01 Apr

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I was excited for Skate 2’s release. Was. According to all the previews I had seen, it seemed as though they had ironed out all the kinks from the original Skate—a game which both my wife and I enjoyed on different levels. It feels as though there is something missing from both games, so I can’t whole-heartedly recommend purchasing either unless you happen to be a skater or someone obsessed with the skating lifestyle. If you’re just looking for a mindless game to get a few great kicks out of over the weekend, Skate 2 is probably worth a rent, at most.

Skate 2 starts by dropping you off in the back alleys San Vanelona. San Vanelona has missed your pretty face since Skate 1 because you’ve spent the last unknown amount of time in jail. Probably for sticking it to the man.  (San Vanelona must be a great place to live because economic corruption, violent crimes, property crimes and petty misdemeanors obviously aren’t frequent since the police focus so much of their efforts on kids and their skateboards). From there, you get to customize your skater’s appearance and skateboard. Like most modern games, your avatar is annoyingly mute.

After customization of your skater, you’re off to frolic and romp in the open sandbox world constantly followed by your invisible camera friend who is creepily recording your every move to make a demo reel to send off to professional skaters. Unfortunately your creepy camera friend, unlike you, is not mute. Every time you fall off your skateboard, hit a pedestrian, win a local competition, change your appearance, roll by an attractive woman, skate too close to the cops, find a new skate location, get hit by a car, fall, or just stand around wasting time, you’ll hear a smartass comment from your friend. And there’s no option to shut him up. At first, he doesn’t seem so bad, but after 45 minutes, you’ll be looking for a “shut up invisible friend” checkbox in the option menu. It doesn’t exist.

The controls for Skate 2 are fantastic and there are more moves in 2 than the original. Unlike Skate 1, you can get off your board and walk when necessary. Most objects in the world are movable so you can set up your own fun skate park almost anywhere in the city, if there are enough materials laying around. It takes a little practice to get the feel down, but once you learn your entire trick repertoire you’ll feel like a master of the trade. There are few rewarding moments in modern gaming compared to the ones you feel in Skate 2, when you land a particularly beautiful trick, and then get to watch it over and over again in super slow-mo.
By the end of my two week stint with Skate 2 I had accumulated an impressive collection of self-made videos of amazing stunts and horrific crashes using the in-game video maker. A few times I fired up Skate 2 only to watch my victory / self-demolish reel; they pinnacles and valleys of this game feel THAT good.

I played through the open world for an hour or so with my wife and it wasn’t long before we got bored with Skate 2. San Vanelona is comically gigantic, so there were plenty of places to skate. The problem was, there wasn’t much to do. Skate down street. Jump off object. Hit pedestrian. Get up. Hit car. Get up. Fall off cliff. Repeat.

You’ll come across “skate spots” in San Vanelona where you can try to show off your slick moves and “own” a spot by performing inhuman feats on your skateboard. Once you own the spot, you can “kill” the spot by doing something even more fantastic and unlikely. The skate spot mechanic in the game feels artificially tacked on to give the game substance. It fails and will leave most players frustrated. Skate 2 also has several challenges that you can complete in order to progress through the story. You can take part in professional photo shoots, skate park challenges of two different varieties, races, and eventually you can woo your professional skater friends into getting you sponsorships from major skating labels. Though they are presented as totally different challenges, the whole game lacks any real variety.

Where Skate 2 really shines is in its Hall of Meat multiplayer option. While playing Hall of Meat, you and up to three friends are in competition over who can hurt themselves most while wrecking on your skateboard. Some map options aren’t as good as others. All in all, it’s unspeakably fun to toss your skater off ridiculous heights and bounce your lifeless body off mailboxes, pedestrians, cars, telephone lines and whatever else has the nerve to get in your way. My wife and I laughed uncontrollably over particularly bad spills.

In the end, Skate 2 is the kind of game if you put more into it, you’ll get more out of it. For most people that’s not enough. If you have kids, Skate 2 is an OK game to play with them. The learning curve is pretty small, so non-gamers and casual gamers should be able to pick it up in no time. For the hardcore gamer, the difficulty can get ramped up pretty quickly in the in-game challenges. There are timed demos available for Skate 2. I recommend downloading and playing them before making a hasty decision like purchasing Skate 2. However, I can easily recommend Skate 2 for a weekend rental or if you happen to find a super cheap copy on the internet.