Playstation 3 / Xbox 360
When the first images of Skate appeared in the gaming media approximately one year ago, an entire community covered their mouths, stifled their gasps, and clenched their fists. Their reactions were perfectly justified. In an era where it is impossible to underestimate the power of the screenshot, Skate‘s minimalist but lavishly detailed preliminary images set forums alight.
The fact that these grabs consisted of little more than two feet on a board was largely irrelevant; the cultures were unified in their pursuit of a skating game without 10,000,000,000 point combos, fantastical web-slinging flip tricks, guns, cars, or the always insufferable Steve-O. The promise of a back-to-basics approach to skateboarding which focused on capturing the very essence of the culture and of the technicalities of the sport was met with wild anticipation. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Birdman’s monopoly over videogame skateboarding is in serious jeopardy.
Skate effectively revitalizes the skater’s videogame with a sense of cool that is impossible to ignore. You’ll realize this as soon as Booker T and the MG’s Green Onions begins playing over the impeccably stylized menus, but it’s not until you hit the park that the full extent of EA’s work here can be realized. Skate uses a control system similar to Fight Night’s Total Punch Control, and thankfully it’s just as intuitive. It’s called the ‘Flickit’ system, and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. Flick the analogue stick sharply upwards, you’ll ollie. Gently push it backwards, manual. Forwards, nose manual. Your thumbs effectively become your feet, and though controlling your skater in this manner will seem slightly unwieldy after all those years of single-button Hawk tricks, you’ll be grabbing and grinding in no time.
The perfectly implemented control scheme is one thing, but the real triumph here is the feeling of genuine satisfaction when you finally nail a trick that has previously been bailed several times. It’s testament to the quality of the development and the scope of the environment that even skate veterans will be able to challenge themselves over and over again; each grind, jump and flip requires pinpoint timing.
And with skate, there’s even more reason to do so. You’re able to initialise a 25 second recording session at any point in the game, which once recorded is yours to edit and toy around with as you wish. Once you’ve perfected a trick and sorted out the camera angles, why not upload it to skate.reel? There, you’ll find a flourishing online community in which only the most eye-watering bails and sickest-of-the-sick runs are applauded. Who knows, you might even make trick of the week.
Aesthetically, the game is in a class of its own. The animation, cloth physics and sheer scope of San Vanelona in all its gritty urban glory are sights to behold, but the sounds are equally as impressive; featuring both a stellar soundtrack and sublime in-game audio in which every surface is represented with a unique sound. It’s a shame, then, that the PS3 version features a nagging drop in frame rate, particularly when viewed against the seamless quality of the 360 version, but it’s safe to say that even these issues will do little to pick your jaw up off the floor.
Skate is an achingly satisfying videogame experience, marred only by a slightly limited career mode, but in terms of its representation of the sport as a technical endeavour, the title succeeds with aplomb. For now, it’s simply peerless. Bring it on, Birdman.