SKATE Review

I did not want to like SKATE and before I played it, I had a dozen prefabricated reasons for feeling how I thought I would. I've never been fan of EA or their products and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 and 2 are among my all-time favorite games. In fact, I was so into THPS 2 that it may or may not have contributed to me failing Statistics 1001. Granted, I felt the THPS series died the moment THPS 3 hit store shelves, but Venice, Warehouse, School and Bullring all hold special places in my memory. When EA announced SKATE, I brushed it off. When SKATE came out, I stuck to my guns. Then I played it. I'm sorry Mr. Hawk. We had some good times, but welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You.

The THPS series was never about realism. Even the best skaters in the world probably couldn't pull some of the combo lines my friends and I invented/discovered. Regardless, the game and its first sequel were great, but they were a gamer's skating game. SKATE is the opposite; it is very much an actual skater's skating game. Everything about SKATE, from the oft-discussed controls to the environments to the smallest "only a skater would notice that" details, make this the new standard for not just skating games, but all extreme sports games yet to be released. …and all this praise from someone who was determined to hate the game. It really is that good.

To discuss SKATE, one must first forget everything they know about the Tony Hawk games, especially the control scheme. On more than one occasion, my parents watched my hands as I played THPS 2 and became infuriated. Not because they didn't like the games I played, but because if my hands could move that fast and that skillfully, then "Why in the hell did you quit piano lessons?!" That is a direct quote, by the way. The THPS series did demand nerves of steel and reflexes to match, with quick button and directional presses to perfectly execute the game's craziest combos. SKATE throws all that out the window.

In what has been dubbed the Flickit! dual analog control system, players will feel less like they are playing a game and more like they're actually controlling a skater on the streets. Where THPS demanded players execute tricks in the same way they would control Blanka, E. Honda or Guile, SKATE uses only the analog sticks to execute quick flips and spins of your skateboard. This lends itself to a much more realistic experience. Something that would seem mundane in a THPS title becomes an amazing, praise-worthy accomplishment. For example, turning a kickflip in THPS only requires a simple press and release of a button. In SKATE, you need to judge your speed, your angle, your environment and if the board will actually have the time to turn before you land on it.

The controls might sound complicated and unwieldy, but that is more because of my inability to explain just how well they work. Old school THPS fans will be mystified and stymied at first, but after only a minute or two of practice, they'll be skating like old pros. Too often we see games kick standard control conventions just to be different, but SKATE gets away with it because, to put it plainly, EA has defied expectations and built a better mousetrap. In the same way that the recent Metroid Prime 3: Corruption deep-sixed every first person shooter with dual analog control by switching to the Wii-mote and nunchuk, SKATE has all but guaranteed that the "triangle, up, down" grind combo will never again be used successfully in a skating game.