Some clumsy design choices and technical issues brings it down.
Skate starts you off as a nobody. You cant skate at all and you´re stuck in a little skatepark where you get to learn the basics. But soon you´re off to your first photoshoot and to the start of your career as a skater. You will try to gain fame by completing public events, challenges, photo shoots and by having your buddy record your best tricks with a camera and spreading the word. You gain streetcred and respect and climb your way up to the big names like PJ Ladd, Danny Way, Jason Dill & Jerry Hsu wich are all perfecly modelled in the game and they all interact with you in one way or another on your way to skatefame and they all get alot of focus. You get to know their personalities and their sponsors and what clothes they wear. And as if that wasnt enough theres videos presenting them with real life footage in HD from the main menu.
This is probably as realistic as a skategame ever is going to get. From the loads of real skaters, real brands of wheels, boards, shirts, bracelets, glasses, hats and more to the way all the tricks is very down to earth. Your not going to pull off 540 heelflips to a manual to a nollie 360 to a nosegrind on a parkbench combo unless you practice hard and long just like in real life. Almost all of that is of course because of the first thing people talk about when talking about skate. The controls. The completely revolutionary controls. They feel so natural and intuative that you wonder why no skategame has done this so far. After playing with these controls for a while you will laugh and the pathetic attempt at skating that is Tony Hawk. Basically your left analog stick acts as a control of your body movement, your right analogstick acts as a control for your board, your left trigger is your left hand and your right trigger is your right hand, and thats all theres to it. You do every skatingtrick in the book by combining movements of all these buttons.
If you drag your right stick down and flick it up you do an ollie. This is the basic thing that flips your board up into the air. If you drag your right analogstick down and flick it up to the right really hard you do a heelflip. Combine this with pushing your left stick to the left you do a 180 before landing. If your high up in the air this of course leads to bigger spins. Carefully lean the right stick a tiny bit upwards to do a nose manual and then flick it hard and fast down/up to flip out of the manual. Grab the board by pressing right or left trigger while flipping your board to grab it midair and release the triggers before landing. All this requires alot of practice. ALOT of practice. Just like if you were going to start skating in real life you will fall alot. Break bones, get bruised and get back up on the board to practice some more. But once you get the controls down and start to really get into the game if feels so extremely natural to do all the tricks this way you cant do anything but cheer at the developers for coming up with this insanely smooth controlscheme. Things like carefully pressing your left stick up in time with the walls in a halfpipe to gain speed on your way back down to the other side of the pipe, just slightly lowering your body on the way up the walls. Everything is carefully mapped to your sticks in a way no other game has ever come near before.
You will not pull off insane tricks in skate for a long while. You need to find the right spots to do it, get the timing down to perfection and master your body and board. They make such a good job to make it feel like a huge accomplishent to do an easier trick. Flipping onto a rail and grinding it for a couple of seconds and flipping off will feel like a huge accomplishment after trying to nail it for 30 minutes. The small things count in skate. Grinding the curb, jumping over a trashcan or just randomly skating on the sidewalk doing some manuals. Its very down to earth, its everyday skating wich you will get better and better on with hard training.
You do all of your skating in the city of San Verona. An open freeroaming "GTA style" city with events and challenges spread out over the entire city. The entire city is built for skating. Curbs, rails, benches, sidewalks, highways, backalleys, supermarket parkinglots, the suburbs, playgrounds, parking garages & gas stations. Everything can be skated and everything is free from the beginning to explore, without any loadingscreens to interrupt you. So your own imagination is really the limit here. If you want to line up an insane combo you need to skate around the city and find a good spot where you think you can pull of a specific combo and be rewarded for it. The structure is also there for those who wants it with premade challenges and places to trick. You´re not going to mistake San Verona for a living breathing city tho. Its a playground made for skating. Its completely dead. A couple of generic "copy, pasted" pedestrians here and there without any real purpose but to get in the way and a couple of cars on the roads here and there. Thats about it. Theres not alot of detail put into the city either. It feels very dead, pale and without personality. So never ever confuse this for a "GTA on skateboard" because this city cant even touch Liberty City á la GTA1. But as a playground for really making you want to find good trickingspots it works very well.
