Skate 2 Review

Being able to go at things on foot also affords a skating game fans dream – the ability to move objects around to create even better skate spots, adding to your overall score and feeling of control. If you see two planters with a gap between them that is just a little too wide, simply push a bench or box into the spot and skate away. I wasn't able to nail down precisely why some objects stay in the spots you move them to while others reset themselves between sessions, but the system is easy to use and scooting an obstacle around never feels like something you won't be able to recreate. My experience was that objects moved to bizarre locations tended to reset more often than objects moved to reasonable spots. This was both a blessing and a curse, as some of the more outlandish choices resulted in some truly amazing lines. But for every one attempt that did work out, there were five that didn't, and the objects mysteriously finding their way home was a godsend. I'm not sure why it took so long for a skating game to include a workable facsimile of this mainstay of the actual sport, but it's a welcome and awesome addition. I'm not sure if future skating games could be taken seriously without this feature, kind of like the manuals added into Tony Hawk 2. For better or worse (mostly better), environmental manipulation is in skating games is here to stay.

I mentioned that Skate 2's difficulty is directly related to its realism, and that fact comes from the controls themselves. Like the original, Skate 2 employs the Flickit control system, where 90 percent of the game is played with only your controller's analog sticks. The left one controls your direction while the right governs all your tricks. This makes the game seem much more true to life than the up, down, triangle of the Tony Hawk series. Holding down on the right stick and "flicking" it forward performs an ollie, a jump that is considered the most basic of all tricks. Snap that stick around to either side (a quarter-circle motion) and your skater will perform one of two flip tricks. To start off, that's really all you need to know. As you progress, you discover (not learn or upgrade; all the games tricks are available to you the instant you begin) fancier tricks, including grinds, vert tricks, manuals, handplants, etc. Sorry for the skate jargon, but there isn't a great way to explain Skate 2 without it.

All these moves will be used as you progress and get better, but grinds are the star of the show. They are also the most difficult trick to master. If you remember the Tony Hawk days, all you had to do to pull off a grind was ollie in the vicinity of a ledge and hit triangle (PS1 controller, remember?). If you added a directional pad button press or two, you'd pull of even more impressive tricks. It was easy and allowed even marginally skilled players to execute tricks that provoked "ooohs" from whoever was watching from over their shoulder. In the world of Skate, that just ain't gonna happen. To accomplish the same moves seen in the Tony Hawk games, you'll have to take much more into account – your momentum, the position of your board in air, the height and angle of the ledge, the distance and height of your jump, etc. Make even a slight miscalculation and you'll soon be greeted with the gut-wrenching noises associated with the worst falls. Skate 2 demands perfection in this area, and is completely unforgiving of any error.

It might seem extraneous, but explaining the feat of grinding really warrants a detailed, step-by-step description. When you see a ledge you wish to grind, your preparation will begin before you are even close to said ledge. You'll need to "pump" to build speed (using one foot to push off and accelerate) and line up your angle just right. You'll need to be ALMOST parallel to the ledge, and when you get close, you'll need to ollie. Get close enough to the obstacle and you'll grind. It gets trickier when trying to go into a grind from a flip trick; the board will need to be back in the exact position it started in to successfully land. As you get even more confident, you'll find that you can finish grinds with flip tricks and even switch grind tricks midway through, further adding to your combo score. You're going to need quite a bit of practice to nail the grinds, but the system for doing so is very diverse, almost ensuring you'll never need to do the same combo twice. The insurmountable difficulty of getting this right only makes it more rewarding when you finally do.

There are a couple areas where Skate 2 falls short. While it is an improvement of the first, this game's soundtrack only contains two decent songs, up from the zero found in the previous Skate. I guess that means there will be four good ones in Skate 3, right? Let's hope. More annoying, though, is the fact that your options for recording video of your performance to share on the Interwebs have been cut back dramatically. All the video effects available in the first are gone, leaving you with a bare bones system. The video sharing was a huge part of the original's online presence, and cutting back just doesn't seem like too good an idea. Especially when you can PAY EXTRA to download these tools through the 360 or PS3's online marketplace. It was free before, but now comes at a premium?! No thanks. I could see some serious players (more serious than myself probably) springing for the download, but to most it won't be worth the extra dough. The last minor issue is the fact that Rodney Mullen, without a doubt the world's best street skater, doesn't seem to make an appearance, either in person or through representation of some of the amazing tricks he has come up with over the years. The Darkslide, a Mullen grind trick in which the board is flipped over (wheels pointing up) and travels on its top side along a rail, is completely absent. I considered it an oversight when the original Skate didn't include it, but now we have a sequel, and the Darkslide's absence is inexcusable. None of Mullen's "there is no way that can be done" flatland tricks are included either. Skate 2 is a street skating game, and leaving these out is like a Tony Hawk game without the infamous 900 vert trick; a major mistake in my book. If you are familiar with Mullen and his skills, every time to skate across a flat surface, you'll wonder why you can't spice up this simple activity with some tricks that defy the tenants of believability.

Fortunately, these hiccups don't diminish the overall game's quality. There isn't too much to say at this point other than Skate 2 is without a doubt the best skateboard game ever created. It seems almost ludicrous to think that it has been less than 20 years since all we as gamers had to choose from was Skate Or Die or that game with the amazingly talented gorilla (if you're old enough to remember that ridiculous NES game, it was called T&C Surf Designs… congrats – you're old) If you can overcome the steep learning curve and small problems, or you simply enjoy the sport, you'll want to pick this one up.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 93%.

 



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