Sooo Gnarly, Dude…
When Skate was released last year, it revolutionized the skating genre. The developer, Black Box, decided to go with a more realistic approach than the arcade-style seen in other games. Skate 2 feels very similar to the first game, but the developer made some additions this time around. Some of the features include double the amount of tricks, skitching (hanging on to cars to gain more speed), the ability to create a female character, get off the board and run, and even move objects to create better situations for bigger tricks. Skate 2 is even better than last year’s outing, but it is not without problems.
The gameplay is very similar to the first, so for the most part, the game will feel largely the same, except for one major change and that is the ability to get off your board and move objects. Moving objects adds a whole new dimension to the game, because now you can create jumps and grind spots that you could not reach before. While I was playing, I came across a giant stairwell that was impossible to gap without extra help, so I found a couple ramps and a box. I placed the box on the ground, lined up the first ramp, and then slid the second ramp on top of the box and therefore created a much bigger ramp. I then positioned myself at the top of the road, grabbed onto a car to gain more speed (also a new feature), and finally went off the jump. After several tries, I gapped the stairwell. It was a challenge, but it was made all the sweeter and more satisfying through the shaping of the environment.
However, one very annoying aspect of the game would have to be the walking around. For some reason Black Box did not find it necessary to refine the off-the-board controls. Walking around not only feels terrible, it looks even worse. That’s because they are only making use of digital controls, meaning the character’s movement is extremely limited. This is especially annoying when you consider how important this new feature is to the game.
There are four different gameplay modes, which include Career, Free Skate, Party Play, and online. Career mode’s focus is to re-establish a skate scene and fight back against the police. The game starts with the main character leaving prison. Over the five years spent in prison, San Vanelona has changed from the skate paradise that players may remember from the first game. Instead, the city is now called New San Vanelona, and it’s been rebuilt by a mega-corporation bent on keeping skaters out of the city. Before players start their careers, they can edit their character to look how they want; players can also choose a female character unlike the last game. There are a lot of different skate brands that players can choose from. There are also many different kinds of shoes, pants, and jackets. Although, when it comes to choosing facial features, there are not nearly as many options. I had difficulty getting the character to resemble me. In fact, my X360 avatar looks a lot more like me than my Skate 2 character. Within the editing mode, players will also have the option to pick their stance (goofy or regular) and even pick hand gestures, which are controlled by the D-pad. Another feature worth mentioning is the graphics creator, which lets you create your own graphics that can be downloaded and used on shirts, hats, and boards.
There are a few different types of missions within career mode. The four main missions are Career, Races, Street, and Tranny Contests. The Career missions will have you do certain tricks over obstacles like gaping over a waterfall while they take pictures. The Races are probably the most fun, because they are fast and a really great way of making money. You have to put down some cash before you race. The maximum bet is $2,500, and with four different racers, the winner will take home $10,000. My only complaint about this mode is that it is too easy, you will always win; races are rarely close. To top it off, if you don’t win, you will get the option to retry without penalty. Money can be used for buying more merchandise or property. Similarly, street contests also have players competing against computer opponents. There are three rounds, and players will acquire points at the end of each round depending on their performance. In order to win, they must complete the competition with the most points. Snakestyle contests are very similar except players can only advance if they are in the top two. These contests too cost a small fee.
Free skate lets you skate around New San Vanelona. While in Free Skate you can do whatever you want, but none of the challenges available in the career mode show up here. Party Play is a lot of fun, and you can play with up to four players locally. There are three different events to choose. You can pick from Spot Battle, S.K.A.T.E, or Hall of Meat. Spot Battle will have players take turns trying to perform the highest scoring trick; if they bail or crash, their turn will be over. In S.K.A.T.E mode, players must avoid earning the letters by copying flip tricks successfully. They can give letters to others by setting difficult flip tricks to copy. Hall of Meat is probably the most entertaining mode of the three. Players will take turns trying to achieve massive wipe-outs. This mode is fun because it sets up some very funny moments.
There are few different modes available for online play too. There is Freeskate Online, Skate Reel, Create-a-Spot Browser, as well as the usual Ranked Match, Unranked Match, and Ranked Leaderboards. The main online mode is Freeskate. Each location has its own unique set of freeskate activities.
Players will have to work with other online skaters to complete the various tasks. These tasks include Group Accumulation, Trick List, Survival, Gap Challenge, Simultaneous Trick, and Tag the Spots. The Skate Reel will allow you to upload footage for others to see. You can show off your great skills, or some really crazy wipe outs. Create-a-spot will let players upload spots that they created and also download other popular spots created by other members of the community. The Ranked mode has the same gameplay modes from Party Play. These include Spot battle, Best Trick, Jam, S.K.A.T.E, Death Race, and Hall of Meat. Players’ objective in Jam is to outscore all opponents before the timer expires. Death Race has players racing head-to-head. The objective in this mode is to get to the finish line before time runs out. Players will rank up and earn bonus cash every time they complete an event.
The controls are very good. They are the same, for the most part, as the last iteration. A couple of the buttons got shifted around to compensate for the off-the-board function, though. Accepting challenges got moved to the Up button on the D-pad and off-the-board function is the Y/Triangle button. The A/X buttons are mapped to right foot push and X/Square are mapped to left foot push, while the B/O button is the brake. Flickit controls are still the same as last year. They are responsive, but they are marked by a very steep learning curve. As such, I feel this game will be difficult for the average player. It is not a game you can just jump into. Also, for some reason, touching water is like falling into lava or acid. Any attempt to touch water, even while of your board, will instantly reset the character a few feet back. This is very annoying. I can’t imagine it would be too difficult for the developer to implement swimming.
The visuals are good. New San Vanelona is huge; it takes about ten minutes to get from one end to the other. The city is also very detailed. There are lots of pedestrians, security guards, and skaters everywhere. Cars are everywhere as well. Players be warned! New San Vanelona drivers are terrible and will not stop for you. The textures look great too. There are a couple problems though. I noticed the framerate drops every once in a while. It is noticeable when there are many cars and skaters all in the same scene. There are virtually no loading times except when setting up a marker and you get too far away from it – there were times where it took 15 seconds to teleport back to where the marker was set. Also, I really hate not being able to control the camera angle while I skate. It can often gets stuck behind objects and it sometimes the angle makes it too difficult to see an upcoming ramp. This is not always a problem, but it is worth mentioning.
The sound is also good. The city really sounds alive! Ambient effects such as car horns, police sirens, as well as pedestrians talking help make the game feel realistic. Also, everything sounds clean and crisp, especially the skating effects. Hitting the ground has never sounded better. The music is great in Skate 2, as it sports a really diverse sound track. There are multiple genres of music, so there is something for everyone. The game also includes a music player that will allow you to select the tracks that you like and turn off tracks that you do not like. The dialog does get annoying after the first ten minutes, however. I found myself mimicking it and making fun of it. It sounds a lot like this: “That was dope man!” or “Sooooo sick, yo”. It gets old very quick, becoming very repetitive after a few hours.
Skate 2 is a great game, and, in fact, it is the best skating game to date, so I recommend it to everyone. This game is very successful because it makes players want to go skate. I think the game will click with current skaters even more. It does have some problems, but besides the running controls and the steep learning curve, there is not a better skating game out there. So go out, buy it, play it, and enjoy another great game from Black Box.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
Graphics look good, but the camera system could use some work. 3.9 Control
Skating controls work well, but they are challenging. Walking controls are an absolute disaster, however. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music and sound effects are very good. The music player is a great feature. 4.8 Play Value
Gameplay is fun, and the ability to move the objects and setup jumps will have you coming back until the next release. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.