Giant Bomb Review

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Skate 2 Review

4
  • X360
  • PS3

Skate 2 makes a load of interesting changes to the structure of the average skateboarding game and includes enough interesting multiplayer options to keep players going for awhile.

The custom graphics creator lets you do some pretty rad stuff.
Skate 2 is the sort of game that flips between Zen-like satisfaction and controller-tossing frustration with no warning. It's interesting, then, that this is a game that you'll be better at when you remain calm and focus on the task at hand, because trying to play with the added pressure of anger or frustration just makes you mess up again and again and again. Not every single facet of Skate 2 is terrific, but enough of it works to make it a great skateboarding game overall, and when it all comes together, it's pretty amazing.

The most important part of the original Skate has been retained in the sequel without any extreme updates. That part is the right analog stick, used to perform various tricks. Pushing down then up is your basic ollie, cocking it off to the side will do kickflips and heels, sweeping around the bottom lets you do shuvits, and so on. Though there are probably one or two too many tricks on that right stick--making specific trick selection really tough when you start trying to land the more advanced tricks--it feels incredibly natural, and it's the main thing that helped the first game feel different from everything that came before it.

Rather than scrapping that right-stick functionality, Skate 2 instead builds a series of modifiers around the existing tricks. Using the buttons you use to propel yourself on the ground lets you do one-footed variations of your grabs, for example. A new button lets you grab onto the tops of vertical ramps and other objects for handplants, which you can then tweak around with the right stick or the foot buttons. Landing with a foot out lets you do footplants. You can also get off your board now, which is mainly useful for getting up a flight of stairs. But you can also grab onto some items and drag them around, letting you arrange benches, dumpsters, rails, and ramps into whatever makeshift configuration you like. On paper, the off-board stuff sounds pretty good. In practice, though, the running animation is kind of bad, and the controls for moving and turning while on-foot are absolutely weak.

It's a good thing, then, that you don't need to get off your board very often. The single-player career mode in Skate 2 is broken up into a number of different paths, and the game doesn't really put a clear focus onto any one of those paths. Despite setting up a bit of cohesive fiction across the three games in the Skate franchise, there's no real story to Skate 2, either. The setup is that you're the skater from the first game who just came off of a five-year prison stint for attempting to skate down the city dam of San Vanelona. Since then, San Van has been ripped apart and rebuilt due to some unexplained natural disasters. So you'll enter New San Vanelona and, if you played the original, you'll probably recognize some of the general geography. But the city feels almost completely different. There's also a few mentions of an evil corporation--MongoCorp--that hates skaters. But aside from the same type of security guard presence as the first game and the addition of skate-stoppers on some rails and ledges (which you'll have to pay to get pried off), there's no overarching Skaters vs. The Man plot that drives things along, either. You get out of jail, skate a lot, get on the covers of some magazines, maybe buy some land to add additional skateparks to the world, and that's sort of it.

Dyrdek's challenges ask you to gesture while you do grinds and drop into banks.
That lack of focus isn't necessarily a bad thing, though, because it ensures that you'll usually have multiple things to work on at any given time. You can pose for photos and eventually appear on the cover of Thrasher and the Skateboard Mag. You can take on challenges laid out by other pro skaters in order to earn sponsorships from their companies. You can wager money on hill-bombing death races and eventually earn the title of "King of the Mountain" with an unlockable crown to match. You can seek out 22 different spots in the world and attempt to beat their set score to "own" said spot. There's a series of street and vert competitions. Or you can go on bonus missions with pro skaters like Rob Dyrdek or Danny Way. Or you could just, you know, skate. The list sort of goes on from there, but you get the idea. There's plenty to do in Skate 2, and the different objectives require you to excel at the game's different disciplines.

