skate

Review

posted 10/16/2007 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: 360
One issue I have is that none of the tasks are all that much fun to play. Your typical mission will have you performing two or three things in the span of thirty seconds. For example, something you'll see a lot is the game asking you to perform at least one grind, one manual and score more than 1,500 points before time runs out. To be fair, this is the kind of thing a real life skater would do (albeit without the incentive of points), but these tasks just feel limiting and can be real frustrating as you have to run them perfectly before you can move on. The fact that there are so many events like this leads to some real burn-out when it comes to the single player experience.

By far the biggest issue facing Skate is not the "realistic" missions or the sometimes awkward controls, instead it's the fact that you can't get off your skateboard. For some reason Electronic Arts thought it was a good idea to keep your character constantly connected to the skateboard. This was not a good idea. Outside of the fact that this doesn't feel very realistic (even real life skaters use their feet to walk every so often), it has a tendency of making everything much more difficult than it should be. There are a lot of challenges where you're supposed to grind a specific rail or something, but lining it up is almost impossible because you're always on your skateboard. What's more, there are plenty of areas that would be much easier to access if you could get off your board, such as buildings that have stairs. Most of the frustration I had with the game came from not being able to get off my board and walk around, there's simply no reason why you shouldn't be able to line-up your tricks and walk up stairs in this game.

Despite these problems, Skate proves to be a solid skateboarding simulator. I think part of the problem is that a certain other franchise has really upped the ante for what to expect out of a single-player skateboarding experience. While I understand that Electronic Arts was trying to keep Skate as realistic as possible, I have to wonder if they've gone too far in one direction and in turn took a lot of the excitement out of the game. After all, at the end of the day this is a game we're playing, the most important thing is that it's fun to play. The story mode is a bit lacking when it comes to exciting things to do, but those who get into the look and feel of the game will no doubt have some fun with this single-player experience.

What saves this game from being just another frustrating simulator is the mostly interesting open world you are thrown into. While this is hardly the first skating game to feature a large open world, Skate does have the distinction of being one of the only skateboarding environments that feels authentic. The city is split up into several different connected locations, each giving off their own unique vibe. You start out in the Suburbs, but before long you will be able to skate around The Res, Old Town and Downtown. The city itself is fairly large and spread out, so you'll have plenty of interesting landmarks to trick off of no matter where you are. The problem with having such a realistic city is that there isn't the opportunity to pull off these huge over-the-top combinations that we see in other skateboarding games. The Tony Hawk world is designed from the ground up to have these large lines that are easy to follow and fun to do tricks on, the world of Skate is just not designed with that in mind.

One thing that is interesting about this take on the skateboarding genre is that you never actually improve your character as you play through the game. One of the staples of the Tony Hawk series is that you are always upgrading your character so that he/she will jump higher, grind better, skate faster and have an easier time pulling off the tricks. But in Skate the way you start is the way you'll ultimately finish. In some ways this is a novel approach, since the only person that improves their skills is the player. But at the same time, it's kind of frustrating that my character can't improve on the simple things (even if it's just a small boost in speed, grinding and pulling off tricks). You can, on the other hand, buy plenty of accessories and clothing items for your character.

When you're not buying accessories and practicing your moves in the single-player mode, you can always jump into an Xbox Live multiplayer game. When playing multiplayer you'll find that the city is split up into bite-size areas, which generally keeps the action a little more intimate and easier to follow. For the most part this isn't an issue, but there are some levels that are just too small for their own good. For example, if you play a six-player game in a residential pool then chances are things are going to devolve into chaos fairly quickly. Levels like that are just not meant to host that many players, and it's a real shame Electronic Arts didn't figure out a work around before shipping the game. The other problem I have with the online mode is that the options feel limited and none of the games are particularly interesting. Don't get me wrong, you can have a lot of fun playing this with your friends, but Skate has a long way to go before it reaches the same heights as some of the competition.
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