Platforms: Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3 - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
I think that EA's Canadian Black Box studio must have had a tough job with this one. How do you take Skate - a game that reinvents a genre partly by stripping it back to its essence - and improve on it by adding new features? Do you risk meddling with a control system that most players considered nearly perfect? Do you make changes to a game design that Skaters and non-Skaters alike adored? Can you take Skate in a new direction without wrecking what made it so special first time around?
Not everybody will like the answers that EA Black Box has found to these questions. Those who loved Skate for its purity may well feel that, with Skate 2, something has been lost. For most of us, however, this is a superb sequel to an exceptional game. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best skateboarding game I've ever played.
Don't worry - despite what you might have heard and despite what you might fear from the 'edgy' intro movie, Skate 2 hasn't gone down the Tony Hawks Jackass humour and gimmickry overload toilet. The emphasis here remains on authenticity. The graphics still have the gritty, Skate-video style of the original game, and if you were feeling picky you might even say that the rather plain textures and architecture could have done with a little more gloss. While there is a slightly half-baked storyline that sees your character released from chokey and out on the streets of a californian city dominated by corporate security (boo, hiss), it's not something that's constantly shoved in your face. In simple, minute-by-minute terms, Skate 2, like Skate, is all about the real experience of skating.
The control system is much the same as before, with the left stick controlling your boarder and the right handling balance and the board. You still pull the right stick down to crouch then flick it up or around to trigger an olly or a kickflip, and still grab by clutching the right trigger. Arguably, Skate 2 does an even better job than its predecessor of simulating all the minute interactions between rider, board and environment that give skateboarding its feel. It's all so smooth, so natural, so subtle and so right, while the challenges that make up the heart of the game still feel tied into skateboarding as a real activity, rather than a basis for video-game theatrics. The only difference with Skate 2 is that the sequel gives you more avenues beyond your basic trick challenges and showcase events. Above all, Skate 2 hasn't lost the thing that made the first game so special; merely skating around town, doing grinds, spins and flip tricks off the architecture and the street-side furniture, is entertaining in itself. You can waste hours without really making progress, just having a good time.