Technically skate for the PS3 (I´ve heard that the 360 version is waaay better) is a disaster. One of the worst disasters in recent memory. Some people at EA must REALLY have had some problems porting this to the PS3 and I deeply regret not picking up the 360 version instead. The framerate is all over the place. Going from solid 60 down to 15, up to 23 and back up to 60 while your trying to pull of a trick resulting in total failure. The framerate is so bad that it actually affects the speed of the gameplay. If you start to trick to much or if you enter a big area you can count on the game slowing down to a crawl and rushing back to 60 frames per second over and over. This should, of course, not be happening. Its not like the PS3 cant handle it. The PS3 has so much power it should be laughing in the face if skate but still it goes down to a crawl. Its a sloppy port and a sloppy port alone. The game looks really good, dont get me wrong, but not THAT good. The game has alot of filters working for it. The camera is pulled down to your feet and around you is a kind of dark filter around the edges combined with a colored filter over the picture making the graphics feel very "street" dirty. Textures looks sharp but the characters models could have looked better. Sure they look acceptable but they are so "acceptable" they´re really not worth noticing. The sound is, for the most part, excellent. The sounds of the skateboard and the environment around you sounds good enough to be nominated for best soundeffects of the year. The same cannot be said for voices wich sounds muted, low bitrate and scrambled. The menus also feel way to sluggish and the menudesign feels very "meh". Yet enother thing with the graphics are the antialiasing on objects on the distance. Its sometimes HORRIBLE. If you look at a phoneline from some distance away it actually looks more like a staircase than a line. Madness.
The soundtrack is excellent. Theres loads and loads of licensed songs spanning over rap, hip-hop, metal, punkrock, indierock, RnB & classical rock tunes. Theres really something for every skater. You will quickly make your personal playlist to get you in the right mood while trying to pull of a jump onto a cab and onwards onto a mailbox. My personaly favorite song is "Hate Crew Deathroll" by Children of Bodom. An insanely adrenalinepumping metalsong that has made me pull of tricks i didnt know I could do.
What really makes Skate worth playing tho is the online community. Uploading tricks and stunts to a server and letting people rate them is something that works really well and something that people really use. The game is always recording what you´re doing in San Verona and you can pause the game anytime and go back and check the last couple of minutes, take it into a clip editor and then upload your clip. The same goes for photos. Once uploaded people will watch your tricks and rate them. Theres toplists of most viewed and highest rated and so on and theyre all hilarious to watch. Giving people a free roaming city, a skateboard and loads of time will result in alot of insane clips to watch. The highest rated ones are not even skatingtricks. Its people glitching and bugging the game or using the ragdoll physics that takes over your body when crashing to pull of extremely funny things. People have really gone crazy with the uploading stuff and its very fun both to watch and to try and pull of by yourself. You can seriously spend an hour trying to crash into a wall the right way to make your body land on the bench behind it in a cool pose. The urge to play around in the city gets a huge boost by this community stuff.
The game has some dumb designmisses tho. First of all, you cant be a girl and theres no famous girl skaters in the game....yea.. do I need to say more? Well ok, so the female skatingscene isnt as big as the male one but the fact that you cant even be a girl skater or the fact that theres isnt one single girl using a skateboard while skating around the city feels kinda dumb. In a world where we´re trying to even out everything between men and women this is pretty retarded.
The characters customization is useless. Theres like 15 sliders for your face to mold it to your liking but it either ends up looking hella ugly or generic boring. They could have taken this away completely. Theres a couple of hairstyles and beards to complement the worthless facemolding but it dosent really do much. Accessorising your avatar is always fun but again I feel kind of restricted when it comes to choice of clothing.
Skate is a revolutionary skatinggame made by skaters, with skaters for everyone. Its extremely down to earth and has great online functions. Its very addicting, the sandbox concept works very well and it has a way of making you practice the game like no other game to nail that perfect trick. Its to bad the frustration of always failing your tricks kinda takes the upper hand sometimes. Its also a shame the PS3 version is completely technically crippled and that the game is very uneven in many parts of its design.