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August 2022

Skater XL

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Developer: Easy Day Studios
Release Date: July 28, 2020


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XOne/PC Preview - 'Skater XL'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 16, 2019 @ 1:15 a.m. PDT

Skater XL is an evolution in skateboarding games, where you will experience unparalleled board control and responsiveness while you skate legendary real-world skate spots.

It has been nine years since Skate 3 was released. It was one of the last good extreme sports titles and one of the few that made an effort to go for a simulation route, making it a perfect counterpart to the older Tony Hawk series of games. It wasn't until recently that we started to see someone attempt to bring the series back with Session, and while Skate fans were rejoicing at that announcement, another title has been quietly released to Early Access: Skater XL, a beefed-up version of what was originally a mobile game.

For the Early Access version, you only have one spot: the West L.A. Courthouse. You're immediately dropped into the level, and while the space is small, you're given free rein to do whatever you want. Your tricks are mostly limited to jumps and grinds, which is perfect since the level is mostly comprised of concrete planters and rails with a small ramp located here and there. There are no grab tricks to execute, and while you have a few walls, don't expect to do any wall-riding.

At the moment, the limited abilities are overshadowed by the control scheme. The dual-analog stick setup may be reminiscent of EA's Skate series, but you'll bail very often if you expect those same stick movements to bust out a litany of tricks. The principle is the same, with each analog stick controlling each foot, but the movements are different enough that you'll spend some time relearning what to do before you can produce something cool.

Once you learn the new system, you'll find that the precision needed for each stick movement makes even the most basic kickflip satisfying. Though nothing is scored and there's no indication of which moves you've performed, the constant practice means you can eventually make a line as satisfying as what you did in a Tony Hawk game but with more believable physics to back it up. It also helps that the game looks absolutely gorgeous right now, with nice textures and great use of light and shadow. The game is built on Unity, and while that engine has made some nice-looking games in the past, Skate XL feels like it pushes the bar just a little higher on that front.

The biggest concern for the game at this early stage is the lack of any roadmap. The mission statement from the company is that it wants to make the best possible skateboarding game out there, and while that goal is lofty, no one knows exactly what that entails. Is there simply going to be a collection of West Coast skate spots to do whatever you please? Is there going to be any sort of multiplayer? Will you have a campaign to show how you could be the next skating superstar? Without a structure, the game can feel hollow once the novelty of good skating mechanics wears off.

Right now, Skater XL is in very Early Access, and it lives up to that term. There are no options available, there's only one character model and area to skate in, and there isn't even a proper menu to exit the game. It's more of a tech demo that you're buying into than a fully working title, but the game has already spawned a modding community. This shows that the game mechanics have sparked interest from skating fans. Look for more coverage on the title as it marches toward its distant 2021 release window.

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