Skate Xbox 360
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
The Tony Hawk’s skateboarding games have been very popular over the years. Part of their appeal is how unrealistic everything is in the game. Over the top tricks are performed with a few button presses and no knowledge of skateboarding is required to get the most out of the games. In fact the games are about as far from being a skateboarding simulation as you could wish them to be. Naturally then, there's room for a game that takes a more realistic approach to skateboarding and Skate is the game that fits the bill.
What really sets Skate apart from all other skateboarding games is the control system. The left analogue stick is used to turn your character and you'll press the X button to push forward with the left foot and the A button to push forward with right foot. The RT essentially acts as your character's right hand and performs a right hand grab and crouch whilst the LT acts as your character's left hand and performs a left hand grab and crouch. The B button is used to brake. The key to the control system is the right analogue stick because with it, by itself and in combination with the LT and RT buttons, you'll pull most of the tricks. To do a simple Ollie you'll push the right stick down and then back up. A Pop-Shuvit is performed by pushing the right analogue stick down and then making a semi-circular movement to either the left or the right. Kickflips are performed by pressing the right stick down and then pushing it up sharply in a diagonal fashion. There are many more tricks that can be performed with the right stick and the aforementioned tricks are just a small sample of what can be done. You don't have to press a button to grind. How you land on a rail or edge will determine what kind of grind is done. It's rather difficult to put into words just how natural this control system feels and once you're past the initial learning curve, it all becomes very intuitive.
The modes on offer in Skate are Career, Online (supports four players on the PS3 and six on the 360), Free Skate and Party Play. There is also a tutorial that you can take or you can choose to play through the tutorial when you begin a new career. The Career mode begins with your skater being hit by a bus and miraculously being put back together by wacky hospital staff. At this point you'll create your character and head off into the game's tutorial (this can be skipped although it's not recommended if you haven't played through it prior to beginning the Career mode). You'll skate around different locations in the fictional city of San Vanelona as you bid to become a pro skater. There are quite a few areas to skateboard around including some areas where skateboarding is prohibited and you'll incur the wrath of the security guards should you be spotted skateboarding here. You'll have to complete a variety of challenges (getting film footage and photos of you in action are just some of the challenges) in the Career mode as you to attempt to get coverage in the two skateboarding magazines. Unlike the Tony Hawks games, your character won't actually improve as a skateboarder. Every objective you complete will be because of your skill not because of there being any artificial skill boosts to your character. The challenges in the game are a little uneven and the difficulty doesn't ramp in a smooth fashion. This causes the game to be frustrating at points. The Pro Challenges in particular can be really testing.
Whilst the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions both look great, you're going to want to go with the Xbox 360 version if you have a choice. The reason for this is purely down to the frame rate. The Xbox 360 version remains fairly smooth throughout but the frame rate on the PlayStation 3 version is simply a mess. There are times when the frame rate plummets down into single digits effectively giving you a temporary slideshow. Such moments of slowdown aren't frequent enough to do a great deal of harm to the experience but the temporary stuttering you have to endure with the PlayStation 3 version is more than enough to make anyone, who has the option, to go for the Xbox 360 version. The PlayStation 3 version also has a more aliased look to it whereas in the Xbox 360 things look a little sharper.
Skate does offer subtitles but you'll have to go into the display option to enable them. The subtitles in the game don't have any character portraits or names placed alongside them. They are simply displayed in white text. The game's cutscenes are subtitled, the tutorials are subtitled and any other comments that are made are subtitled. Not every word that is spoken is subtitled though. There is nothing important amongst the omissions but it would have been preferable to have every item of speech subtitled. You'll always be aware of your objectives and on the whole the game is fine for deaf gamers.
Skate, in many ways is a very ambitious game. The developers have gone for a more realistic approach and have avoided taking the simplistic approach that the Tony Hawk's games have taken for years. There's more of a learning curve here but once you're happy with the controls they actually start to feel more natural than any we've come across in a previous skateboarding game. The game is let down by not having a very engaging Career mode. Those looking for a skateboarding title that's much more realistic and less over the top should really get their hands on Skate.