STAFF REVIEW of Skate 2 (Xbox 360)


Saturday, January 31, 2009.
by Adam Dileva

Skate 2 Box art When the original Skate was released, it became very popular very quickly due to it trying something new and risky for the genre. The Flick-it controls changed how we played skateboarding games and was a very welcome refresh for most. Also being able to somewhat edit your own replays an upload them for anyone to see was quite exciting. Now with Skate 2 here, many are wondering if EA Black Box has taken the same risk and added a whole new slew of reinventions and things for us gamers to play with. The short answer is yes and no.

We have been given a sequel that does add some new welcome elements such as being able to get off our skateboard and move objects around to make that perfect spot, but also new frustrations with traffic, pedestrians, and the lack of filters for replay films. EA had a lot to live up to with this release and with the original Skate being so fresh, it was almost impossible to get the same feeling this time around. Not that this is a bad thing, as skating around is still just as fun and albeit much easier and quicker should you want it to be.

After a very short while, the campaigns story really wont matter as its the same used become a pro and famous while getting on magazine covers and videos routine weve played many times before on top of taking back the city for skaters everywhere. The city has changed drastically and has now become New San Vanelona and most of it is unrecognizable for the most part, so its a fresh area with all new spots to find and trick off of.

As you begin the game, you will create your skater from the get go, and now being able to choose a female if wanted is a nice addition, but the character creator in general is pretty limited to make someone look decently unique other than choosing different clothing. From here you begin your journey for fame by entering competitions for street and vert, racing in downhill death races, try some challenges directly from pros themselves, work your way towards impressing Thrasher and other Skate mags, and try many other types of challenges along the way. A very welcome addition is the ability to take on challenges at your own leisure in a non linear way whoever you see fit. Being able to access your map at any time and directly warp to a challenge is very convenient and quick, but I found it making me not exploring the new city as much as I would have if I had to skate to every spot since it was just too easy and quick.


Since the majority of the city is open up completely from the very beginning, you can freely skate anywhere and find specific spots to own and set a high score for everyone to see. You are now even able to get points at any time for bailing hard enough to cause massive body damage and broken bones. This Thrasher Hall of Meat will reward you for the bigger and nastier bails should you not land that huge trick. Being able to slightly control your movement mid-air and doing different poses pre-bail makes it quite amusing when you start to play this mode competitively and will surely cause some cringing among friends.

Previously in the original Skate, if you found yourself at the bottom of a staircase, you had to somehow find a skate-able path up to the top and this always wasnt the easiest or quickest thing to do. Now with the ability to get off your board, this makes traversing some areas much easier and quicker with less frustrationin one way. While its great that you can now run up a flight of stairs, it seems testing of the on-foot controls werent finished. Your movement is as agile as a tank and it is almost embarrassingly awkward to use. This isnt even taking into the fact that you cant walk backwards or jump over anything waist high. It has flaws, but in the end, getting off and dealing with the horrible foot controls to quickly get up a set of stairs is something I can somewhat forgive.

Now that your skater is able to walk around freely with their board, this also means that they can move specific objects around the world freely. Dont like how that rail is aiming towards a wall, what if you moved it so you could grind it over that dumpster over there? Now you can move basic objects like rails, benches, trash cans, ramps, dumpsters and such in any fashion you want to create that ultimate spot, though you do need to grab the items at specific hold spots. Some objectives you are given are unable to be completed unless you move that ramp closer or change the angle of certain rails. Its an interesting addition that I believe many will use to create some ultimate spots; and with the ability to make your spot then set a top score, you can also then upload it and share it online for everyone to try. The only issue I had with the create-a-spot feature was that the controls for actually making the spot (not arranging the rails etc) are very clunky. You need to set the high, then width, then move it, all separately. Its a minor issue, but I find myself keep having to read the UI of how to move and change it rather than it being intuitive.


A huge annoyance with being able to move objects in this way is that since you are able to move them yourself, any skaters that bail on or around your new spot is able to push objects out of the way and ruin your whole setup in a few moments. Should you have remembered to stick the objects where you want them for easy reset should this happen, it isnt a big deal, but I guarantee itll happen eventually and you will have to restart all over making that spot exactly how you wanted it. An anchor option so objects were permanent unless you choose otherwise would have been much less frustrating.

