xableassassinx's Skate 2 (PlayStation 3) review

Improvements... Technically.


I've had this game since it came out, so this review is well and truly late coming, but it has been sitting here unfinished since about three weeks after the release, and it just felt wrong not to post it. The first Skate came out swinging and almost instantly knocked Tony Hawk off his skate game thrown. For years the Tony Hawks series had dominated the genre, offering practically the only decent representation of skateboarding, and apart from a brief uprise in the form of Thrasher, it was pretty much unchallenged. But as the years went on the formula began to age, offering less and less originality with each edition. By 2006 the brand had practically shriveled and died, the developers knew this and tried to give new life to the series the next year with Proving Ground, but it stunk worse than puke in a microwave and failed to out do the fresh and innovative Skate. 

The giant killer offered a new approach to control by attempting to mirror or translate the necessary foot movements to the analog sticks. This felt much more intuitive and a great deal more like skateboarding than the arcady button presses of rival games. Truth is not much has changed in Skate 2, all the basic elements are still there, they've just added to what was already an excellent game. The most obvious, and arguably the most needed feature you won't have seen in the original Skate is the ability to get on and off you board freely. It was so painfully obvious that this was needed, even the guys at Black Box knew they had screwed up by not including it in the first game. The cynic in me is convince the intentionally left it out, in order to have the sequel differ more from the original. During the initial tutorial the call themselves on it, when your told how to get off your board, the voice in your head (okay he's not in your head but he may as well be) jokingly tells you how the skaters of New San Vanelona have "learned how to get off their boards" since you've been away. Like until then they were bunch of learning-impaired neanderthal types smashing rocks over each others heads. Oh yeah they also invented women in the interim too, since now you can change sex (whenever you want).

With the ability to travel on foot comes the option of altering the environment around you. This is done by walking up to any object (that isn't bolted down) and moving it into the desired position. Map editing has been present in the Tony Hawk games for a while but was done in a more constricted and tedious fashion. With Skate 2 the process is much more fluid and free flowing, you can hop of your bored with a quick tap of triangle, move a ramp practically anywhere with R1, and hop right back on all with very little difficulty. The only other major enhancement to the games mechanics are the addition of several new tricks. These are essentially just modifications to pre existing trick sets but they do almost double your catalogue of skateboard tom foolery. You can now pull off one foot variations, no complies, boneless', foot plants, finger-flips and inverts. These are performed by doing normal tricks and tweaking them with combinations of either the left or right trigger and then the right analog stick. Inverts however are mapped to R1, pressing it as you exit the top of any vert or half pipe will have your skater grab and balance on the lip, the right analog is used for other variations. Many people criticized Skate for the lack of tricks the control scheme allowed, but in Skate 2 your repertoire has been greatly increased, which means you no longer play as the world's only professional skater who crumbles at the sight of a curb.

The physics and frame rate, which were a bit sketchy at times in the last game, have seen great amendment; the game now runs at 60 frames per second (a vast difference from the previous 30 fps) new mechanics mean the characters actually bend and crumple like real humans, when flying through the air after a major bail, the guys limbs actually flail about desperately, very fun to watch. Mwahaha. In terms of overall prettiness, Skate 2 is a noticeable, if not a very small, step up. Not much has changed but it's an improvement none the less. This is mainly visible in the surrounding environments, New San Vanelona is a very good looking city, and this time actually feels like a city. Much more conducive to free roaming, you won't get stuck at the bottom of the map where all the hills end. A great deal more fun to skate in, with spots and lines to rival the best of Skate. 

Another difference this time round is the career. Rather than having a set pile of crap to film whenever and wherever with the occasional appearance of a real skater pro person, you have what Black Box seems to have convinced themselves is a story which constitutes mainly of the goals being given to you as you progress as opposed to all at once at the beginning. Yes, the 'story' is much more prevalent in this game than the last, although that said, cutscenes are still few and far between, and there is still none of the partial intent and purpose or vague emotional attachment that the later games in the Tony Hawk series somehow managed to conjur and evoke. In fact the story itself is about as relevant as a fly in the corner of a room, sure you may notice it now and again, but fuck if it's gonna have any affect on your life in any way, shape or form.

If you liked Skate you will love Skate 2. No other game can offer you anything as enjoyable and close to skating as this. Last time there were some issues in the PS3 version of the game, but the only distinction between the two platforms I noticed were that the trees and bushes seemed a little more lush and detailed on the PS3, they looked blander on 360, but it's certainly no game breaker. If you enjoy sports games try it, it's a great deal of fun, if your a perfectionist try this, it will infuriate you, and if you enjoy the sense of freedom that sand box games offer, definitely try this you will not regret it. 

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