When you think about skate boarding videogames, you think about one name - Tony Hawk. There is no doubting the fact that ever since Neversoft and
Activision teamed up for the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater on the PSX back in 99, there has probably only been one name more recognizable in sports
based videogames, and that's Madden NFL. THPS was and is popular because it combined hardcore skate boarding with pick-up and play arcade style
gameplay, and it did it so well and dominated
the genre so much that there was virtually no
point in competing titles at all, and as such none came about that even got close to challenging its crown. That is, until now. EA have decided to enter the
long since emptied out pool that is the skate boarding video gaming genre with SKATE, but with a twist, because while the Tony Hawk series
caters towards the mainstream gamer with its arcade-ish style, SKATE is dictated by the laws of the real world.
Based around the fictional city of San Vanelona, SKATE deploys the expected open-ended nature that has become standard in just about every genre
where it makes sense to be standard. This means, as you skate around the city and its four major areas, you can choose what to do and when to do it, and in a
game design decision I love, just about everywhere in the city is accessible from the start. This is mostly appreciated in the game's 'Career' mode, which is
the primary mode on offer, because it is here
where you will actually be able to do stuff other than just skate around randomly, as you do in the 'Free Skate' mode. It is in the 'Career' mode where you
create your skater from a bevy of customizable options ranging from body and face types to clothes and accessories, and embark on your journey to go from
amateur to pro skater, and from pro skater to legend.
To do this, you must work on your 'coverage', or in other words, work on getting your name out there. As you skate around the streets and parks of San
Vanelona, you will come across certain event types that each have their rewards, such as improving your reputation amongst the skating community and earning
sponsorships from the many included licensed brands, to money rewards so you can buy more gear for your skater. The amount of variation on offer with these
types of events is quite plentiful, ranging
from challenges from pro skaters to pull off specific tricks to following other skaters through tricky paths testing your ability to skate downhill quickly.
There arealso other events that are not
related to the game's coverage or money system, such as the "Own The Spot" events, which task you with beating a top score on a particular object
or landmark. Whatever the case, there is always plenty to do in the career mode, and you can what to do, and when to do it.
Advancing the storyline in the career mode is all about reaching the next level of exposure which means photo shoots in magazines, features in videos, and
other achievements of that nature. The game interacts with you via a product placement in the form of a T-Mobile Sidekick, sending you voice recorded
messages when new locations or events of interest become available. This virtual Sidekick device is just one of a few handy features the game has in your
character's 'back pack', which also includes a complete
trick list, a log book featuring a load of stats and information about your current skater, a 'spot bible' detailing all the 'Own The Spot' areas of the
city, the ability to change all your clothing and skating accessories you have already purchased, a map of the entire city allowing you to spawn at any
active event either completed or not, and the ability to access any photos or replays you've created during the course of play. There is also Xbox Live
accessibility within the Sidekick for quick access to playing
online and viewing community created media.
The career mode is definitely where most of the gameplay can be had in SKATE, but there are other modes to keep you busy if developing a skater
isn't your cup of tea. As mentioned already, there is the ability to 'Free Skate' the city but the only difference here besides the lack of career related
events is you are allowed to skate with one of the game's included pro skaters - otherwise the career mode itself is basically just as
open and 'free'. For multiplayer, the game has two modes on offer - the
ability to go on Xbox Live and skate online in either ranked or unranked matches, or the ability to play against friends locally using the 'Party Mode'.
Whatever the mode, the gameplay in SKATE basically remains the same across the board, and it is at the gameplay where SKATE will either turn
you away, or leave you hooked. This is because, as hinted on in the opening paragraph, SKATE has a very heavy emphasis on realism, which is quite a
change from what we've come to know and love in this genre. This heavy emphasis on realism has its positives and negatives, and depending on what type of
gamer you are, you're either going
to love it, or hate it.
Simply put, SKATE is going to be the skate boarding enthusiast's wet dream when it comes to videogames. While series in the past like THPS
have focused on huge air with insane tricks, SKATE is quite the opposite, featuring realistic air, plausible tricks and an bias towards technical
prowess. This is all mainly thanks to the fact the game is played out in a fully featured physics engine with realistic gravity, velocity, momentum,
collision detection etc, creating a very true
to life feel to the game. In other words, things you don't expect to be possible in real life probably won't work in this game either. For example, If your
skateboard nicks some other object in the air during a trick or a grind, then don't expect to land on all four wheels. If you're trying to do a backflip and
you let go of your board before finishing your rotation, expect to eat some asphalt. The physics engine in this game is probably one of the best and most
authentic ever featured in a game regardless