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Skate 2

 

Skate 2

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Sports
 
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Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Black Box

Features

1-4 Players (2-6 online multiplayer)
15MB to Game Save
HDTV 720p/1080i/1080p
In-Game Dolby Digital
Custom Soundtracks
Game Content Download
Leaderboards

When EA’s Skate arrived on the scene last year it breathed some much needed life into an otherwise stale genre. Activision’s Tony Hawk series has always been strong but it needed some stiff competition as many simply got tired of the same old same old. When the first Skate was released it not only provided the competition but it also outsold Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground by a 2 to 1 margin. Skate’s environments, control scheme, and soundtrack made it the must have Skateboarding game of 2008. So it comes as no surprise that the Skate franchise returns with a sequel, aptly titled Skate 2. The original Skate game was not a perfect game by any stretch and despite its success the game suffered in some areas. So when Skate 2 arrived I was looking to see if it addressed some of the original’s shortcomings. Let’s find out shall we.

Graphics

As far as the visuals are concerned, Skate 2 is a good looking game and comes across as looking even sharper than the first instalment of the franchise. The city of New San Vanalova, where the game takes place, is huge and very realistic looking. Granted the city has a few more skateboarding parks than your average city but let's not forget that this is a skateboarding game. The pedestrians, cars, miles of concrete, skylines and city buildings all add to an environment I found myself really wanting to explore and skateboard around. The detail that went into the city is truly impressive and something that will likely leave lasting impressions.

The character models are also very slick and feature some of the best movements we have seen in a skateboarding game to date. The way your player performs the various maneuvers and jumps is very life like. Again, it seems to look a little sharper this time around and lends to a game which appears even more realistic. Some of the facial animations and character detail does not measure up to other titles and genres on the Xbox 360 (e.g. Gears of War 2) however they are still top notch. The character customization is also back and once again there are no complaints with this area.

In terms of the negatives, the games textures are not as crisp as I would have liked and the game does suffer from some random clipping issues now and then. Additionally the camera can take on a life of its own from time to time. Bottomline however, the positive clearly outweigh the negative as Skate 2 is a smooth and good looking game.

Sound

Overall, the sounds in Skate 2 are solid but won’t leave you with the same lasting impression that so many other EA games leave you with. Don’t get me wrong, the soundtrack is very strong and the many sounds in the game, including your board sliding along rails, clacking on the ground following an olie, and the sounds of your wheels rolling along the pavement, are very life like. Additionally, the sounds of your board are perfectly in sync with the on-screen action. The tunes can start to get repetitive after a few hours of gameplay and the commentating starts to grate you after awhile. At least commentator does not berate you every time you screw up an objective though.

The musical soundtracks for skateboarding games always seem to be top notch. Skate 2 is no different. Thrashing around to tunes from ELO, The Clash, LL Cool J and others was truly an enjoyment. I especially enjoyed the opening sequence with ELO's "Show Down". Heck even my 6-year old daughter was dancing away to some of the tunes in the game. Listed below are all of the tracks included in the game:

"Uptown Top Ranking" -- Althea & Donna
"Anubis" -- Anubis
"The Dull Blade" -- ASG
"I Want A Snake" -- Awesome Snakes
"Symptom Of The Universe" -- Black Sabbath
"Shockwave" -- Black Tide
"Stay On Or Die" -- China Creeps
"Addictive" -- Cut Chemist
"Beneath The Wheel" -- D.R.I.
"Go Ahead On" -- Dayton Sidewinders
"Heroes Of Our Time" -- Dragonforce
"Show Down" -- ELO
"Collarbone" -- Fujiya & Miyagi
"Step In The Arena" -- Gang Starr
"I'da Called You Woody, Joe" -- Gaslight Anthem
"She Wore Rat Skin Boots" -- Goons Of Doom"
"Piglets" -- Guilty Simpson
"They Fall Apart" -- High Tension Wires
"Freewheel Burning" -- Judas Priest"
"S.K.A.T.E." -- Korrupted Hoodlums
"Cold Beats" -- Koushik feat. Percee P
"Rock The Bells" -- LL Cool J
"Guilt By Association" -- Louis XIV
"Weakness" -- McRad
"For Kristoffer" -- Money Your Love
"Eat The Rich" -- Motorhead
"Made You Look" -- Nas
"Heavy" -- Oh No
"It's Empty" -- One Man Army
"Gator Jaws" -- Ponce De Leon
"Harder Than You Think" -- Public Enemy
"Hold Your Hand" -- Queen Sea Big Shark
"Runnin' Out" -- Radio Reelers
"Sleep Now In The Fire" -- Rage Against The Machine
"Uh Oh!" -- Riverboat Gamblers
"Hold On, I'm Comin'" -- Sam & Dave
"Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" -- Sly & The Family Stone
"Alternative Ulster" -- Stiff Little Fingers
"Possessed 2 Skate" -- Suicidal Tendencies
"Superficial Love" -- T.S.O.L.
"Crashing" -- Teenage Bottlerocket
"Los Pool Riders" -- Texas Thieves
"Death Or Glory" -- The Clash
"Return To Blood Beach" -- The Riptides
"Ghost Town" -- The Specials
"Reach Out And Give Me Your Hand" -- Tickled Pink
"Square Ball" -- Underground Railroad To Candyland
"Low Rider" -- WAR
"Protect Ya Neck" -- Wu-Tang Clan
"Leda Atomica" -- Year Long Disaster
"I Hate My Life" -- Youth Brigade

As you can see, Skate 2 features a very impressive and diverse set list. The game includes many tunes for the young and older gamer. There are many I could have done without however at the end of the day Skate 2 has a rock solid soundtrack that adds to the experience of the game.

