SKATE Review

The most annoying graphical problem occurs when your skater goes down. For a sport that is known as much for its injuries as its accomplishments, SKATE doesn't capture it very well. After tripping or falling, your skater hits the ground with a feeling of weightlessness, as if the minute your feet leave the board, someone has cranked up the moon gravity. The bails seem even less epic because the game's designers took the time to add what amounts to a scorecard of injuries. You'll break and sprain every part of your skater's body as you play through the game, but these injuries look as though your skater sustained them at the zero gravity pillow factory. The system isn't terrible, but EA missed a great opportunity to make the slip ups as entertaining as the triumphs.

If THPS has been bested in nearly every respect, they still hang onto the trophy for in-game music. Each entry in the THPS series featured a fully licensed "skate rock/hip-hop" soundtrack, with at least a couple of listenable and memorable songs in a sea of horrible music. SKATE handles the music in the same way nearly every other EA game (i.e. Madden) does. You'll see the artist and song title at the bottom of the menus, but you aren't given direct control over which of the game's songs you'd like to hear.

It also needs to be mentioned that the soundtrack people at EA aren't really in tune with the skater culture and it's music. Some of the songs fit the game perfectly, like Children of Bodom's excellent "Hate Crew Deathroll," but others, like Band of Horses' "The Funeral" or Booker T's "Six Pack" seem to have gotten lost on their way to another game. They are so out of place here that they can actually be a distraction from the game. You might be skating along, getting ready to start an amazing line, but all you'll be thinking is, "Who in the hell picked THIS music?!" The soundtrack is available through iTunes if you'd like to take a look for yourself.

Luckily, SKATE and the 360 allow players to choose a custom set of songs from their own music collections. I'll always pick a customizable soundtrack over a static one, but anyone who played THPS 2 the way I did surely remembers "Runnin' in a Cy-c-lone" as fondly as I do. Give EA's songs a chance to impress, but be thinking about what you'd like to listen to while you are skating. Personally, I chose to listen to Dragonforce's and Heavenly's new CDs, entitled "Inhuman Rampage" and "Virus" respectively. If you took the time to look at SKATE's music on iTunes, check these out as well. I think you'll find them much more appropriate for the sport of skating than The Grateful Dead and a few rappers I've never even heard of.

There is one last issue that doesn't really fit anywhere in this review, so I'll just put it here at the end. When you start SKATE's Career Mode for the first time, you'll be forced to watch a painfully unfunny live action video starring the real life counterparts of the in-game characters and skaters. The video starts with a "bang," but quickly devolves into a sub-Mad TV skit that is so bad, so stupid, that it makes the in-game injuries you are sure to sustain seem like a visit to the puppy dog, fireworks, stripper and candy store. Were I not reviewing the game, I would have simply turned it off in disgust after this video and never made it to the actual game itself.