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Skate 2, child of Black box and EA games, the sequel to 'skate.' has arrived and to me, I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth after eating something I thought would be sweet. (We'll get to that in a second though.)
Skate took the reigns in the video game skater market away from Tony Hawk with its control system and more realistic approach to skating. I loved the experience, sure it had a few bugs in the physics department but it was a skating experience that was much more immersive than the world Tony Hawk presented to the skater, where every side of every building is a vert to the rooftop. I'm not bagging on Tony Hawk, he took us places back in the day, but I'm not alone in thinking that the serires needs a revamp.
Moving back to Skate 2: the sequel to the king of skating games. I had high hopes and expectations for this game, and I'm sorry to say it just doesn't live up to the bar.
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The controls make or break the experience, and it all depends on the players ability to learn them. Just for a brief skating video game background lesson: Tony Hawks controls: R analog = move, X = Ollie, Square and a direction = flip tricks, O and a direction = grabs, and you had to press triangle to grind. In skate, you have 2 buttons to 'push' aka propel yourself forward with either leg, and two buttons to grab, your right and left triggers/hands. And all flip tricks and ollies are done with the right analog stick.
Its tricky at first, and if you don't really understand what I'm saying, look at the picture below this paragraph. Its a diagram of different paths the Right analog stick has to take in order to perform the trick. You hold the analog stick down to make your skater crouch, then flick it upwards to ollie, the faster the flick the higher the ollie. It was an amazing innovation from holding down X to ollie, and it made the game more fun.
That being said, most people who play skate don't do much more than pop shove-its and kick flips because they are the easiest and most natural movement for your thumbs. The other tricks take precise flicks that take some practice, and to manual you tilt the analog stick ever so slightly and balance your skater.
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Skate 2 added a lot of tricks which in the original you wondered why they weren't there. Things like vert handplants, and hippie jumps. It added some new flip tricks, but mostly the most surprising thing they added was one foot airs, no complys, boneless, and one foot grabs.
After skating around for the first few minutes, and getting to know all that, you feel the tricks are dry, old, and worn out. I discovered this last 'new trick' somewhat late in my play, and it sparked a little fire of interested that quickly died out again because of the physics of the trick. If you are holding a one footed grab as you approach the ground, if you have a slow enough downwards velocity (usually at the peak of your jump) you can kick off the ground for just a little more lift.
Its fun for a little while when you do it correctly, but as I performed it more and more it started to get on my nerves. The velocity they actually let you use this trick at is somewhat generous, because the skaters ankle never cracks under your weight, even though 9 times out of 10 it looks like it should.
Then soon after that, I felt that this was just skate again, and it was business as usual.
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New game modes
Only god knows why this wasn't in the pervious game, but the Hall of meat, a gametype where you and your buddies take turns purposely destroying their frail skater avatars as you fling them off rooftops and ridiculous ramps. The game then calculates, based on speed, distance of the drop, and place of impact to give you a score for your awesome bail. Someone at black box was playing Pain and said hey... we could do this.
The other most interesting thing they've added is these Freeskate activies. When you are freeskating online, players in the match can propose activies of challenges, and if you do all the challenges in a certain area you get unlockables, so you don't have to be alone to progress through skate 2. Oh, and in case you didn't know, if you don't want to spend all your TIME you can spend your MONEY instead and just unlock everything there is to unlock for 5 dollars on the PSN. Very in the spirit of gameplay time is rewarded, except not. Yay for EA, makning new innovations with every product.
Theres also a few small changes to the old gametypes, which is nice.
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The Physics engine
Here is where the game starts to make me sad. There are many many glitches in the physics engine, and it seems as though they took the engine from skate 1, and then started adding on features that the engine wasn't designed for, and in the end product you have this clunky, unrefined skater. Things like the foot plants, and wall rides just feel wrong altogether.
Walking, I'm sure a lot of people from skate thought this was going to be an awesome feature that totally innovates the way they do things. Yes, and no. Yes because its very easy to walk up stairs. No because its very difficult to do just about anything else on your feet. The walking just feels wrong, and if you happen to run into a wall accidentally because of this clunky-ness it is very easy to 'bail'. I don't know how, but skaters just can't walk straight... maybe its a commentary on their intelligence, but either way I struggled with the walking.
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Another one of the selling-points of skate 2 is the fact that you can move certain objects around and save their location in the world so that other skaters can try to 'own the spot' on your newly created spot. This is a really good idea, and it is very fun to take ownership of a spot someone else created.
However it is too limited in my opinion, the only thing that can be changed are a handful of objects. Not only that but you can only 'create' spots that are already in existence in San Van, there is no actual customization. After playing a few of the spots, they start to get very drull and repetitive.
I guess I went into this with the Little Big planet expectations, and that was just silly of me.
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Summing it up.
On the whole skate 2 isn't an awful game. I will continue to play it because I enjoy the act of skateboarding, and I am no longer any good at it in real life, nor in my city (santa cruz, with way too many hills) could I pick it up again. I enjoy playing online with other people because it is a fun experience.
However skate 2 still falls short in many ways in my opinion, and it is not worth 60 to someone who has very high expectations about the innovation or unique-ness of this game. As a sequel it fails to expand past its original, and falls to sequel syndrome which is exactly what EA is known for. If this game was skate 1 however, I would give it a ten out of ten. However, there is still a lot of load times (which was promised to be a lot shorter) and there is still a lot of physics glitches.
If you don't believe me, go skate for yourself. Try this trick while your at it: its a bug.
If you skate and get a very slight bit of momentum, then hop off your board with triangle. Your skater should hop off his board without taking steps forward, if he did hop forward try again, but slower. Now that you are off your board, press triangle and immediately after that grab both triggers and circle, and if you do it correctly your skate will do a 'superdude' move into the ground, making you glitch up into the sky. Only try this on flat ground, otherwise you won't get the desired effect.