Gameplay

Skate 2 takes place in the fictional city of New San Vanelona and follows five years after the events in the original Skate. Many mysterious Earthquakes have struck the city over the years and a mass exodus has taken place amongst its residents. But things are back on the upswing in San Van and some people have come back. The city remains a perfect skateboarding environment as you can treat the whole city one giant skate park for you to explore. But it is not all smooth sailing as the city has taken on a new look under the mega corporation Mongocorp. San Van is now littered with security personnel who have no use for skaters. Your goal in Skate 2 is to essentially find places to thrash, complete objectives, and stay away from Mongocorps goons. Overall, the story provides a decent backdrop but I really found some disconnect between the story and the gameplay. I was more interested in completing objectives and getting my picture on Thrasher magazine than I was in the story. Bottomline, I don’t think many will pay too much attention to the games storyline when playing Skate 2.

After your brief opening introduction to the game where you are released from jail, you are automatically brought into a menu to customize your skater. The create-a-skater system is quite extensive and has the basic options of gender, body shape, head shape, hairstyle, facial hair and clothing. It is an impressive list of things to help you make up your character. My only issue is once I changed some of my characters features and moved on the next screen I could not go back. In other words, if I changed my characters hair style, then moved on to the clothing selection screen, I could not return and adjust my player's hair. A minor irritancy, but it was an annoyance nonetheless.

Another cool addition to the customizable options is the skateboard customizations where you can decide on your design, colors, and you can tune your trucks and wheels to suit your style of skateboarding. When tuning your wheels keep in mind the looser they are the less stable your board will be, but in exchange you turn a heck lot quicker. Tighter trucks on the other hand does the opposite, allowing for slower turns and more stability. When it comes to your wheels, soft wheels are better for steering and hard wheels are better for sliding.

After you have gone through the customizable menus you will most likely spend the bulk of your time in Career mode. Being a rookie when it comes to skateboarding games I was relieved how the game offered up a lengthy tutorial mode which showed me how to perform the various tricks and maneuvers. It's a great little tutorial which also featured some simple videos detailing exactly how to perform tricks. It was helpful, yet I still did encounter some problems along the way as the game becomes increasingly more difficult as you progress. Just when you think you have a particular trick down pat, the game throws a curveball and you can start to feel useless in some instances.

Skate 2's Career Mode consists of making money, meeting new skaters and tackling the many objectives. It will keep you busy for quite awhile while you unlock new areas and challenges. As you complete some of these said challenges you will earn money and other objectives will open up. Some of the objectives can be tedious and for those still getting used to the controls may they may feel somewhat difficult. On the other hand, many of the objectives you come across may also be simple but many will require patience and precision. There were quite a few times that I found myself turning off the game out of sheer frustration. If I did not pull off the right combination I would be forced to retry an objective over and over until I got it right. Eventually I would have enough and shut it down. Perhaps this is due to having no difficulty settings. This is something we recently saw in the latest Need for Speed game. However that game offered up a slow and gradual difficulty scheme where your cars steadily improve as the game moves along. In Skate 2 the objectives need to be somewhat of a challenge but I should not be 'hitting a wall' every 3rd or 4th objective after only a couple of hours into the game.

Many of the challenges from the first instalment are back again, so I won’t go into great detail as many Skate fans have played the first game for hours on end. One of the most enjoyable challenges this time around is the Hall of Meat. In this mode your goal is to absolutely mangle your skater as brutally as possible. With the games all new bone crushing bail physics, Hall of Meat features objectives where you have to get your skater to bail from his or her board and do as much damage them as possible. Whether it be smashing one’s head on the concrete or falling off a large rail, the more damage your skater takes the more points you get. It reminded me of Burnout except replaced cars with skaters. I found it to be lots of fun in a dark and twisted way.

The controls in Skate 2 are very good but there are some exceptions. You are able to physically move in-game objects around your various environments. Moving objects around is a pain as they can be very finicky at times. I can’t count how many times I wanted to push an object in a certain direction and it would do the opposite. In fact, controlling your player when they are off their skateboard can be problematic as well. It just does not feel that natural and it could have certainly used some more time in the shop. However, controlling your skateboarder and performing the various tricks and jumps is second to none. The developers did a wonderful job at creating a player where any skateboarding move or motion is at your disposal.

In addition to the Career Mode,,the Freeskate mode is also back. Freeskate is pretty much what the title says; you Freeskate with a skateboarder in a location of your choice and you can try to do whatever you can imagine. The Freeskate is a great way to practice tricks and moves without having to worry about points, levels, unlocks and achievements. It should be noted progressing through career mode will unlock more skaters and locations to use in Freeskate. There is also a Party Play Mode in Skate 2. This is a local multiplayer mode for 2-4 players. Here you and some buddies can compete in a series of three events. The best score in all three games wins. It is really that simple and makes for some quick games where you and some friends can kick back and share some laughs.

The online multiplayer component of Skate 2 is very good and much improved over the first instalment. Clearly, the developers listened to the fans as many of the issues from the original game are seemingly gone. Ranked and unranked competitive match-ups are back. The real enjoyment for me however was with the cooperative aspect of the online game. Here you and a friend can participate in a number of objectives in all sorts of locations in San Van. Whether it be pulling off a grind rail or doing a time trial, there is a lot to do online with your friends. The cooperative aspect alone makes Skate 2 a worthy purchase.


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