My latest Skate 2 session went like this:
8.00pm – After loading up the city, I immediately indulge my first skating instinct which is to find a downhill road, flip on to the kerb, attempt an overly-ambitious line and watch my hapless skater grate his face on a few hundred yards of concrete. The next 15 minutes follow a similar pattern. I remember losing hours to this pointless pursuit in the first game and resolve to take on some challenges.
There’s a lot on offer in Skate 2. The core of the single player game are the career challenges which drive the storyline. Your skater has had the misfortune to be banged up in San Vanelona Penitentiary for the past few years and, now released, has found a changed city. The once skater-friendly metropolis has been sanitised by the Man, rendering the prime spots unskateable and driving the skater community underground. You are, predictably, their only hope. You must stick it to said Man by pulling off a series of increasingly-complex tricks in various areas of the city. Because that’s what the Man hates most.8.45pm – I’ve just hit the wall. The challenges in Skate 2 have been surprisingly reasonable so far and I had begun to entertain the notion that I was pretty tasty at this game. Now I’m tasked with pulling off a finger flip down some stairs and I realise that this is, unfortunately, not yet the case. While the majority of the specific trick challenges in Skate 2 are achievable, it’s inevitable that at some point you’ll find yourself face to face with that hoary old game mechanic, trial and error. Black Box has at least made a concession to the player by allowing you to set positional markers which you can instantly warp back to when you stack it, but T&E has always been a major part of skating games and Skate 2 is no exception. In the context of the career mode, the sheer amount of repetition can sometimes take the shine off your victory when you do finally nail that difficult trick, if only because you know that something equally as infuriating is lurking just around the corner.
9.30pm – After what feels like my 1000th attempt at the finger flip (and flipping the finger to the game), I decide that the survival of my DualShock rests on me attempting some of the other challenges on offer. The Street Contests prove to be the most engaging and require you to face off against other skaters and score big with tricks within a time limit. The advanced tricks I encountered in the career challenges come in handy here and I cruise through rounds one and two of the contest in first place. It looks like round three is in the bag after a pretty special front flip but at the last possible moment a rival skater pulls off a pant-wettingly complex grab and I’m defeated. This seems to happen a little too often in the Street Contests and it begins to feel like the game is pulling some strings behind the scenes.
The races in Skate 2 also seem to suffer from undue CPU interference. For some reason, your rival skaters always get a slight head start and should you be unfortunate enough to bail during the race, you’ll quickly find yourself at the back of the pack. The game throws enough cars and pedestrians in the way to make this a common occurrence. The racing challenges offer little but frustration and feel a little out of place in what is the most serious skating game on the market.
10.30pm – The arrival of two friends – one a fan of, and the other indifferent to, the first game – prompts a little multiplayer action. Skate 2, like its predecessor, is a pretty compelling party game and we become embroiled in an all-too-competitive session of Own the Spot on some ludicrously big ramps. My colleagues want to know what is new in Skate 2 and I demonstrate by hopping off the board and attempting an acid drop into a huge ramp. This, miraculously, works and earns me some much-needed kudos. As soon as my friends contend with the off-board controls however, we find ourselves in fits of laughter at the dopey sluggishness of it all. We decide that the skater should make some kind of constant, droning “nnnngggghhhhh” noise whenever he gets off his board.
11.30pm – After one particularly brutal meeting of face and ramp we decide to check out the new Hall of Meat mode. Competing to see who can inflict the most injury to their skater proves to be a welcome distraction but we decide that, as fun as the “crunch” noises are, landing tricks is more fun than not landing them. My friends leave, entertained but a little underwhelmed by the game.
11.45pm – I return to the single player game and am on the verge of switching off the PS3 when something catches my eye. A rail. A big-ass rail on a steep downhill slope, with some benches nearby. And then an almighty drop. Instinct, once again, takes over and I begin to think about the game like a puzzle. One of Skate 2’s major improvements is the ability to move objects within the game world and, attempting to ignore the “nnnngggghhh” sound in my head, I move the benches into sequence.
1.30am – I finally nail the perfect line on my created spot. It feels like a mammoth task has been overcome and I don’t even care that it’s taken so long to achieve it. It’s easier to forgive the trial and error gameplay when you’re skating your own little spot for no other reward than the replay.
2.15am – I finish editing the replay of my line, a bizarrely engaging process in itself. The replay feature allows you to set up multiple camera angles and apply effects to the “film” all via an interface which is surprisingly easy to navigate. I upload my finished replay to the EA servers and finally turn off the system.
Of all the games which offer the sharing of in-game moments, Skate 2 benefits most from the feature. The EA Skate replays page is testament to the open-world experimentation at the heart of the game and it’s impossible not to be impressed by the imagination driving the community. Skate is not about completing challenges to unlock rewards, it’s about making your own experience. Explore the city, find a spot, think about how you can interact with it and document your highlights. Points mean nothing.