E3 2007 Hands-On:
As I've mentioned before, EA may very well have had the best
3rd party showing during the entire show. SKATE was yet another
top-notch title they had on display in the Le Merigot Hotel.
Additionally, as we know EA is the only publisher who is capable
of going toe-to-toe with Activision's Tony Hawk. After playing
SKATE, it looks like EA has the advantage over the venerable
Hawk, and with only one iteration no less.
The first thing I noticed about SKATE was that the parks were well designed. 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. The parks are a mixture of realism and over the top creations, and the look is always inspired. EA has certainly been crafting this little gem for quite some time, and it shows.
From the first time I saw the game in its screenshots, I immediately noticed how gorgeous the game looked. A lot of the everyday naysayers were convinced that the screens were concept renders and that the game would never have that kind of polish and smoothness to it. Well, after playing the game in person, the naysayers were wrong (as they frequently are). SKATE does look every bit as good when being played, as it does in the screenshots. Copious amounts of anti-aliasing make for a jaggy-free picture, layered with gorgeous textures, and a framerate that just won't quit.
The entire game is physics based, and that translates to controls. So no 50 foot leaps with 1080 grabs and no more mindless button mashing. SKATE's control system simply utilizes the shoulder buttons and right analog stick. 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 grin 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.
The control scheme works very well the game, even if it does take some time getting used to. But beyond that, it's surprising that it's taken a developer this long to think of a control scheme where the unused analog stick controls a majority of the skateboard. Also, the control flicking isn't just limited to grinding, but board flips, as well. In addition to that, shoulder buttons coupled with the analog stick will pull off grab moves. Best of all, landing tricks in SKATE really feels rewarding and satisfying. You genuinely feel like you've accomplished something, and that's a far cry from how Tony Hawk is.
SKATE is definitely the skateboarding experience you don't want to miss out on come this Fall. If you've been looking for something that feels fresh and connects you to the game, this is it.
Preview below written May 28th, 2007:
For too long now Activision's Tony Hawk franchise has
dominated the skateboard genre. Other skateboard games came only
to quick leave. No publisher has been able to properly put
together a worthy competitor to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, largely
because the developers who have attempted to do so didn't have
nearly as large a wallet as Activision. Well, that's all about to
change as Activision's biggest opponent, Electronic Arts, is set
to embark into the genre with SKATE.
In development exclusively for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, SKATE is set to redefine skateboarding games by offering the gamer the most intuitive controls ever in a skateboarding game. To capture the montaged skateboarding feel, SKATE will also feature a plethora of various authentic camera angles that you can use when you're pulling off your tricks.
"Our game offers a skate mecca for both skaters and gamers in search of the definitive authentic skating video game experience," said Scott Blackwood, executive producer, EA Black Box. "We're focused on capturing the actual feeling of skating with the innovative control system, the physics driven animations, the intelligent cameras working together to really deliver the closest thing to being on a board."
So as you can see, SKATE is poised to aim at realism, as opposed to a button mashing contest and see who string the longest combinations by grinding and manualing non-stop while throwing in a few flips here and there. The game will be completely physics driven, so if your timing isn't very precise, your skater will likely pay for it with bruises. Best of all, EA promises that with every play, no two tricks of yours will ever be the same.
What's most radically different about SKATE's controls is that it doesn't utilize the face buttons for tricks. It actually uses the right analog stick for total board control. How this setup works is fairly easy, actually...if you want to ollie, you simply pull the stick down and then snap it upward. Speed and timing of the snap will make the height vary.
SKATE will have an extensive list of professional skaters, and even Rob Dyrdek and his best-friend Big Black will be featured. If you've ever seen the MTV reality show Rob & Big, Rob Dyrdek traveled up to EA's studios to actually check out an early build of SKATE. Take a look at the full list of skaters below:
* Chris Cole
* Danny Way
* Rob Dyrdek
* Christopher "Big Black" Boykin
* PJ Ladd
* Colin Mckay
* Mike Carroll
* Chris Haslam
* Jason Dill
* Ali Boulala
* Ryan Gallant
* Jerry Hsu
* Pat Duffy
* Paul Rodriguez
* John Rattray
* Dennis Busenitz
* Tommy Guerrero
* Mark Gonzales
* Graham Bickerstaff
* Antwuan Dixon
* Scott Pazelt
* Tony Alva
Based on what I've seen from SKATE in motion, the game does look quite nice. It animates superbly well, and the gameplay looks absolutely slick. I'm definitely eager to try it, so hopefully I get to see it in person come this E3 in July. SKATE is expected to ship at the end of September 07, and it's bound to take Tony Hawk's Proving Ground head-on.
7/17/2007 Arnold Katayev