The Tony Hawk series has been king of the hill in the skateboarding game genre. Only a handful of games have ever tried to take on Activision’s beastly franchise, and none have succeeded. It seemed like that the only way for people to geth their skate on was with the one dominant franchise out there.
So leave it to a company who knows about dominant franchises to try and take down Tony Hawk; good old Electronic Arts and their new title, skate. for the Xbox 360 and PS3. It’s way too early to know if this new game will finally give Tony Hawk a run for its money, but from the impressions the demo gave me, it stands a chance.
The first thing you notice about this game is that the camera is placed at a new vantage point, closer to the ground and off-center from the skater, rather than behind your character like in Tony Hawk. This new vantage point actually helps you feel a little closer to the character on screen, and it’s a move that I’m fine with seeing implemented. The graphics have been given that same “realism” polish of grays and a faded colors that seem to be everywhere nowadays, but the game still looks good on the graphics front.
Controls, too, are radically different. Rather than pressing/mashing the buttons like you might have in Tony Hawk, skate. opts for new “Flickit” controls. Basically, this means using the left analog stick to control the skater’s body and the right analog stick to control what you do with the board. The left and right triggers control each arm, allowing you to perform grab tricks on which ever side of the board you choose, while the X and A buttons control the feet and speed. For example, you might press X repeatedly to gain speed, move the right control stick down then flick it up to ollie, and then press the left trigger while pressing the left analog stick right to do a 360 Indy. Or to do a kickflip, you’ll have to pull down then roll right to both ollie and flip the board. It’s a radically different way to play a skateboarding game, and it’s not going to be easy for those who are used to just pressing buttons, but once you get about fifteen minutes into skate., it feels pretty natural. The only bad news so far is that manuals and lip tricks are in the game, but they’re not the easiest to pull off.
The game play itself, which is mission-based, doesn’t seem too different from Tony Hawk, though the missions aren’t like “Grind 5 cows!” or “Do a 1080 spin over the giant pit of alligators then transfer over the freeway!” EA seems to instead let Tony Hawk handle the arcade-like missions.
If you’re looking for something new in skateboarding games that doesn’t suck, skate. just might be what you’re looking for. It’s not going to replace the Tony Hawk series right away, but if EA doesn’t screw this up, it should provide the first reliable competition to Activision’s long-running franchise.