, the intent was certainly on show, as EA signalled that they are now trying to create a new generation of gameplay.
This is where Skate comes in. Regarded by many as a potential Tony Hawk killer, the hype for the game certainly exceeded many gamer’s expectations. The formula for the game is an extremely intriguing one that was begging to be developed at some point. With the evolution of the next generation, it wasn’t going to be long before a successful innovation came knocking on our doors…
“it wasn’t going to be long before a successful innovation came knocking on our doors”The game itself is set in San Vanelona, a fictional city based around San Francisco, Vancouver and Barcelona. It’s a hugely diverse setting that offers an exciting amount of potential to it’s skating mad inhabitants. Nearly everything can be used to pull off a trick, grind, or just about anything your thumbs will let you create, as long as you have the skills.
The player can expect a range of steep hills, tight road surfaces and a number of open and varied skate parks to be amongst what they find here. Every surface feels different, as the controller vibrates when on uneven turf, and feels smooth when gliding along the asphalt. It’s these subtle differences that begin to highlight how in-depth the game is, as the change of surface has an effect on how you approach tricks. For example, less speed is needed on a smooth surface compared to one that is rough and rugged. There are many gamers that love this sort of thing, as it brings the lines between reality and virtual world even closer.
When exploring San Vanelona, some players may be forgiven for getting a little frustrated at times. Although this game is essentially a simulation, the amount of cars that are on the road sometimes cause a problem. There is a constant supply of what seems to be angry drivers willing to pile drive their vehicle into your body. I understand that there are a lot of cars in the real world, but at times the amount of vehicles becomes a little over exercised. That said, there isn’t much more that the player can complain about, as nearly every aspect of this game lives up to the hype it so modestly generated. It’s a small gripe, but not something that is big enough to spoil your enjoyment of the game in the long run.
The developers at EA Black Box have hit jackpot with their new control system. The idea is this; instead of pushing individual buttons to complete over the top combos, the player uses the right joystick on the controller to produce some of the most satisfying and realistic tricks the genre has seen. This is known as the “Flickit” system, as players literally flick the stick in different ways to execute a number of the skating worlds most famous tricks. It’s right stick to control your board and left for your body. To add variation, pulling the right trigger will perform a grab with your skater’s right hand, whereas the left trigger enables the player to grab with his left. This seems relatively simple, but only practice will see you pulling off the more elaborate flips and spins.
“The developers at EA Black Box have hit jackpot with their new control system”For players wanting a tough experience, this game offers a challenge that hasn’t been seen in quite a while. Being able to interpret the control system individually is a massive plus, as it really brings a unique style to each gamer’s way of skating. Luckily, a tutorial is on hand at the start, with others available during your career. This is an essential part of gaining the basic knowledge needed to skate with the big boys, as in the beginning expect to see yourself falling over curbs, poles, and other skaters. It is the control system that sets the game up so well, as you enter the quest to become a professional skating champion.
The career mode is where you will find the main source of challenge in the game. The player begins by watching a short intro that has you being hit by a bus and rushed to hospital. What this does is comically introduces the licensed professionals around you, with personalities such as Mike Carroll, Mark Gonzales and the game’s front man, Danny Way. Within minutes you meet most the cast, and are incredibly transformed into having a fully functional body again.
This is where you begin picking up your skills and entering your journey to become one of the world’s most renowned professionals. It’s not entirely original, but with this sort of game there is little more that you can do than to start from the bottom and work your way up. The rags to riches story is an over-used one, but in this case it is an acceptable way of building the career mode, as the injury you suffer adds a little bit of light hearted humour to proceedings.
Within minutes of finishing the first tutorial, you are free to do whatever you feel like. A number of challenges are on offer, which range from simple photo shoots to tackling professionals on their favourite spots. The difficulty varies hugely from the beginning, as some tasks will you will complete first time, whereas others won’t be so kind. It is with the tougher challenges that the game’s main appeal shows its head for the first time…
Addictiveness. A word used so often in the gaming world, but couldn’t justify the feeling of this title any stronger. The amount of times you will retry a challenge is on a high scale, as the reward is extremely appealing. The satisfaction after the task is beaten is more than I have experienced in recent console memory. Many hours will be spent trying to perfect your line, your score, and ultimately your skill in beating the competition around you.
