The first rule of “skate.” club?

Okay, there is no “skate. club,” but there should be.

I feel the need to preface this by saying that I loved the Tony Hawk Pro Skater games. LOVED. Of course, being as I loved them, I didn’t care for THUG, and didn’t play THAW or Project 8. Pointing out my love of THPS (and rebuke of its later iterations) is required because I feel like I’m cheating on it’s spirit by enjoying the skate. demo so much.

The game by EA Black Box (Black Box Games) has a demo on Xbox Live. I was impressed that someone, even EA, would challenge Tony Hawk for this crown. I was even more impressed by the fact that this game may just do it. I think the new control method presented in Skate is far more intuitive. While it has some problems, it seems likely that they will disappear with more time playing the game, like timing exactly when I should stop pushing and prepare for my ollie, or occasionally tweaking my board doesn’t go where I expect it leaving me feeling like I’m button-mashing.

What I loved was the presentation of the game; you’re a new guy learning to skate at the skate park, and that the entire purpose is to put together your own tape. Even the gameplay camera seemed to be through the lens of a viewfinder, though that would’ve worked better if it were explicitely stated. Maybe establishing a ‘friend’ carrying the camera and speaking to you, shouting words of encouragement/mock as he skates behind you, recording and instructing you?

I’m nit picking there, but it comes from the fact that I really enjoyed that in-game tutors explain things in mostly in-game terms. They tell you why the given instructions work as a skater, in addition to explaining how it works on an Xbox controller. I enjoyed it so much I think they could’ve taken it a bit farther and not had the in-game tutors explain how to manipulate the controllers at all, rather solely using in-game explanations like “put pressure on the back of your board, and then pull up quickly, causing the board to go airborne.”

When they introduced a new skater, a short “In your face! I drink Mountain Dew and eat Doritos!” style clip is shown, and while I didn’t mind a small clip to show him skating (it could’ve been used to add character,) I do think they squandered a tiny bit of goodwill by taking it overboard. Showcasing that skater’s board brand surprised me, his wheel brand puzzled me, but his shoe brand? Instantly annoyed me. Watch any skate show and they’ll occasionally mention who the guy’s skating with, but his shoes? Come on, we’ll never hear Sal Masekela say “Those Nikes are really holding him back this year!”

The tape editor that lets you creat your own ‘skate tape’ is a great thing, even if it isn’t what I’d call the most user-friendly thing in the world. More than once I found myself confused as to what the hell button I had just pushed, but I’d imagine most problems with it would be cleared up simply by spending more with it. I love that making tapes is apparently “what it’s all about,” but I do have one major complaint against it. There is no movable camera; you’re able to cycle through a few fixed views, and this hurts the feature. I’m not sure if the decision to not include free-range was by design (nah,) or technical (my guess, they were running out of time,) but I think the decision was wrong. In the real world tapes are often not only about kick-ass tricks you pull in crazy-ass locations, but about the way you show them to people. A movable camera is truly missed.

Overall I was very impressed. The new control scheme is exactly what was needed in a skateboarding game and they pulled it off (largely) just how you’d imagine it would work. Sure it’s not easy, but it shouldn’t be easy. It’s challenging in a correctly-fun way. In fact, I’ll go so far as to call it the Guitar Hero of skateboarding. Skate was built from the ground-up to to emulate skating as best possible with a controller, rather than being a video game first with a skating context added later. Proving Ground may have the big name behind it, but that doesn’t guarantee anything after playing this demo.

If this game were not published by EA, I would be buying it on the demo alone. Yes, I’m one of those people who sticks to a boycott. I suppose it’s time I reevaluate my years-old position as I already know I’ll be buying Spore… I mean, we haven’t had any more EA Spouse-ish stories for some time… Though, EA were dicks about removing that from their Wikipedia page