A lot of the challenges can be pretty difficult, depending on which parts of Skate 2's control scheme you've mastered. For me, the game sort of breaks any time you're asked to perform specific tricks. There's an entire section of Skate 2 devoted to playing S.K.A.T.E. with other pro skaters. They perform a trick, then you must match it exactly to keep the pressure on them to perform. But the window between doing the right trick and the wrong trick is exceedingly narrow due to the high number of tricks mapped to the right stick. While there may be some folks out there with a steady enough thumb to do an inward heelflip 100 percent of the time, I'm more like 30 percent. So the pro goal where you play against Eric Koston and Mike Carroll--who don't mess up very often--is essentially impossible. The rest of the game's challenges can get frustrating and take forever to complete, but that has the additional impact of making them exceptionally rewarding to complete. After spending the first several hours absolutely sucking at the game, eventually everything clicked, and I was able to quickly blaze through the entire single-player game--with the exception of the aforementioned pro challenge and two others.

While the single-player structure hasn't changed that much from the original game, Skate 2's multiplayer has been significantly bolstered. The different competition modes from the first game return, letting you enter contests for the best trick, score-based jam sessions, races, turn-based spot battles, S.K.A.T.E. contests, and Hall of Meat mode, where players take turns trying to thrash themselves the hardest. These contests allow up to six players to compete, and when you play in ranked games, you earn experience that goes toward raising your online ranking. You'll also earn money for your performance, and this cash feeds back into the single-player to let you purchase additional clothing and accessories. A lot of this stuff just sort of exploits the spots and competitions that you'll see in the single-player, just online. About the only thing missing is a three-on-three team battle for points, which you'll find in one part of the career. This might have made a nice option for an online variant.

But the competition side of Skate 2 is a small part of Skate 2's online options. There's also a freeskate component where you can just jump into one of the game's areas with a handful of other skaters and just, like, skate. There are also freeskate challenges that often require cooperation to complete, and these feel a lot like the multiplayer challenges found in Burnout Paradise. There are 149 challenges in all, and much like they did in Burnout, they add a huge hook to the multiplayer that could keep you coming back. Of course, the cooperative nature of some of these--there are a handful that ask the group to all perform the same trick at the same time, for example--make them only work when you're in a group of skilled skaters that you can trust to be on their game. Attempting these challenges with a group that isn't up to par results in disappointment more often than not.

You'll see a lot of fisheye lens in Skate 2.
The online side of Skate 2 also lets you share things with other players. Like the previous game, you can edit together quick video clips and snap photos that can be shared online. The game has a decent rating system for this content that helps keep the cool stuff at or near the top of the list. Players can also find or create custom graphics on the game's official site using a set of basic tools. While you can't just import your own JPEG files or anything like that, the tools are good enough to create some really awesome stuff if you're willing to spend some time with it. If you're not feeling artsy, though, you can use the website to grab the stuff that other players have made and put it into your game.

The other big creation thing in Skate 2 is the ability to create your own spots and share them with others. You do this while playing the career mode, and it essentially lets you draw a big scoring box around anything you want. Then you need to set a baseline score for that area by doing your best trick there. Once created, you can upload the spot to the game's servers, and created spots can be browsed and downloaded just like replay videos. The game keeps scoreboards for created spots, lets you download a ghost run of the leader's performance, and when you're done you can rate the spot, as well. There are tons of different places to skate in New San Vanelona, and the created spot browser is a really smart addition that keeps things nice and competitive.

Visually, the most impressive part of Skate 2 is still its animation. The game treats the flipping of the board and the placement of a player's body with the utmost respect, and Skate 2 continues the trend of having the most realistic skateboarding trick animations around. The city itself looks good, also, but there are certain things, like grass textures and the occasional pedestrian, that look pretty bad. Also, the frame rate in both the 360 and PS3 versions occasionally get choppy, but the reasons behind the drop don't immediately seem clear. When installed on a 360 hard drive, I noticed that the random frame rate drops seemed to happen a bit more frequently, but I'm no hardware researcher, so I can't say with certainty that this will be the case for everyone out there.

The game contains the same sort of eclectic soundtrack as the original Skate, staying away from the typical overly-aggressive mall punk you'd expect in favor of stuff from artists like WAR, Sam & Dave, Sly & The Family Stone, Public Enemy, Judas Priest, ELO, Dragonforce, and the Wu-Tang Clan. The skaters turn in passable voice performances, and Giovanni Reda returns as the game's announcer. I expect some may find his shtick to be excessively grating, but I find him sort of funny.

