When the original Xbox came out, Amped was one of the launch titles. Not long after that, SSX Tricky came out. Since both were snowboarding games, comparisons between the two were inevitable, even though their approaches were different. The Amped games took a more realistic approach, while the SSX games were more about crazy tricks and speed.
While Tony Hawk has had some occasional competition in the skateboarding arena, none of the challengers could make a dent in the series until last year when EA’s Skate came along. Apparently Activision took the new competition seriously as they decided to take a year off of the Tony Hawk series. Now Skate 2 has come out with no competition, but does that mean that they took an easy route with the sequel, and what does Skate 2 offer that Tony Hawk hasn’t?
When you start out in Skate 2, you create your character. You are given several options as far as hair, clothes, and decks go. You are given a little bit of money to spend, and it’s just about enough to get one change of clothes and a custom deck. Several clothes and decks need to be unlocked during the game. The character creation has enough options to make it easy to make your character unique while not having so many that it is overwhelming. Unfortunately, it seems like there is a bit of a delay when you change one of your options, and it breaks the fluidity of the process.
When you get into the game, other skaters populate the locations. Some of these are known in the business, and you can tell who they are by their features. During the cutscenes the animations are stiff and feel forced. They also have a lack of detail that makes them feel a bit creepy, especially when you look at them while they are talking.
Where the game shines is the animation during the skating. Your character squats, leans, jumps, and gains momentum realistically while on the board. Your arms move naturally with the movements, helping your balance. As your buddy takes pictures of you performing specific tricks, you can see the fluidity of the movements.
Musically Skate 2 uses the now familiar EA Trax system. It includes several styles from hip-hop to alternative. The music fits with the game, giving just enough angst to fit with the rebellious lifestyle of the characters portrayed in the game.
The skaters actually provided their own voice work in the game, and this can be both a positive and a negative. The positive is that you can actually hear the voices that these skaters have. Unfortunately, the way some of the lines are delivered is just plain bad. Some of it is cringe worthy, coming out flat with no emotion or inflections. The cameraman can get annoying if you fail a challenge constantly. He’ll repeat the same phrase over and over again, though it does seem to change depending on how close you were to completing the challenge. There were times when I just wanted to just shoot him though.
The effects do their job well. Sliding along edges sounds right whether it is cement or metal. Landings are hard on cement surfaces and muted on wood ramps. Taking a dive lets you hear every scratch and broken bone as you tumble through the environment.
If you have played the Tony Hawk games, then Skate 2 will be a bit of an adjustment. While Tony Hawk used buttons for most of the moves, Skate 2 heavily utilizes the right analog stick. To perform an ollie, you pull the right stick down then flip it up. Performing a kickflip is done by pulling the stick down and then flicking the stick up and to the left or right. Manuals are done by pushing the stick forwards or backwards just slightly to get the correct balance. There are several other moves that are done with the right stick, and it will take some practice to get used to. Once you do, it will become more intuitive and you will be performing complex tricks in no time.
While the stick controls are useful, some moves still use buttons. Pushing off with your left and right foot is done with the X and A buttons respectively. Braking your uses the B button. Hitting Y takes you off your board or gets you back on it. The Left Bumper brings up your cell phone or sets a session marker. Holding down the Right Bumper lets you grab onto different objects and manipulate them when you are off your board. Grabbing and crouching your board is done with the Left and Right Triggers.
The controls are incredibly awkward when off the board. While you think that this wouldn’t be an issue these days, it is completely unnatural in Skate 2. It feels like you are walking in shorter distances than what your feet are actually walking. Getting objects into the right area isn’t very easy either because of the off skateboard controls.
Apparently skateboarding is now a crime, and you were put in the brink for it. You have just gotten out and it’s time to get reacquainted with the city. While you were serving your time, a big corporation named Mongocorp rebuilt most of New San Vanelona. While there are some areas that are built of skating, most of the city has been skate-proofed. Security officers have been deployed to prevent skaters from entering certain areas on their boards.
After starting at Slappy’s Skatepark and getting a feel for the controls, several challenges open up for you. Some challenges require you to do tricks for a tape to get you noticed by sponsors. Others are areas for you to perform tricks on. Acquire a steady stream of tricks on them and
The campaign in Skate 2 is fairly extensive. Since it has an open-world feel to it, you can go all over and complete whatever kind of challenge you are in the mood for at that time. You can even go back and try to improve your score in events you have already completed. If you don’t feel like doing challenge, you can go into the Freeskate mode and just skateboard around the city. You can even choose how many pedestrians and how much traffic is going around. You can even turn off those pesky security guards if you like.
You can play local multiplayer, competing in three different challenges. They are Spot Battle, S.K.A.T.E., and Hall of Meat. While it is nice to actually have local multiplayer these days, it would have been nice to have more challenges. These events seem to be