Skate 2 First Hands-On

We roll through a new vision of San Vanelona armed with a vastly expanded bag of tricks.

by

It was just short of a year ago that EA Black Box introduced us to Skate, a game whose excellent controls and stylish reverence for skateboard culture took nearly everyone by surprise. Now, Black Box continues to defy expectations by taking its sweet time with Skate 2, a startling decision considering the first game both sold well and had the letters "E" and "A" stamped side-by-side on its packaging. With plenty of breathing room and no release date in sight, hopes are understandably high as the team strives to build upon an impressive debut. And now that we've had our first look at Skate 2, we've seen all the makings of a game that should meet those expectations.

With the ability to grab the environment around you, handplants are now a possibility.

For as much praise as Skate earned, it could have very easily crashed and burned as a result of the risky "flick-it" controls the game introduced. It was a system that shirked traditional button inputs in favor of a dual-analog control scheme that used the right stick to mimic the sweeping gestures of a skater's feet and the left stick to guide more general body movement. These flick-it controls certainly had a learning curve to overcome, but the end result was a fresh and rewarding experience--the closest a game has come to putting you on the maple plywood of a real skateboard.

This time around, Black Box isn't so afraid of those buttons on the controller. The core mechanics of the first game are still in place, but now an entirely new trick system has been layered over it with the ability to grab terrain and take one foot or both feet off the board. The ability to latch onto obstacles works the easiest. Most of the time, you'll find yourself using it to pull off handplants on the lip of a ramp or bowl. You skate up as you normally would to air out, but just before you go airborne, you can press a button (R1 or RB, depending on your platform of choice) to perform an old-school handplant. These can be tweaked with the right stick, just like grabs from the first game, and you can even take a foot off the board by using the same two buttons you would use to push on land (again, the square and X with a PlayStation 3 controller, or X and A on the Xbox 360).

That ability to take your foot off the board works its way into other scenarios. One way is by performing a boneless. While on ground, you hold one of the grab buttons and combine it with a foot button to plant a shoe on the ground then take off with a hand on the board. The same button combination produces a similar result when performed while already in the air. You can do it to foot tap anything from the lip of a bowl to a railing while en route to the ground. Another option is to simply press both feet buttons to hippie jump over something--the combination of leaping off your board to go over an obstacle while the board goes under.

Other new options include the ability to flip the board with your hand, do one-foot airs, and grab your board while in the process of grinding. While many of these moves can be classified as mere embellishments compared to the strong foundation of flip tricks and grinds the first game established, they should add plenty of depth and style to your bag of tricks. And even though a lot of them are quirky old-school moves, like the flick-it controls, they just make sense. Putting your left hand on the board or taking your right foot off it is always done with the same two buttons; nothing seems shoehorned into the control scheme despite all the new combinations. The one downer is that the already tough learning curve will only continue to grow, but because the original controls have been preserved as the bottom layer in this stratified system, you can simply work your way up one technique at a time.

Two new features: female skaters and the downhill mountain area.

Setting yourself up for new lines should be much easier this time around. Whereas the first game superglued your feet to the board, taunting you with beautiful rails at the top of a towering stair set, this time around, you can press triangle or Y to hop off the board and simply walk to the start of your ideal line. While off the board, you can also use the aforementioned "grab obstacles" button to take hold of a variety of objects that are not bolted to the ground--benches, picnic tables, rails--and move them around to create a new line. We can't tell you how much fun we had dragging a rail up the sloped walkway flanking a halfpipe as we attempted to defy physics by airing out and landing a boardslide down the thing. We should note that the ability to get off your board was particularly rough in this early build--making it feel more like a proof of concept than a full-blown feature--but we can see where Black Box is going with it, and we like it.

Skate 2 returns to the setting of the original game, the three-headed-beast combination of San Francisco, Vancouver, and Barcelona known simply as San Vanelona. This time around, a mysterious disaster has taken its toll on the city, leaving a thoroughly altered urban landscape in its wake. Much of San Van has been rebuilt, a lot of it has been done away with, and now it's blessed with the name New San Vanelona. What does this odd design decision mean for anyone who doesn't particularly care for civil engineering? The short answer is that we can expect to see a brand new open-world environment that maintains the same characters and overall atmosphere as the original city.

Three unique demo stations were on hand to display three new districts. The boldest departure is the new mountain area, a state park-like environment with evergreen trees and steep, windy roads perfectly suited for downhill competitions. Another new area is the waterfront. Although concept art for the first game suggested the city was ostensibly set on the water, we never got to see that portion of the city. But now, you'll be able to cruise through the modern architecture of this beachfront promenade with the water no more than a stone's throw away. And finally, there's the new high-rise projects neighborhood. This dense crush of buildings provides plenty of opportunity for big drops and big bails, with a run-down appearance that should give the city some grimy authenticity.

