Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had a very noticeable grasp on the skateboarding video game market. That was until EA produced its own take on the extreme sport, coming in the form of Skate. The two titles managed to provide both a realistic and arcade-style of gameplay, both evolving during their lifespan. Then, nothing.
Both Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Skate have been absent from the limelight as of late. With their time away, skateboarding has continued to evolve. Most importantly, it’s still just as prominent as it ever was. With two of the mainline skateboarding franchises out of the picture, no one else really came forward to fill the void left by their absence (if you don’t count any mobile releases, of course). That was until crea-ture Studios announced Session.
Skate vibes for sure
The one easily recognizable thing about Session is its lower-angled, third-person view. This camera style is equatable to skateboarding, being that this was how the majority of skate videos are recorded. A skateboarder would be followed by a camera person who is also on-board themselves. It’s almost a staple of the culture. Skate took this concept and leaned into it for each of its three titles. This same camera angle is used in Session.
This might not seem like that big of a deal to some. But, for everyone else out there who has been begging for a direct sequel to EA’s game, this is as close as we will probably get to the real thing. Not only that, Session manages to pull off the look with both style and fluidity.
Early on in Early Access
I don’t tend to jump into Early Access titles for previews. There’s got to be something undeniably compelling for me to not steer away from Steam’s preview platform. And in this case, I join the ranks of the many fans out there who have been practically begging for something resembling the skateboarding feels from yesteryear. Session gives off those very vibes.
It’s clear that crea-ture Studios is in the early stages of development. That’s not to say that the demo doesn’t queue up a lot of promises or start to formulate what the final product is going to consist of.
So far in the demo, you can explore the curbs and lips of Lower Manhattan in New York. The downtown location is empty of pedestrians and moving cars, but that doesn’t mean that it’s bereft of challenges. The early build of the game showcases a lot of good. Much like previous skating games, you’ll be using a standard controller to pull off your tricks. And in this case, the team went more of the simulation route when pulling off tricks. Tricks like a kickflip are executed by performing actions with the right and left thumbsticks, mimicking the motion your feet perform when doing the trick.
Crashing course in skating
Early on in the demo, it was very clear that there’s a lot more under the hood than meets the eye. As previously mentioned, the Tony Hawk’s series of games are mostly built in the arcade style of skateboarding. In those, it’s not unthinkable to jump off a building and gracefully land on a kinked rail, performing a nose blunt with ease. However, when it comes to simulation, the overall feel is much, much more grounded.
There is a clear learning curve when it comes to Session. Not only are you utilizing the two controller thumbsticks for flip tricks, but, you’re also using the X and A buttons for pushing with your different feet. In terms of steering, the right and left triggers allow you to lean left or right. This does a lot to streamline the many moves available to pull off, however, it also does a lot to complicate things from previous skating games. For example, doing a simple ollie requires you to pull down the right thumbstick and flick up with the left thumbstick.
In games like Skate, this is done with a single stick. Not only that, you now have to consider your movement from side-to-side with the triggers guiding your board. I was constantly running into small islands, steps, or ledges because of this. The game also goes full ragdoll. So, be prepared for your skater to be sent flying into the air any time an obstacle is hit.
The future looks full of clean lines
As it stands right now, I can see a lot of potential with Session. Although there is a mighty steep learning curve, especially for those who’ve played previous skateboarding games, things start to mesh together once familiarity sets in. After spending a few hours trying to get flip tricks down, I found myself stringing together skate lines, nailing a kickflip, with an ollie up a curb, and then doing a nice 180 down a set of stairs. Even in its early stages, ledges and curb hops have a fluid feel to them which, for a simulator, probably isn’t easy to nail from the get-go.
The one area where I still find frustration is in the collision system. Most of my bails came from small clips during grinds or uneven pavement. Granted, the game just entered Early Access, so these are to be expected. There’s also an experimental tab within the menu to enact grabs, but I haven’t been able to fully understand the system, though.
I’m glad that someone is finally taking the reigns for the next street skating title. There is a lot of promise with Session as it gears up to enter Steam’s Early Access program. That’s not to say that the game isn’t already showing signs where improvements must be made, though. Things like the collision system and button flow for flip tricks – not to mention grabs – need to be ironed out when the full product releases.
If you can look past the bumps and bruises of Early Access, then, you’ll probably recognize that something is starting to take shape. A little more wax, maybe some tighter trucks, and Session could provide what fans have been clamoring for since 2010.