Grinding a Brick Wall: The Skate 2 Review
by Mitchell Dyer
Rather than meet predecessor’s innovative ideas with new originality, Skate 2 expands on what worked the first time around and spit-shines any scuffs out of its shoes.
Small tweaks make this skateboard sim a more comfortable experience than its predecessor. For example: rather than restricting vision by leveling the camera with your shoe laces, the view is behind your skater’s knees, which lets you see the surrounding environment clearer than before. Another cool addition is the one-footed grabs, which allow you to tweak each of your tricks.
Throughout the entirety of my experience with Skate 2, I found myself enjoying the subtleties. Once you’ve seen the nuances, the smart design decisions start to shine like a lighthouse. A lighthouse that I can hand-plant on.
The realistic animations and physics add a profound sense of satisfaction to the intuitive trick system. Flicking and swooping the right analog stick makes it easy to pull off a kickflip or pop-shuvit, but the precision required to execute varials and laser flips adds an incredibly rewarding challenge to Skate 2. It also adds an unnecessary layer of frustration.
Because Skate is seemingly incapable of effectively teaching you how to play, I found myself struggling to fully utilize the long list of tricks as I sunk deeper in to my professional career. The low-rent tutorials merely offer an image of a glowing arrow atop an analog stick, so your success is reliant on trial and error. If you can’t land a trick, your skill and patience will determine the amount of time needed to self-educate.
But the immensely fulfilling feeling of achieving those goals is a large portion of what makes Skate 2 so remarkably addictive. Filling in the remaining chunk of the fun is the setting: the gorgeous city of New San Vanelona. When you’re hitting the half-pipe at one of the many awesome skate parks, you can grind along brick ledges and sidewalk edges, trick over sidewalk benches and on to picnic tables, or clear lengthy gaps and long flights of stairs with epic ollies.
Because the massive and detailed world is so well designed, it becomes a massive playground. Meeting up with professional skaters for magazine photo-shoots around the city adds legitimacy to the world, and competing against veterans like Danny Way and Eric Koston makes for some of the most entertaining and challenging objectives in Skate 2. Keeping up with them in downhill races and out-scoring them in vert competitions also introduces you to new locales, so while you’re hanging out with friendly pros, you’re earning fresh spots to skate.
On the way to these objectives, I’d spend a ton of time skating down streets and through residential areas simply because it was so much fun to trick on to bus stops and boardslide down stair railings. This is completely optional, and teleportation is available for the lazy.
But skating leads to learning the city’s intricacies.
And that leads to experimentation.
Hopping off of your board isn’t just for climbing steps. Once you’re standing on your feet, you’re free to not only run around the world, but manipulate it as well. Mailboxes, benches, wayward ramps, dumpsters and rails can me moved around the environment to create cool custom lines to skate.
The on-foot meandering is far from comfortable since the clunky movement makes you feel like your feet have been transformed in to tank treads, but setting up sweet-ass spots to skate more than makes up for it. Being able to share your groovy creations to the online community through your Skate Reel is peachy. In addition to that, you can upload photos and edited videos of yourself to the Reel at any time. Editing videos became an addiction of mine, since I’d feel it necessary to cut a video any time I landed a particularly rad jump, or grisly wipe-out.
Since you can earn a score for chewing on the concrete, the Hall of Meat mode became another compulsive activity. Deliberately jumping off of my deck in to traffic, off of skyscrapers, and onto spiky railings makes for hilarious entertainment, and checking off the list of bone-breaking, groin-shattering objectives is a great diversion from progressing your career.
This was one of the most entertaining online modes for me, since watching my friends ride railings like they were horses, or slide down a concrete street on their face had us giggling with sadistic glee. The multiplayer is great for casual hang-outs like that, since everyone is free to roam a select area until someone proposes an activity. Whether it’s racking up points together, checking off a list of cool tricks, or falling 25 stories for points is up to whoever puts the objective up, and you can opt in to take part, or continue to meander in the Freeskate mode until your buds return. Skate 2‘s multiplayer a fairly seamless process, and is one of the best ways to enjoy yourself online.
Before Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater started swimming in sterility, I loved to rack up combos with impossible, gravity-defying flips. Now all I need to sate my lust for skateboarding satisfaction is to successfully spin out of a backside boardslide. If I can 180 kickflip into it, so much the better. Because the mechanics are rooted in reality, arcade-y acrobatics are practically nonexistent in Skate, so you’ll have to take a more technical approach to everything you do. Despite the agitation you’ll inevitably endure, the game is better for it.
Overcoming Skate‘s few brick-wall challenges requires you to know what your doing. But because the game is so unabashedly fun you can enjoy yourself while practicing and learning new things. The feeling of accomplishment in Skate 2 is unmatched by any sports game I’ve ever played, full stop.
Great locations, a beautiful world, and clever objectives doled out by pro skaters and magazine photogs means you’ll have plenty to do in Skate 2. The euphoric feeling of mastering a challenging trick or completing a particularly hard activity is as fun as it is satisfying, and the cool online modes add a lot to the co-op and competitive nature of sports games.