August 15, 2007 - Every now and then, a developer will come along and redefine a genre of games and essentially antiquate everything that came before it, and sometimes in the most unsuspecting places. Fight Night did this to boxing games, and now Black Box looks to do the same to skateboarding titles with the simply-titled skate. We've been able to drop in a number of times in the past, but being as good and fun as skate has been so far, we've yet to turn down an opportunity to kick-flip over another set of stairs.
Our latest look at the game ran a couple hours long, allowing us plenty of time to hit the streets of San Vanelona. Our session began at the very start of the game where we went right from the character creator to being plopped smack dab into the middle of the community center skate park. Here is where you can opt to run through the introductory tutorials and learn how to play the game, or just head off on your own and tear up the city.
Just outside of the center we ran into a skater who wanted to play us in a little game of S.K.A.T.E. off a small set of stairs. Similar to H.O.R.S.E., the idea is that one skater will perform a trick and the other has to nail the same trick. Score doesn't play a factor here, just whether or not you can pull off and land the trick. When the computer leads a round, you'll see an icon in the lower-left portion of the screen that shows you how to perform the same trick, so you don't need to have memorized the exact stick input for a 360 heel-flip. As this skater was relatively green and we'd already logged a handful of hours with the game, he was quickly made to look like a poser and we left him lying on the pavement to bomb some hills.
When you first set wheel to the streets of San Vanelona it quickly becomes apparent that the city is not like those that you've seen in other skateboarding games. Whereas the streets of Tony Hawk titles are littered with ramps and other skate-friendly objects, skate's playground is much more of a realistic setting. Sidewalks are not lined with hundreds of ramps but rather park benches placed here and there for bus riders to sit and wait on. The only ramps you'll find are either in designated skate parks or what happen to be curved structures that otherwise look like normal building outlays.
That's not to say that San Vanelona is barren. On the contrary, it's filled with objects to hit and grind, but they aren't as obvious as what you'll find in the Tony Hawk series. This means that you'll have to be much more inventive in your lines, much like a real skater needs to be. And this is why skate is fun - its natural control scheme coupled with the constant feeling that you're the first person to figure out any given line keeps your entire session feeling fresh.