Ever since its announcement, the buzz around EA's SKATE has been very high and positive. As soo as the first wave of media rolled out, you could instantly see the attention to detail behind the game and you quickly begin to appreciate its authenticity. We've played SKATE briefly before, but now we have a deeper hands-on look available to us.
What I absolutely love about SKATE is how awesome the stages are. The skate parks are just so well put together that the game almost looks like an amusement park for skaters. While the area is one seamless world, you aren't forced to skate back and forth, so you can teleport to specific locations via a train station feature, keeping the tedium to a minimum. And while the look of the game is quite realistic, the parks will also demonstrate some fantasy in their design.
The demo starts out simple, you first have to complete a set of training tasks. So the game will explain the usage of the Flickit controls, using the right analog stick to jump and flip your board. Once you complete that, you'll go into learning how to kick/push for speed, how to pull off grabs, twists, grinds, and ollying onto a platform. The exercises are basic, and you may struggle with them initially, due to the drastically different control schemes between SKATE and Tony Hawk.
Give SKATE some time, and you'll quickly realize that it may very well be the most ideal skateboarding experience to date. The realism in its gameplay sets it apart from anything out there, and to those who have grown tired of the same old Tony Hawk routine will find solace in SKATE's unparalleled fluidity. To understand SKATE, you have to have some understanding of skateboarding in general. Essentially, the game is physics based. So, you may never perform a 1080 in SKATE, unless there's a course or jump in the game that allows you to.
You can't grind for 15 minutes either, so forget all of that. Skating will consist of you using the X or Square button to kick/push (each button controls a different leg). Tricks are performed using the right analog stick and the trigger buttons. Want to ollie? Flick the stick down and up; aim an ollie as you're approaching a rail, and you'll perform a grind. Moreover, if in mid-air you're angling your skater forward, the grind will be a lip-grind and if you angle him sideways, the grind will become a frontside boardslide. So as you can see, physics will be what you rely on in order to pull off certain types of moves.
Part of SKATE's appeal is that completing a trick really feels satisfying. It's a great feeling, just as it is in real life, because SKATE requires you to put some effort into each trick. There's a thought process involved, where you'll find yourself thinking "okay, how much jumping distance do I need in order to land that rail". It's the first extreme sports game that doesn't hold you by the hand and fixes everyone of your mistakes, and I think fans will really love it.
As far as visuals go, believe the hype. SKATE is easily the best looking skateboarding game. Everything about it is stupendous and frivolously detailed, from the skate park and its textures, to the skaters, right down to the animations. Because SKATE is set on realism, its animations are bar-none some of the nicest out there. Skaters react to situations and impacts very well, and more importantly, the tricks and transitions between tricks look splendid. You won't find any choppiness here, SKATE is all sorts of awesome.
It's an especially impressive game when you consider that when its first screens were revealed, people were quick to write them off as concept renders. The game's framerate is great, with a few very minor hiccups here and there, but that should be all resolved for the final build. Lastly, yes, the picture clarity is as smooth as it looks in the screenshots. There's tons of anti-aliasing being used, so you won't find jags here.
SKATE is fast approaching release, and you'd be better getting yourself a copy.
9/21/2007 Arnold Katayev