Even with Tony Hawk entering his ninth year of skateboarding dominance (Proving Ground arrives next month), there’s always room for something different. EA, eager to get its foot back in the skateboarding genre after its failed Street Sk8er series on the PlayStation, has gotten just that with Skate, a more realistic skateboarding simulation game. It doesn’t body slam Hawk’s games, but it does provide a start for what could blossom into a very endearing — and popular — franchise.
Word of warning to Tony Hawk players accustomed to the simple push-button style — Skate operates NOTHING like that. Players can adapt to the changes quickly at the start of the game, thanks to a helpful tutorial system that explains the basics. Instead of using buttons to jump, or "ollie" (to obtain big air), you must hold down the right analog stick and push upward. From there, the tricks vary. A kickflip works with a more diagonal upward movement, while grabs, tweaks and grinds also require careful, realistic motions. The X and A buttons still find use here, but as "push-off" functions. The X button works the left foot to gain momentum, while the A button moves the right one. They don’t really make a difference, but it’s nice to have a choice. The trigger buttons allow you to grab the board, while using the right analog stick to tweak the grab.
Skate compiles a series of challenges you eventually check off, with multiple tricks and tasks to execute before unlocking a new section of the virtual city of San Vanelona. However, amateurs shouldn’t chew their fingernails quite yet. While Skate does things differently, it doesn’t punish you with a steep learning curve. Instead, it offers a progressive learning scale that gives you a sense of accomplishment upon completing certain goals. Sure, trying to finish a specific task a dozen times is a little frustrating, but don’t give up. The reward becomes that much sweeter once you finally come through.