EA Games Skate
- Hyper-realistic skateboarding experience, cool online features
- Control scheme takes getting used to, game design could use some polish
Skate has some awesome potential, but they're not at that stage yet. We're willing to bet, that EA will take the skate series and make it better the next time around, especially since they have a good foundation in place. Just keep your fingers crossed that they don't pump one out every year like Madden, which will seriously slow down the progression of gameplay improvements.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
In terms of gameplay, skate isn't exactly revolutionary. In fact, the premise is pretty generic as you play a no-name skater who starts at the bottom and works his way to the top. You travel around a map to hot spots and complete a variety of objectives--do a particular flip trick here, get a set number of points there--to earn cash and fame.
On a technical level, skate also just "skates" by: the graphics are pretty good but not groundbreaking, and the soundtrack features a generic assortment of pop and rap music hits. So what does skate bring to the genre that's new and innovative? The clearest answer lies in the control scheme.
Ollie ollie oxen free
Unlike Tony Hawk, which relies mostly on button combinations, skate utilises a unique control scheme called Flickit. To push off on your board, you hit or hold the X and/or A button. Once you get rolling, you perform tricks by flicking the right analogue stick around in various directions. For ollies, you pull down then push straight up, for kickflips you push up diagonally and pop shuvits require a Street Fighter II fireball motion.
Grab tricks are a little different: the left and right triggers activate your skater's left or right hand for grabs and you can "tweak" the board for different tricks like Christ Airs by moving the right analogue stick in different directions or by pushing the B button.
You really do have to play the game to get a true feel for how the control scheme works. The learning curve is steep, but once you become accustomed to it, it's pretty intuitive. Unfortunately, it isn't perfect. The control input difference between two flip tricks is often negligible on the analogue stick, so you'll often find yourself doing one trick when you meant to do another. Grabs are also insanely difficult because of the finger gymnastics necessary--some of the harder grabs involve multiple fingers, all doing different things.
Skate will also force you to rethink the way you approach virtual skating. You can't simply skate around, magically hop onto stuff and trick out 12 million point combos. Instead, the play mechanics mimic real skateboarding to a fault: you'll need to push and build speed, take proper angles toward obstacles and ollie up at the right time. Get any of these aspects wrong by even a hair and you'll be eating a mouthful of concrete. The result is a brutally unforgiving experience. You'll spend more time resetting your fallen skateboarder than anything else.
Still, skate is a good digital representation of street skating as the Flickit system gives the onscreen action a nice visceral edge. The roster of pro skaters is impressive, and the video and photo sharing via Xbox Live is interesting and forward-thinking. If you're patient with the controls, you will have your moments of fun, and you'll feel an actual sense of accomplishment when you finally nail a difficult trick.
However, it's obvious that skate is still one or two sequels away from achieving its true potential. This is a good first step but the graphics need to be improved upon, the control scheme needs to be tightened up, and little things like the character creation system and the mission types need to be expanded upon.
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