The ability to get off your board is clumsy. Your skater twists on-the-spot like the early Tomb Raider games, making precise alignment fiddly. It’s awkward, but still handy – think of it as a tool you never had for climbing up steps, rather than skating the long way round. The game never punishes you for it – so there’s no cruel platform-style leaps. Retrieving your board is easy, too, with a deck ‘magically’ thrown into your hands from off-screen.
New tricks – like No Complies, Finger Flips and Handplants – fill obvious gaps in the controls, and obey logical rules. Finger Flips, where you flip the board mid-air using your fingers are performed by ollieing, grabbing and doing the standard kickflip motion to represent the flip motion. It’s logical, hierarchical and timing dependent, so while we fluffed our first few tries, we punched the air with a “Yes” upon nailing our first; minutes later, landing them every time. As ever, the controls mimic skating’s real-life exponential difficulty curve. Only Flatland tricks are omitted, but since they effectively ruined the Tony Hawkseries, allowing cheap on-the-spot mega-combos, it’s no great loss.
The enhanced Hall of Meat mode awards points for breaking bones. You can even deliberately bail during big leaps, and use the right stick to pose – think Pain meets Burnout’s Crash Junctions. Your mobile phone sets session markers, and can be used to call friends – Big Black will clear out security guards, while you can arrange races with pros or get a friend to crowbar blocks off rails.
Problems? It’s so convenient to leap between objectives on the map – split into clearly marked Street, Tranny, Bonus, Race etc categories – that you rarely cruise around, but teleport about the world blasting through tasks, so the world can feel a little disconnected. The enhanced Video and Face Editors are less flexible than you’d hope (with the specter of paid-for DLC Filmer packs to reinstate effects like Sepia tint that were free in the last game), walking’s fiddly and – for veterans – the core experience burns slightly less brightly than the first time you mastered Skate’s incredible controls and physics. The soundtrack’s arguably less feel-good, despite the presence of War’s Lowrider from Mark Gonzales’ part in the seminal Blind video.
Skate 2’s biggest thrills, however, are those you create yourself, sticking to a spot and creating your own goals. Sure, you can ollie that gap, but can you 360° Boneless over it onto the rail below? Or Hardflip off the rail into a manual? The possibilities are endless, and thanks to the Replay Editor, you need only land one impossible trick in a hundred to lord it over your mates forever. In typical EA fashion, every killer move is rewarded – “You’re on fire” shouts your cameraman as you bust out a triple multiplier, with a deliciously slow-mo whirring sound as you clack the tarmac.
With developers Black Box being closed down by EA, there’s a real possibility this could be the last Skate game ever – and, if so, we’re almost glad. It’s so complete, with such replay potential, there’s a danger of its true riches being overlooked by the rush of the new, or a gilded-lilly, fan-led third sequel. It’s not quite as fresh as the original, but a near-perfect sequel in almost every way.
Jan 21, 2009