Less skater friendly. That’s a weird tag for a game about skateboarding, but that’s the pitch for SKATE 2. Maybe it’s not surprising: while the Tony Hawk’s series offers up easier, more ridiculous moves with each iteration and lets players glue themselves to rails, the original SKATE forced you to pull off joypad gymnastics for a simple kickflip, and smashed your shins to pieces if you dared approach a grind from the wrong angle. But it matched that punishing difficulty with a real sense of reward for pulling off the simplest tricks. What’s more it did the seemingly impossible and knocked the multi-million selling Tony Hawk series off its pedestal. Now SKATE’s back, and picking up where it left off.
Fast-forward five years in game time from the original game and San Vanelona, the city where SKATE was set, is a shell of its former self, wrecked in places and remodeled in others, after what the development team at EA Black Box will only refer to as The Disaster That Must Not Be Named. A company called MongolCorp’s taken over, making some zones into shiny architectural masterpieces, but leaving others gutted and in need of repair. You, well, the skater you played in SKATE – have been away from the city for years, meaning you return to what’s now known as New San Vanelona as a virtual unknown. You find your former home a much more oppressive place for skaters. Some grinds and half-pipes have skatestoppers on them – little aluminum plugs that will send you flying off your board if you don’t spot them messing up a line. What’s more, the SKATE 2 staff says more of these will appear if you ‘misbehave’, but instantly clam up when we ask what exactly that means. Pedestrians are now smart enough to dive out of your path – think Driver – but cops and security guards are more aggressive than ever, ready to sacrifice their well-being in favour of smashing you to the floor like a quarterback if you stray into a no-skate zone. Tough town.
Fortunately, you’ve got ways to fight back. Simplest, if you want to take the Gandhi route, is to get off your board with a tap of a button – apart from letting you climb stairs and reach previously inaccessible areas, going pedestrian will instantly get The Man off your back. If you want to get more evasive, though, you’ve got plenty of moves to do it with, all logically expanding on the flick-the-stick system so that they’re effortlessly memorable... if not instantly ‘doable’. SKATE veterans, for instance, might remember that in the last game, you had the option to push regular or with Mongo. At the time this didn’t make much sense – pushing Mongo (using your front foot with your weight on your back foot), gives you less time to set up tricks and so it’s frowned on by many skateboarders – but it’s all part of a system that EA knew they’d be expanding.