Gleaning the 360

Skate is the first game in what must be fifteen years where I have gotten the irrational throw-the-control-down-in-agony-because-its-the-damn-controller’s-fault psychosis. It’s toeing that line between challenging and bad. It is a manic depressive game – the ups are fantastic, but the lows are abysmal.

Your foes are dastardly. Take for instance, The Curb. The Curb may go down as one of the most frustrating video game villains in history. Let’s say you wipe out on or near a curb (as happens often) and when you restart you want to get up onto the curb to explore greener pastures. Good luck. Ollie up and you will likely be stuck on a grind on said curb. Boost and ollie and you will likely end up faceplanting into the ground and starting over. If only mankind could somehow engineer a way to get one’s self over a three inch lip in the ground without having to take a dramatic moving start.

And don’t get me started on The Steps. Seriously, guys? I know you didn’t want to fucking Lara Croft your way around town like you did in THUG, but there’s a difference between scaling a building and scaling five steps.

The difficulty curve starts you at “Do an ollie. Ok? Good. Now hug a kitten.” and then roughly forty seconds later you need to do a 720 FS Pop Shuvit lateral awesome fakey thingy while performing dental surgery. I am very sensitive to difficulty curve changes in games. I think I notice them more than others. It seems like little effort was put into assisting the player, if the curve jumps too quickly. I’ve done the “Manny Madness” photo challenge* probably three hundred times. At no point did the game offer any assistance whatsoever. I don’t expect hand holding, but most folks would give up at this point which is the death knell for a game designer. I think they made a design decision that basically says: “Well, they can always skate around the city if they get too frustrated.” It’s not a good response.

* In this photo challenge, you must jump onto a box, ride a manual into another jump with you must land and ride manual and then ride off the other side of the box. For a photo. A still image. Tell you what, muchacho, why don’t I get up on that box and pose in a manual and then we can go get something to drink, eh?

The citizens of San Vanelona are absolute nutters. If they are outside of a car, they have no sense of self-preservation. You can be screaming down a hill and they can look at you the entire time and they will still make an effort to get in your way. Just when you think you finally hit that fourteenth grind on Challenge #7000, some doofus will come wandering around aimlessly, with no goal in sight other than to get in your way. “Duhh, what’s that guy doing sliding down those twelve rails? Maybe I’ll stay and watch at the bottom of this rail!”

This is in clear counterpoint to the motorists of San Vanelona. Where most drivers will try to avoid getting into pedestrian accidents, these folks all have somewhere VERY IMPORTANT TO BE. You can be standing by a curb, lamenting the fact that you will never make your way up to the sidewalk and some car will come screaming by and give you twenty seven compound fractures instead of making a ten degree turn to avoid a wreck.

Last, but not least, I had a crash bug in one of the sponsorship challenges. I completed it three times, but it would crash each time I completed, but before the autosave. After I picked a sponsor, it seemed I could go back and complete it, which seems sort of counterintuitive.

And why is there no Prima strategy guide for this? I could use a reference that shows me the key areas in the city to try certain videos and strategies on how to defeat certain set pieces. Instead, nothing. Prima makes guides for every retarded licensed linear shoot-fest that comes out, but when someone with an IQ above 90 wants their product, they shrug?

That said, there is plenty to like.

The control system makes sense. Although many tricks are very close together in their motions (which haunts you in S.K.A.T.E. minigames), the motions make intuitive sense and become second nature quickly, even if you are Tony Hawk native.

The opening cinematic is one of the most fun I have seen in any video game ever, let alone a semi-sports game.

The integration of web and game features is impressive. I can get lost watching other people’s clips for hours at a time.

The city’s architecture is widely varied. The city isn’t gigantic like in a GTA, but they make up for the lack of size by density of interesting elements. There are very few areas where I feel like the curb is the only skateworthy object within the block. Kudos to them on this.

God bless the session marker feature. In an open world skating game, this is probably the thing you want to be simple and solid above all else.

I wanted Skate to be a distraction until Halo 3 hits next week and it looks poised to do that. That is, if I don’t have a complete mental breakdown from frustration in the meanwhile. If anyone has any links to good strategy guides online besides GameFAQS.com. Let me know.

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