Shaun White Skateboarding is Ubisoft's upcoming spiritual successor to its similarly titled snowboarding game from 2008. The move from winter sports signals the departure of obvious things like snow, heavy jackets, and the all-consuming fear of being chased down by a Yeti. But Ubisoft hasn't settled on merely swapping in skateboards and calling it a day. In an effort to distinguish itself from other games in the skating genre--both stylistically and story-wise--Ubisoft has created a backdrop where the player has to bring life back to a dismal world run by an Orwellian government ministry sapping all the fun from day-to-day life. After having our first glimpse at how this concept looks back in May, Ubisoft recently invited us to get our first hands-on with the game and get a quick taste of how it plays in 3D.
Shaun White Skateboarding spans a roughly 15-hour story that begins in a gray, colorless city. Without going into too much detail on the plot itself--it seems like the game will do plenty of that for you--your job is to inspire the city's denizens through the power of skateboarding. Doing tricks on objects will cause the immediate area around you to become infused with color, while people can also be transformed from blue sad sacks into vibrant, smiling faces. There's a system in place that measures how well you're doing in the form of a level-based meter at the bottom of the screen. Skate well with style and you'll move up the levels, but tumble or simply repeat the same moves over and over and you'll drop back down to nothing. The takeaway? Certain areas can only be colored when you're at a high level, and in order to get to those higher momentum levels you have to pull off a string of original moves. Simply spamming the same awesome boardslide won't cut it.
The basic control scheme takes its cues from the recent trend of mapping board controls to the right analog stick. If you've played Skate, you'll have a good idea of how simple ollies, kick flips, and other flip tricks work. Simply pull back, and push or sweep the right stick in a given direction to do the move of your choice. Grinds don't require any special button presses, and you can get off the board at any time with the triangle button (we played the PlayStation 3 version, but the game is also coming out on Xbox 360). Where the game seems to tread new ground is with the inclusion of a fool-proof auto-trick button for beginners. Simply tap the X button and you'll pull off a move in tune with your current momentum level. If you're at the bottom, you'll do a plain old ollie, but if you've worked your way up to a second or third momentum level, you'll likely do something more along the lines of a 360 flip. Think of it as a random trick button with some logic behind the randomness. There's also a neat system that lets you jump on special handrails and guide them into free space, which comes in handy for reaching far-off hidden ledges.
After skating around the city for a bit and meeting some of the faces who guide you through the story, we had a chance to see a little bit of Shaun White Skateboarding in 3D. Ubisoft has been one of the bigger proponents of video games in the third dimension for a while now, including last year's Avatar: The Game. In Shaun White, the 3D doesn't really pop out at you until you're up in the air. Simply following your character along as he kickflips onto handrails and manuals on a park bench looks pretty subdued, but when you hit a ramp and fling yourself into the air the camera switches to a birds-eye view and really makes it look like you're exploding from the ground. Overall, it's a neat effect, but like most things 3D, is probably only worth the additional investment if you can really afford it.
Shaun White Skateboarding is slated for release later this year on multiple consoles. For a look at the Wii version, which is quite a bit different, check out our preview from last week.