While the career mode of Skate 2 lacks focus, the open-ended nature of it works out pretty well, and the additional online components really add a lot to the overall experience, as well. Some players may find the difficulty or the open progression a bit overwhelming at times, but the advances in the trick system and the new ways to play make Skate 2 a great sequel that further capitalizes on the concepts introduced in the original.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
40 Comments
Posted by Double0hFor

i thought this would get a 5 after that quick look ahahaha

DONT FORGET.....www.dudedragingbench.com

Posted by RHCPfan24

Very good review Jeff! This looks like a good game, definitely.

Posted by ocdog45

i knew you would like it. ill passed my skating phase so i wont be playing this.

Posted by Chewii101

Great review! Maybe I should actually buy this game....last skateboarding game I actually bought was TH PS 3....lol

Posted by oobs

maybe give it a rental at some stage

Posted by adri4n

don't feel so bad Jeff. Your not the only one. I've been trying to beat the Eric Koston and Mike Carroll pro challenge since day one. I swear it's impossible!

Posted by Sherlock_Pwnz

Bought it friday and only just put it down. Fuckin' A.

Posted by JoelTGM

This game is the bomb.

Edited by Death_Burnout

Haha im surprised it got 4 stars, im glad, because the difficulty makes me want to give it a damn 1! but i love it too much to do that.

But i completed every last challenge, and boy do i feel proud of that.

You really nailed it in this review for me, i couldn't agree more with how the game feels, especially it's jekyll and hyde persona.

[Jeff! if you didn't beat Carroll and Koston, heres how, i suffered that challenge for over 5 hours once, but you can do it, restart the challenge over til Koston bails, then wait til Carroll messes up...then set all the tricks as very simple 540's. (ollie 540, kickflip 540 etc.) It takes time, but if you flick both sticks hard in the same direction as soon as you launch...you should do a 540, the CPU can't figure out what a 540 is, i managed to beat them both with a clean score]

Posted by JJOR64

Nice.  I just wish they would remake or port the first Tony Hawk game to XBLA or PSN.  I would buy that in a heart beat.

Posted by alConn

I'll just go play TH2/3...but I am cheap.

Posted by ArclightBorealis

I just recently played the demo, and I was impressed. I had never played the first Skate and this was my first time experiencing the flickit controls. Now I wonder how I was even content with Tony Hawk in the first place.

Great review, Jeff. I will definetely check this out sometime. Can't keep going to Slappy's park forever.

Posted by XaiaX

The 540 rotation trick worked in the original Skate, as well. I haven't tried s.k.a.t.e. in this one but it's good to hear that I can at least rely on that if all else fails.

Can you share graphics in any reasonably efficient manner? I'd love a Giant Bomb deck.

  • When installed on a 360 hard drive, I noticed that the random frame rate drops seemed to happen a bit more frequently, but I'm no hardware researcher, so I can't say with certainty that this will be the case for everyone out there.

I've seen a similar thing happen with Banjo & Kazooie. I discovered that if you get an external memory card and put your save games on there (in Nuts & Bolts) those temporary freezes go away. I haven't noticed random chugging in my limited time with the 360 version, and I'm using an external card for that, too. My speculation is that when the system goes to autosave it doesn't take into account the fact that it might be trying to read from the same device at the time, and you get an I/O bottleneck.

Hooray egregiously overpriced 512MB memory card and a real grown up job. ;)


Posted by JoblessTerence

www.dudedragsbench.com sent me here. I played the demo for this today and I completely agree with your review based on what I saw.

Posted by tekmojo

Hell yea, I want to pick this up, but Killzone 2 is right around the corner...

Edited by AspiringAndy

Great review Jeff.
Skate 2 is a great game, but for me if I wasn't constantly swearing while playing it, it would be better game.
But, it feels good when you get it right.
Also, I never thought that I would hear DragonForce in a game apart from Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

Posted by lebkin

Jeff (or anyone else who has Skate 2), what are the options for local multiplayer?  The original had really crappy local stuff, since it was all of the "take turns variety."  I was hoping with Skate 2 we'd get some split-screen action, even if it is just free-skate.  The most appeal of skating games to me has always been playing with friends.  I'd like to know what options there are.

