SKATE also manages to do something right that no Tony Hawk game ever quite pulled off - the character creation mode. The THPS series, and later, the Underground and Project 8 games, all had at least a rudimentary character creation mode (except perhaps the first couple of games…my memory isn't what it used to be…), but it never felt as though you had much control over what your skater actually looked like. Slapping a pink Mohawk on a guy in board shorts is only fun for a while; especially when every custom skater created all shared the same sloping brow, dead eyes and what came to be known around my house as the "caveman-core" look.
If the THPS skater creation mode is a Nash skateboard bought on layaway at Wal-Mart, then SKATE's creation mode is a custom built Chad Muska deck with $100 trucks and some shiny new wheels. SKATE actually gives you enough control over your skater's physical appearance that with some patience, you can actually make your skater look like you. EA's addition of real skate companies and their licensed merchandise (shoes, boards, clothes, etc.) gives SKATE a whole extra layer of realism. I carried a Black Label backpack for most of my high school and college years, so naturally, my personal skater needed to be decked out from head to toe in Black Label gear.
SKATE has a few drawbacks, but nothing even comes close to ruining the fun. The Career Mode is fairly short, but depending on what kind of player you are, you may not even notice. Some will blaze through the Career Mode in an afternoon and put the game down. Most will get through the Career Mode and continue playing, for the sheer joy of finding new combos, new lines and new ways to impress their friends. This is just one more aspect that makes SKATE a game for skaters. Personally, I found the Career Mode to be an obstacle standing in the way of how I actually wanted to play the game.
Another complaint is that the online portion of the game could have used a few more weeks of tweaking to make it perfect. Other skaters are frequently "laggy" and often simply disappear from the playing field. It isn't all that annoying in practice, but mostly because the most entertaining part of SKATE's online play is simply trading videos of your awesome tricks and lines with others worldwide, having them rate your tricks and, in turn, doing the same for them. A quick glance at the EA SKATE site or message board will show just how popular this has gotten.
By now, you'll no doubt be wondering about the other aspects of SKATE, namely the graphics and sound. Both get the job done, but neither is particularly earth shaking or spectacular. The graphics are without a doubt some of the best seen in any sports or skating game, but a few small problems mar the overall look. Some surfaces appear blurry and every so often you'll run into some slowdown and/or pop up issues.