Tony Hawks has been and gone, right? Well maybe not, but it’s nice to see a new publisher trying their hand at a skateboarding title. EA showed off SKATE at Leipzig, and during their press conference there was one catchphrase that kept popping up – “no offence to buttons, we just don’t need them”.
It seems EA are trying to emphasise the fact that SKATE is more about control with the analogue sticks than whacking the buttons. Pulling down and then up on the right analogue stick will perform a simple ollie. The longer you hold down on the stick, the higher you’ll go. That means you no longer need to hold the “jump” button to get some air. Spinning the right analogue from down to up in a circular motion will spin the board whilst jumping and so-on.
Catching speed isn’t all about going down steep slopes either. Sometimes you can simply use the terrains bumps and humps to pick up speed, crouching and standing at the right time to build momentum. EA even showed off the simple grind techniques during the conference. In games such as Tony Hawks, you’ll need to time your landing and hit the “grind” button to start. In SKATE, the grind button has been removed. You just need to land on something grind-able [is that even a word? –Ed] and balance it.
It all looks easy when shown by someone who’s been developing the game from the beginning and had a lot of practice, but what about us newbies? Well, I got hands-on during the show to try the button-less system for myself. After about five hundred and forty nine attempts to get some air and failing miserably, I started to get frustrated. However I persevered a little, and soon became accustomed to the new control system. Admittedly, it felt quite alien to not really have to touch the buttons much, almost maybe a little restrictive, but with a bit of practice I started to enjoy the feel.
It felt a lot more challenging to get a decent trick in, and as such felt a lot more rewarding too. I’d say there is still a lot more practice to be had before I could feel totally comfortable with SKATE, but it could well be the new control system for a lot more titles to come.
SKATE graphically looks very impressive too. It feels quite rugged, with pale greys and less colour blessing the screen – which looked superb. In my personal opinion, I’d say it looked neater than Tony Hawks, but take a look at the screenshots and make your own mind up. One thing that was definitely better than Tony Hawks was the camera. Unlike the sticky camera sitting behind the back of the player, SKATE’s camera was dynamic, moving around the player depending on what you were doing. For example, when grinding the camera would zoom in and sometimes spin to a side-on view to give you a better view of your grind balance.
SKATE was impressive. As mentioned earlier, it’s a refreshing change to play a skateboarding game that didn’t have “Tony Hawks” in the title (No offence to Tony!) and who better to make that game than EA? I’m still not 100% sold on the new control system, but I could definitely see a lot of potential. As soon as EA send us some preview code to try properly, we’ll give you a much more detailed preview and let you know how it feels after a few days practice. Until then, we’ll have to label SKATE a pending success.