Developer: EA Black Box
Release Date: 2007
EA is being disturbingly honest about Skate. They’re going after the Tony Hawk series’s chunk of the market, and they don’t care who knows it. If they were being any more overt, everyone at Activision and Neversoft would wake up tomorrow with a horse’s head in their beds.
At the very least, though, they’re doing it in an interesting way. Anyone who’s played a Tony Hawk game knows that it’s both cheerfully ridiculous at times, like when you’re doing massive grind combos across a telephone wire, and capable of tying both your hands together in massive knots.
Skate, by comparison, is fairly realistic and moderately intuitive. When you play, your left thumbstick controls your skater and your right thumbstick controls the board. Thus, just about every trick you could possibly do with a skateboard is done by moving the sticks. Successfully grinding is a question of timing a jump so you land on a grindable object, and from there, you’ll continue to grind unless you do something to screw it up.
While horrifically fumble-fingered non-sports-gamers like me will still find ways to horrifically injure their skater in this system, it’s still something you can pick up and learn in about a minute and a half. There’s no real learning curve, so you can start looking like you know what you’re doing very early on. It helps that the graphics are remarkably solid, with large, well-defined characters and a solid physics engine.
Skate is set in the composite city of San Vanelona, where you begin as a novice skater looking to make a name for himself. You can play as a skate-park bastard with a knack for trouble or a decent guy with mainstream appeal, as you get a reputation and go for a spot on the professional skating circuit.
As part of this process, Skate is set up as kind of a sandbox skating game. As you get a reputation, it’ll allow you to progress on towards more and larger arenas. In those arenas, as you skate through various areas, you can press up on the D-pad to take on bonus challenges, such as pulling off a set number of tricks within a limited time period.
Perhaps more importantly, Skate is set up for extensive online gameplay. While the game isn’t finished yet (it’ll be done when it’s done, apparently), it’ll include features like various multiplayer games and the ability to record your own footage. You can then send videos of your tricks to your friends to show off your skills (and by that, I do in fact mean “gloat”).
Skate features a full cast of professional skaters, such as Danny Way, Mark Gonzales, Chris Cole, Jerry Hsu, Tony Guerrero (who’s also providing a musical track for one of the neighborhoods), and Paul Rodriguez. The developers are cognizant that “the bar has been raised very high” for a licensed soundtrack in the game, and are currently working to put together a decent selection of in-game music.
Skate is still early enough in its development cycle that it’d be stupid to say much of anything else about it. It’s still very much a collection of promises and ideas bound together by a pre-alpha build, without many of the features that are said will be in the final game. It’s very easy to play, though, and EA is giving Black Box all the time they need. It’s worth keeping an eye on this one.
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