Posted by ChrisInCali

OVER-RATED.

Posted by TwoOneFive

sorry, i just put $25 down on killzone 2, thats all i care about right now. 

Posted by Slackitude

Does the entire game have the rounded corners like you're looking through a lens? Did the first skate have that? I can't remember but it seems annoying if it's the case.

I'm sure I'll still buy this one soon, I loved the first skate long time.

Posted by MrKlorox

Best skateboarding game yet.

Posted by Kazona

Hmm. My fingers are definitely not nimble enough to always push the stick in the exact direction I need it to, so I think I'll be cursing and swearing alot. Still wanna play this game though. Seems to be an improvement over the first one judging from the review.

Posted by Maxszy

Great review. I think you nailed it, nailer! (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

I've been having a good time with it. Just got King of the Mountain out the way, so I have crown now! To those talking about the difficulty/learning curve.. just stick with it. There doesn't seem to be as much as an introduction for those who need it, in the second one but I think it can be taught.

Its a good game!

Posted by bwooduhs

definitly just a rental for me.

Posted by needforswede

It's a great game, it's just a little buggy.  Hopefully an update will fix some of that.  It's actually considerably harder than the first, too.  I like that, though.  For me, the right stick controls have always felt incredibly natural, so I can't really sympathize with those who find it confusing.  The only real frustrating part for me is trying to move stuff around sometimes.

Edited by Kohe321

Good review! I hate the frustrating "woops didn't work - try again 50 times" aspect of Skate, but I might want to play it regardless now..

Posted by Duckbutter

READ?!?!?!?!
didnt this site used to do video reviews? how about an audio review? i shouldn't have to read in 2009.

Posted by creamclouds

LOL @ TwoOneFive

Posted by Snail

Best skating game ever.

Posted by burjeffton--defunct

Other than the mind-numbing repetition of trying to complete certain challenges, Skate 2 delivers big-time. Great game.

Posted by insanejedi

So it's Mirror's Edge with a Skateboard right?

Posted by CraigAA1028

This is the only thing I've played for the past 5 days

Posted by TomA

sweet,i'm gettin this game in a few hours,really looking forward to it.I loved the first one!

Posted by Jayzilla

security guards ftl.

Posted by Aaron_G

Still not interested.

Posted by TeaRunner

Great review! Loving the game so far!

Can you spell GIRL?(Koston and Carroll SKATE game) guide for all of you out there:

Theres four ways I know to get the AI to mess up:
1. Do a triple kickflip/heelflip (Somewhat hard)
2. Do a 540 spin (press to one side with both of the analog controlls) This is HARD!
3. Do a footplant to carry out your 540 spin. If you figure out you cant do a full 540, try landing a footplant while still holding the analog controlls to one side. Once you learn how, its EASY!
4. When you start the challenge the objects that u put there will have resetted to their original locations, but not all objects. It seems only the objects around the challenge area resets, not objects found elsewhere in the world,,,so go drag something from far away in to the area and make it work! EASY!

Posted by simian

There's a better cheat for the GIRL pro challenge on the tube-of-you. Basically you grab a rail from up yonder from the canal thingy, draaaaag it back all the way to the challenge + place it in behind directly behind the bench (between the other rail). When you start the challenge Koston and Carroll's AI read it as an obstruction and dismount while on the bench, auto-failing.
I love the game but BS trick challenges like that drive me nuts , especially the Dyrdek Pro challenge of flip-to-grind on a ledge, nollie-to-grind on a bench then 360 hard flip over a hubba in a line. I nearly threw my controller many a time on that one.

Posted by Reetesh

I'm a Huuuuu...uuu..uge THPS fan.. tried only the Skate 1 demo, found it, good..never thought it would be great.

But seeing how you were also a fan of THPS and like skate2.. I think I'll give this a shot :D

but dont think the transtition from Skate 1 -Skate 2 was anything as blasting like THPS 1/2 -> 2/3 something like 3->4 maybe.. no?    
Posted by Media_Master

cool, might get me back to skate boarding, I haven't played a Tony Hawk game since Underground1

Posted by natetodamax

I want this now. Looks awesome!