To say that there has been a monopoly on the Skateboarding video game scene over the last decade could be an understatement. I don’t recall an actual competitor to Activision’s Tony Hawk franchise since the original Tony Hawk was released on the Playstation. But of course what comes up has to come down sooner or later. And developer EA tries to rain on Tony Hawk’s parade with their new game entitled Skate, hoping to take gamers where no other skateboarding game had gone before. But did EA live up to its big words? Read our full review of Skate for the Xbox 360 to find out!
After the announcement of Skate, many where wondering whether it would have enough to really compete with the all-conquering Tony Hawk franchise. For one, the Tony Hawk series has a faithful following, one that has really grown with each sequential edition. And although the series hasn’t necessarily sat all that well with the gaming press (including myself), it has still sold well and dominated a market that really hasn’t been tapped into by anyone outside of Tony Hawk. So when EA came out with guns rolling ready to take on Tony Hawk, we knew EA meant business, but did it all translate into a new skating experience?
Let’s just jump right into our review of Skate for the Xbox 360 and begin with the controls, which are extremely different than what we have seen in the Tony Hawk franchise. They actually does go along with what EA has been doing with many of its games, and that is focus on the analog sticks. EA calls it the flick-it stick, which really mirrors the body of your skater and tries to provide a very fluid feel of your skater and actually manages to do so in quite amazing fashion. The controls allow you to really mold tricks more effectively than what you would normally find in a Tony Hawk title. The controls do take some time to get used to; it is still weird at times not to use any face buttons, but the fact that the game manages to successfully use the analog stick to make a very successful control scheme for the game.
The controls are really the core to the entire experience, because they stopped Skate from being just a Tony Hawk clone, which is something I think any competitor had to do in order to be successful against the franchise. And with this new flick-it control you’re going away from the Tony Hawk franchise, not only in the control scheme but it also changes the way you look at a skateboarding video game. So for Skate, you’re no longer going to putting together unthinkable combos and tricks, but instead Skate goes more for a simulation style approach that gives a real new and fresh feel to Skate that many skateboarding fans have been looking for, for a long time now.
So moving away from the great skating mechanics, let’s get into the gameplay of Skate, which really manages to do well in the games career mode. In fact I found that EA really managed to grab a huge amount of content in its career mode. What I liked was the progression of the game - you start with some pretty simple parks and tasks and you move your way up to the X-Games, which is just an amazing experience. I however didn’t like the fact that your skater never really progresses in terms of his own skills. You’re the same skater at the start as you are in the end.
Skate also has online mode which can be played in ranked matches and unranked matches playing in a few different modes. Online was a bit sketchy in terms of lag; I had a few games that were flawless, and then a few that were plagued with lag. Unfortunately Skate is a title that really doesn’t play well with lag, and it can cause the game to be more unplayable than other titles that can deal with lag.
In the end, Skate is just an amazing first outing for EA, as it has just an amazing presence that starts the moment you open the box. EA manages to really grab a skate feel that has never been done by the Tony Hawk franchise. The game brings everything together in such a smooth package that its hard to really have anything to complain about. Skate just is such a smooth ride and such a fresh breath of air that I have to say EA’s Skate is one of the most surprising titles thus far in 2007.
Visually it seems as though many developers have gotten really smooth at making visuals for the Xbox 360, and Skate is one of those titles that just is just gorgeous. Whether the game is in slow motion, or you’re going full pelt down the big ramp at the X-Games, everything seems very smooth. The character models are mostly good, but they are the one area of the visuals that just looked a bit flat and sometimes like dead-men walking. In general the visuals of Skate are great but still leave room for improvement.
I think what was most impressive about Skate was that it was just such a different feel to Skateboarding over what we have seen in the Tony Hawk franchise. I don’t want to say that the Tony Hawk franchise is bad, because it has done some amazing things for gaming in general, but Skate does things differently and it actually works beautifully. For those Tony Hawk fans that want to remain faithful, I would say give Skate a try. It might not be Tony Hawk, but it is a fantastic experience that I have enjoyed from start to finish.
Skate is one of those games that managed to really surprise me this year, especially in a year where there haven’t been any big surprises. Skate manages to really come out with all engines firing, and manages to make a great skateboarding game. If you own an Xbox 360 and enjoy skateboarding, there is no reason why you shouldn’t check out Skate, it is that good.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.