The challenges are only a small proportion of what is on offer in the career mode. Players can participate in various skating competitions, including a “H.O.R.S.E” inspired battle and the ever so thrilling “Best Trick” events. The variation is a good thing, as some challenges offer relief over others. During the game you will no doubt pass through “No Skate Zones”. This will see a security guard trying to remove you from the premises, humorously by pushing you over as hard as he can possibly muster. This backs up the comical value of the game, as although it is a simulation, the developers also have the fun value imprinted on their minds.
The name of the game is to impress your peers and gain coverage in skating magazines. Once this has been done for a good while, the sponsors will be battling for your signature. Wearing your sponsor’s clothes and apparel will give you extra money if an event is won as well, making it a vital aspect in moving up in the world.
EA have always been spot on with the licenses they gain, and they don’t fail to impress again here. Top skating brands such as Enjoi, Girl and Alien Workshop are all on show and are part of an extremely impressive amount of licensed products. Everything is as it would be in the real skating universe, as decks, wheels, trainers, tops, jeans, and (if you haven’t got the jist by now) everything is licensed, as it should be. This adds to the titles’ appeal immensely, as failing to produce a worthy roster of licenses would be enough to lose the imminent battle of the ‘boarders for many of the sports fans.
The game’s soundtrack has also been put together in top fashion. Expect to be listening to influential artists such as David Bowie, Erik B and Rakim, Motorhead, Nirvana and NWA to name but a few. The inclusion of these superstars is spot on by the developers, as it plays a huge part in producing the style of the title and never really gets boring due to its variation. There is music for all tastes here, making it much more accessible than a single genre soundtrack (ala Flatout Ultimate Carnage).
The presentation of Skate is similar to that of EA’s last outing of the Def Jam franchise. It has real flair, and an artistic style that comes across as “old school” without looking out of place. Many of today’s games have extremely similar presentational values, which makes the direction EA are currently going in much sweeter. To put it simply, the game oozes style from every crevice it can possibly flaunt without going over the top. It’s a credit to EA that they have started producing games that are presented in an interesting and professional style.
“The game oozes style from every crevice”The graphics themselves are gorgeous to look at. The usual real-life approach that the developer so regularly shows now is getting better with each game. The similarities between this and titles such as FIFA, Def Jam and Fight Night are instantly recognisable to a player that is experienced with other EA titles. Your skater looks real in a way you can identify with his movements, smile when he lands a tough trick and wince when he recklessly falls.
The world also looks as good as you would expect, with little to complain about in this department. A range of colours depending on where you are, the usual gloss and shine that we expect and it’s clear to see we have a visual treat on our hands. It’s fantastic stuff, as EA really have thought carefully about the game and put together a package that is so unique and interesting to the player. I wouldn’t be hard pushed to say the quality of development is proberly the best we’ve ever seen from the mega company thus far in the next generation of consoles.
Amongst all this quality production lays a real treat for the hardcore skate fans. Players will be able to create and edit videos of all the tricks they pull off, which can then be uploaded to EA’s “Skate Reel” for the entire world to see. This is a huge incentive for many gamers around the globe as it turns trash talk into the craved bragging rights. Now your skills can be shown to every non-believer that thinks they are the better player. This is sure to bring about some heated debate, proving that the game will see some fierce competition between rivals. The video editor is pretty simple to use, with all the expected features of customisation at your disposal. We know that Skate’s rival, Tony Hawks’ Proving Ground, also includes a video editor. What remains to be seen is which game comes out on top in this, one of many departments.
Xbox Live multiplayer is of course included with the game, and is a great addition to what is a FPS heavy console. Players can join custom “Free Skate” sessions to lark about with friends, or compete in challenges and games taken from the career mode. At times there was a small amount of lag, but the game played nicely on the whole.
The usual leaderboards and experience points are all here, as is a TV channel that enables you to view and download footage of other players. Up to six players can skate it out in the multiplayer mode, making each session an action packed and tense affair. There’s nothing spectacular in this section of the game, just a well-rounded and largely positive online experience.
As this review draws to a close, I sit here eagerly awaiting my next blast on this innovative title. It’s surprising that, in a month that has seen the release of Halo 3 that I have the time, or more so, the cheek to play this game. EA have finally delivered on a concept that is certainly worth a chance if you are looking for something different to most of the titles currently out or being developed. This fresh and exciting approach is one of the most satisfactory formulas to date.
Look behind you Tony, it’s time to get your skates on…
Nine out of ten
- Innovative control system that is hugely satisfying
- Good looking visuals
- This game has style!
- Hundreds of licensed products
- Chance to share videos is a huge plus for the genre
- Slightly frustrating at times
- Range of difficulty is too severe