While skaters ruining youre newly made sweet spot can be an annoyance, I found nothing was more aggravating than pedestrians being able to litter. This sounds like nit picking, but this litter isnt just for show, it will actually cause you to bail if you hit the trash with your board. Stay in one area long enough and youll see how many people in New San Vanelona dont like to use trash cans.

The replay editor returns this year and some new features are in like new camera angles and slightly more options for editing are in, but filters from the original Skate are omitted for some reason. The video editor still feels very clunky and its not very simple to use quickly but being able to do camera transitions do make the videos look very cool in the end. Sadly you are still unable to cut multiple clips and put them together into one large video, its still just the last few minutes of your footage or so that you can play with at one time.

Having to get up a large hill in the first Skate was quite tedious just holding the button to push yourself up the hill. Now if you get behind a vehicle you are able to hold the shoulder button and skitch yourself a free ride. This also works for going downhill should you want to get some massive speed for a huge trick off of something up ahead. Also like the previous game, you can set session markers anywhere you want and come back to them at any time if you want to retry from somewhere specific. This has slightly been improved and you are no longer forced to wait for it to load should you skate too far and want to restart; its much more smooth and quicker at loading in general.

The repertoire of moves itself is much more robust this time and you are able to have more control over your move set in theory. Since everything is mapped to the right stick with tweaks and grabs being done with the triggers and face buttons, it can be somewhat difficult to pull off a specific move since the variance between two different moves can be a fraction of a few degrees while flicking the stick. Once you do get the hang of the new move set list, it feels very rewarding now especially since you are now able to do footplants and handplants among many others. The new slew of moves can be confusing, so luckily you are able to pause the game and actually see a trick guide in-game of how to perform any given move and what it looks like as well.


As true to the previous game, the audio in general is quite superb. You can hear how your board sounds on different surfaces very true to life and are able to hear each wheel independently if you have the proper surround sound. The voicing is decent from the actual skaters themselves, though I found the soundtrack pretty unforgettable and just used music from my hard drive.

EA has seemed to have taken notice of popular features of their other games for their online modes; notably Burnout Paradise here, as now Skate 2 boasts the same cooperative play style on top of the previous modes. So with this new co-op play brings some fun and frustrating challenges such as all players needing to reach a set score before time ends, or everyone grinding a single rail at the same time. Sounds like its not too terribly difficult, but these can be quite difficult to complete, especially if you have someone in the party that isnt quite on par skill wise. What can make these challenges even harder is that some peoples scores wont count or will reset if they skate too slowly or bail. On top of all this, not every objective is clearly described on what to do or marked easily. The choices of objectives themselves is pretty limited, so here is to hoping for future DLC content to add more challenges soon.

There are many other online options such as downhill death-racing, trick events like the classic S.K.A.T.E. and others, but the most fun to be had for myself was the Hall of Meat mode where players take turns in progression to see who can bail the biggest and hardest for the most points. Players that are watching can then vote if was it anywhere from bad to awesome and does a good job of spectators paying attention.

The first skate was taking a big chance when it released with its fresh controls and new ideas. This time around it feels like Skate 2 wasnt trying to take any big chances with anything. This isnt to say Skate 2 is faulted for not trying anything revolutionary this time, but it just didnt feel as fresh overall.

There are some odd and frustrating design choices this time around such as pedestrians that just seem to know to get in your way at the worst possible time, or having them litter causing you to wipe unjustly. Also having no ability to freely edit clips together to make a true skate reel was disappointing, but for even having these faults, Skate 2 is quite the entertaining game, even for casual players that wont ever complete every objective.

With the Tony Hawk series being on hiatus this year, choosing Skate 2 will have little or no regrets. Hopefully when the next iteration releases, EA will learn from Skate 2s shortcomings and once again feel fresh and new. Skate 2 is worthy of the purchase and will keep you entertained for as long as you allow it. Creating new spots and sharing them; along with the Hall of Meat is more than enough fun to warrant the purchase alone regardless of its faults.


Suggestions:
Add more features to the replay editor, not take away. Actual facial animations would be a plus, espcially now since bails are a larger part of the game.


Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.8 / 10
Sound: 8.4 / 10

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