published Monday, Feb 02nd
Skate 2 is the sequel to the much loved Skate, developed by EA Blackbox, and known for its difficulty. Skate offered a fresh perspective on skateboarding genre in which Tony Hawk had dominated for eight years. The innovative ‘flick it’ trick system employed on Skate was a revolutionary turn for the extreme sports genre, yet the game was not without its flaws. The inability to move up stairs or around other obstacles along with the difficulty of objectives made it frustrating. These issues, among others, are addressed in Skate 2, along with bringing new features to the franchise.
The career for Skate 2 begins similarly to the first with a quirky opening video that introduces the professional skateboarders that make appearances throughout the game. The silent player-controlled character that was used in the previous game is faceless in the video so that he/she can be customised directly afterwards. Included in the wide range of customisation of a male or female character is the usual eye-brow placement and facial hair but also an impressive array of options for apparel. A great example is instead of purchasing set t-shirts there are a number of different colours and logos to design your own.
Skate 2 is a difficult game which, like the first requires patience and determination. There are a number of features in the game that will help the player overcome the challenging tasks, making the game less frustrating and tiring. Newcomers to the Skate trick system can use an optional tutorial for basics at the very beginning of the single player career, other optional tutorials appear when objectives require the player to perform certain types of tricks such as grinds, grabs or flips, all of which aid the player in becoming a custom to the radically different control scheme on offer.
The career path is essentially the same as the first game, you start as an amateur skater working your way up to a professional level by taking part in photo-shoots, videos and events with professional skateboarders, and eventually signing sponsorship deals. An important change to each of these is that there are now no tasks that require specific tricks to complete. This allows for more freedom in the criteria for objectives, giving the player an opportunity to perform any one of a number of tricks, where as in Skate the requirements were extremely specific and progression in the game often became difficult. Tasks in Skate 2 vary from a linear career path with optional races, spot ownerships and challenges, all of which can be accessed and instantly travelled to via a map on the pause menu. There are always additional activities across the game area, and the map is a great tool if you don’t want to travel on foot or skateboard.
Moving across areas of the aforementioned map is certainly an improvement to that of the original, with stairs now conquerable with walking. The ability to do this was defiantly a key simple gameplay tool missing from Skate, but now going up stairs and around obstacles has been made much simpler. Although an essential addition on paper, the skater looks extremely awkward, inflexible and slow without a skateboard under his feet. Where animation for each slight turn, intricate trick and gruesome bail is outstanding on the board, movement is extremely poor and disappointing when on two feet. The controls, which work extremely well for skating, become heavy, sluggish and imprecise when taking control of the player to walk and climb up stairs. The ability to move objects to more advantageous positions has been added to complement the off-board movement. This is only really useful in challenges when objectives require a trick over or on top of a certain objects. However in these cases a ramp is rarely more than 6 feet from where you start and it is no more than an annoying task to move it.
There are noticeable AI improvements, not only in opposing professional skateboarders but the pedestrians now move out of your way if they see you, an addition which creates less frustration and a smoother ride.
Skate 2 is a good looking game but is no step up from the original Skate. There are common technical issues when playing the game including texture loading and a generally washed out look, with textures looking less detailed, and overall not appearing as visually sharp as the original. The professional skaters on the other hand look a lot better, there is a lot more detail in textures, with good use of colours and tones. Attach this with superb voice recordings from all the cameo appearances and there is a large selection of life-like characters. The player-controlled character looks just as good, and even becomes scratched, damaged and scraped after a particularly harsh bail.
The sound in a sports game is critical to get right and in Skate 2 it is superb. The movement of the skateboard sounds extremely realistic with normal riding, grinding down rails and landing flips. The music soundtrack leaves a little to be desired although there are some tracks that fit well.
Online play is simply great with a good range of game modes. In both ranked and unranked matches there is a choice of Deathrace, Hall of Meat, Spot Battle, S.K.A.T.E., Best Trick, Jam, and Free skate. Free skate is particularly fun, although instead of the full game map reasonably sized areas are added for the player to choose from a list. In Free skate players can challenge the group to complete a high score, gap certain areas and other activities under a time limit. Video replays and photos from the single player career can be uploaded to the Skate.reel, where others can view and rate them. Players can also create their own “Spots” and upload them for other users to play and rate.
Overall Skate 2 lacks enough improvements to be essential. The most surprising problem with the game is the off-board movement, time spent off the board may be minimal but only adds to frustration when the most needed improvement to Skate was the removal of any annoying gameplay elements. By no means a bad game; it has many good features, but is below expectations for repairing and expanding on the original game.