|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Black Box||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 21, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-6||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
August 4, 2008 - The first Skate took many by surprise when it burst onto the scene last year. In a genre that had been dominated by Tony Hawk games for nearly a decade, there didnt seem to be a lot of room for newcomers. By taking a decidedly different approach than its competitor, Skate had almost everyone but Tony touting that it was grrreat. With the Tony Hawk franchise taking a year off to rethink some things, Skate 2 looks to take this opportunity to build upon the immense success of the first title and to further cement EAs skateboarding series as a serious contender.
Players will be able to skate the streets of the reimagined city of New San Vanelona in this upcoming title. While it is still technically the same city from the first game, much has changed in the five years that separate these two games events. After some sort of disaster destroyed much of San Vanelona, the city was inexplicably rebuilt with better skateboarding in mind. This results in a somewhat familiar yet mostly fresh backdrop with plenty of surprises. The biggest change comes in two completely new areas, a wooded mountain region as well as a waterfront section.
The waterfront area comes loaded with tons of benches, ramps, and rails that can be used to rack up some fairly elaborate tricks. The waterfront is also an incredibly beautiful location, with some great architecture and blue tiles immediately demanding your eyes attention. The mountains seemed slightly less impressive visually but easily made up for this by providing some excellent rural skateboarding opportunities. Aside from grinding guide rails and picnic tables, the mountain area was also home to an all new event that was recently shown for the first time.
While the name for the event type wasnt given, this event looks to directly attack yet another Tony Hawk franchise. For anyone who has happened to play Tony Hawks Downhill Jam, this event should seem rather familiar. Players were able to race down the mountainside against three opponents, with the fastest finisher collecting the lions share of a previously placed bet. Momentum and speed are extremely important in this event, with tricks and style becoming mostly an afterthought. The faster you careen down the mountainside, the harder it becomes to land tricks properly. Fortunately, the racing felt rather natural and the course provided a plethora of alternative routes and shortcuts just waiting to be discovered by observant players.
Skate 2s environments, while newly redesigned, may not be completely finished. This is thanks largely to a couple new additions. This game will allow players to get off of their board and explore the world on foot for the first time. The walking controls were noticeably clunky, but this game is still fairly early in development and will likely address this issue. While on foot, players will be able to walk up stairs and, more importantly, set up their own tricks. By using the Grab the World button (Xbox 360=RB and PS3=R1) players can take hold of just about anything that isnt bolted down and position it in any way they wish. This allows for complete customization of skate parks and for some really interesting and ingenious tricks. Thankfully, after youve gotten everything situated just how you like it, most areas in the game will also remain the way you leave them.
Whether in a custom skate park or just skating around the prebuilt New San Vanelona, players are also given some new tricks to further spice up the gameplay. The Grab the World button doubles as a handplant when near an edge that can be grabbed. Players are also given the ability to do hippie jumps and foot plants, which effectively double the possible tricks from the original Skate. Hippie jumps have players leaping from their board to clear objects such as benches and rails, then landing safely (in theory) back on their board. These are performed by pressing the two feet buttons together, while holding and releasing these buttons will make for a larger leap. Successfully pulling off a hippie jump is fun but watching the bail animations caused by messing up the timing is also incredibly entertaining.
Foot plants are also fun to perform and really add depth and style to this games tricks. When doing any trick while grabbing your board, pressing either of the foot buttons will cause your character to plant the corresponding foot on the ground and then push off for just a little more airtime. This can help you finish some tricks that would otherwise result in slamming your head off of the pavement. Foot plants also serve as a highly stylized combo link for many long tricks. An example would be grinding a rail, jumping to a picnic table, foot planting from the table to clear another rail, and finishing the trick by landing on a ramp.
Although it is still early in development, Skate 2 is already looking fairly beautiful and mostly functions well. There was some noticeable pop-in visible in many of the environments backgrounds, but this will likely get addressed by the time this game reaches the market. Running at sixty frames per second, the game controlled smoothly and is host to some impressive lighting effects to boot. The games camera has also received some attention, with the original angle being slightly tweaked and a more traditional third-person perspective has been added as an option for players.
While the game is likely a ways off from being released and EA is remaining silent about several aspects, Skate 2 is still shaping up rather well. It already plays great (minus the on-foot exploration), looks fantastic, and has many interesting additions that act as icing on the cake. With the next Tony Hawk game being noticeably absent this year, Skate 2 is poised to completely dominate the skateboarding genre of games for the foreseeable future. By the time Tony makes it back to the market, the battle for the throne may already be all but over if this game is being used as a measuring stick.
CCC Freelance Writer