There’s no doubt about it. Skateboarding is one of the most difficult sports on the planet. Not only do you have to practice even simple tricks hundreds of times to get them dialed-in, there’s also a little thing called fear that comes into play. Every time you fail while skateboarding you pay with a trip to the pavement, and playing the first Skate could be almost as painful at times. You tried something a thousand times before you landed it, but when you did, the feeling was incredible. The problem is that most players aren’t that patient, and Skate 2 is here to grind the fine line between realism and fun once again.
Like most extreme sports games, the career mode is the conduit that allows you to unlock most of the content in the game. You begin by creating your own shredder using a system that’s vastly improved from the first outing. Then you’re thrust into the story, which follows your skater as he gets out of the joint and attempts to reclaim San Vanelona as one of the world’s premiere skate spots.
As you might imagine, this is accomplished by meeting up with pros scattered around the city and completing the objectives they give you. The development team has listened to a lot of the complaints about the first Skate, and has dropped many of the trick-specific missions in favor of getting particular scores at certain spots through any means necessary. You still have to play SKATE from time to time, but you’re asked to nail a specific trick or series of tricks far less frequently. This is undoubtedly a good thing.
The rest of the objectives revolve around winning downhill races, getting shots for Thrasher and Skateboarding Magazine, avoiding the cops while racking up points, and scoring sponsorships from dozens of real companies by winning contests. You can use the map system to immediately warp to any objective, cutting down on tedious travel time. It’s a tried-and-true way to set up a career mode.
The list of modes is rounded out by free skate where you can spend as much time at any particular spot as you want, and party play, where up to three friends can jump on your system and compete in three different challenges. It’s all fairly standard stuff.
Once you head online things open up a bit. Free skating was the big hit from the first game and it’s returned. You can set up cooperative challenges with your friends, select particular spots to session, or create spots yourself and then share them or download the work of virtual riggers. The skate reel option has returned, allowing you to edit your best clips and upload them for others to check out. Not much has been upgraded, though. You still can’t edit multiple clips together and set them to music, which was a feature in the last Tony Hawk game released in 2007.
There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about Skate 2’s design, but there are plenty of ways to put your plank—and noggin—in action.
Playing Skate 2 is really a double-edged sword. On the one side you have undoubtedly the most realistic skateboarding game ever made, and on the other side, the game is filled with minor annoyances that eventually add up.
There are many more tricks in Skate 2. Considering how few were included in the first game it’s hard to call it a compliment, but this time around we get inverts, no-complies, and bonelesses. All of these are essential to the skateboarding experience, so they’re great additions if a little tardy. You can also skitch, or hitch a ride on the back of vehicles to get someplace quicker.
With the exception of skitching, all of these new moves are performed by pressing a modifier button on the shoulder of the controller. This may sound like an easy task, but it’s made difficult by the fact that you must start by smacking a straight ollie, then pressing the modifier button, and then performing a movement with the right analog stick. Ollieing without performing a kickflip, heelflip, or shove-it is a lot more difficult than it sounds when you’re worried about timing, speed, and angle.
It’s an unfortunate bi-product of the flick-it control scheme. It’s a fair trade, though. We still prefer replicating the motion of a real board with a stick rather than pressing button combinations, and it’s nailed once again in Skate 2. It’s still difficult to do the exact trick you want every single time, which can become infuriating during some objectives. Literally, the difference between doing a heel flip and a varial heel flip is about two degrees on the analog stick. Yet the alternative seems like dinosaur tech at this point.
Despite plaintive cries, it’s still far too difficult to keep your speed while skating vert. You have to pump up and down on the left analog stick as you ride the transitions, and the slightest deviation to either side will cause your rider to turn. In the end, you spend more time worrying about going straight to keep speed than you do performing tricks.
Another new gameplay element is the ability to get off your board. This allows you to do a number of things like walk up a set of stairs instead of trying to find a way around them, or grab and manipulate objects to create your own spots. A few missions are tied into creating spots, and moving things around is intuitive and easy. When you’re off your board, the controls couldn’t be any worse. Your skater moves like a tank and just lining up with an object to move it around can prove to be a challenge. It’s still better than not being able to do it at all.
Bails looked awful in last year’s game and the developers have attempted to fix it by making it a part of the gameplay called the hall of meat. Now you can essentially control your bails—attempting to make them as painful and flamboyant as possible. There are even some goals built around it. It’s a silly inclusion that comes off more like an attempt to mask a prior issue than provide something compelling.
By now you’ve surmised that Skate 2 has plenty of gameplay issues. Yet, when you’re on the board, cracks in the pavement are clacking by, and you’re preparing to rip a front side blunt slide down a kinked rail, almost all is forgiven. The manipulation of speed and momentum, coupled by the rush that you get while really skating has been faithfully replicated once again. It’s when you start trying to tackle the game’s objectives that it starts to lose its shine. If you play it simply as a skateboarding simulation without a care for the structure it’s a total blast.
Skate really set the new standard for presentation in skateboarding games last year, but it’s starting to get a little rough around the edges. The engine hasn’t received many, if any, upgrades. It has a somewhat washed-out look, and character models emote poorly as they take a long stroll down uncanny valley. The animation is absolutely incredible. You feel every bump, slope, rail, and bail as your skater flails about with lifelike reactions to each trick and object. It’s truly amazing. If only the bail animations were fixed from last year. The default camera can provide issues as it obscures things in front of you and swings from side to side. We recommend experimenting with all of them to find something that works for you.
On the auditory front, the voice acting isn’t too bad considering it’s performed by the real skaters, but the music is awful. With the exception of a few songs pulled from the old Bones Brigade videos, the soundtrack is entirely forgettable. You can use custom soundtracks in the Xbox 360 version, but they’ve been omitted in the PlayStation iteration for some reason.
Just like the first game, Skate 2 is a lot more enjoyable if you just look for spots to work from every conceivable angle and go to town. It’s when you attempt to actually complete the game’s career mode that things start to bog down as you’re forced to endure the finicky, imprecise trick controls, awkward on-foot movement, repetitive mission objectives, and god awful racing. But when you’re on-board, cruising down the sidewalk looking for an edge to grind or slide it really comes into its own. If you’re a goal-oriented player then rent first, but if you’re open to gleaning fun without any set of rules, pick up Skate 2 and start ripping.
Image Source: Electronic Arts