Character models are more fleshed out this time around.

Even though these new areas look great--particularly the intimidating views afforded by the mountain's roadside cliffs--the visual upgrades extend beyond new scenery. Character models (including the new female skater options) look more detailed than before, while the wipeout animations have been given a much-needed boost in realism. Things were fine in the first Skate when you were on your board, but if you so much as clipped a bench, it would result in your character going strangely limp, only to greet the concrete with no objections whatsoever. Now you'll see your character flail during high drops, brace himself for impact, and kick out his board when a landing seems impossible. Considering the steep learning curve of the control system, these new touches should give newcomers an entertaining show while they learn the ropes. And it all plays out in 60 frames per second, double that of the previous game.

This was the most we could squeeze out of our first look at Skate 2. Details on the mission structures, video editor, and community features are all still under wraps. We couldn't even pry away a release date for the game--the best we could manage was a "before summer of next year" response from executive producer Scott Blackwood. It's a long wait for Skate fans, but with these new additions, we're banking that it'll be worth it.

Discussion

144 comments
6321466
6321466

Wala,What the hek? Shut Up EA .this is ridiculous.. Just Joking...This is absolute

punkdsk8erdude
punkdsk8erdude

then look at the pic right after that - of the same character skating in the broken old building - that shot looks better than anything in the original skate - so whats the deal?

punkdsk8erdude
punkdsk8erdude

i just have one Q: why do some of the screen shots look better than the original skate, but some of them look really, really crappy? Like almost not even current gen, somewhere between last gen and current gen. Check out the one w/ the female character grinding a rail across some sort of gap w/ what looks like forest on either side. you'll see what i mean by crappy. the backgrounds at least, not so much the characters.

The_Moose427
The_Moose427

Have you guys ever tried playing a tony hawk game after playing SKATE? its impossible. that alone speaks to its greatness. but what i like most about this game is that it takes a little talent and practice to really be good at.

truenextgen
truenextgen

EA has a cahnce here. The first one played like a bad old movie frame wise. But everything else about it was just on the edge of greatness. They fix those. And they have something. Which with what they have showed in other games as of late. They need. Big need thow is "you got the game and mechanics." Now can you make it run, and 60fps or not. It has to be clean. If EA can get clean, which 90% of their games are not. They can get all these things their going after. Some of which are not so good for gaming, but that fact, clean= they have it.

Sodney
Sodney

Now I know what's going to be my favorite game for 2009.

mrbo69jangles
mrbo69jangles

these games are all ready better then the tony hawk ones

Thecruiser54
Thecruiser54

cool now we can walk up stairs instead of wasting time finding ways to get up them its a whole lot easier

iWREKK
iWREKK

ha ha FINALLY CAN GET OFF YOUR BOARD, the first skate still kicked a** while they had mistakes.....but now the mistakes are fixed(get off your board, hippy jump, boneless, and hand plant).....this game isnt a think about getting, this is a definite purchase!! =D

Rhiice
Rhiice

YES I CAN GET OFF MY BOARD!!! THANK YOU JESUS!!!!!!!!!!!

blackhawk2112
blackhawk2112

i cant wait for this. I loved Skate and this looks even better

gummy_joe
gummy_joe

Drakboy90 that may be a possibility keyransolo I think in my personal opinion that Tony Hawk has taken a downhill slide since American waistland Personal opinion Sweet, Skate 2

Drakboy90
Drakboy90

They say you can grab the enviroment.Does that mean I can grab a pole and do something freaking weird?XD!

HollowShinigami
HollowShinigami

Man... the numerous days I killed while playing Skate. ...Now EA's going to make me repeat the process with Skate 2... Ah well, it's a good thing. This one actually looks like a massive improvement on the first; which was an astounding game. Hopefully, they manage to keep up the good work!

keyransolo
keyransolo

The first Skate was really good, but I felt like EA could have added more, and hopefully Skate 2 will deliver the real goods. And on this whole Tony Hawks vs Skate, I like both :)

Whyteboy776
Whyteboy776

Ive played every tony hawk game since the original. My personal favorite is tony hawks underground and project 8,But when EA introduced skate, I was blown away from the feeling and look alone. EA knows a thing or two, seriously.

musica23
musica23

damn.... are they spyin on us? *checks outside the window* cause they actually did something about all the rants and complaints of skate 1 gamers.

radein24
radein24

i WISH YOU COUID BE ABLE TO DO FLATLAND TRICKS LIKE THE CASPER,ONE-FOOTED MANUAL AND ALL THAT GOOD STUFF

Razieluk
Razieluk

Have to agree with Maidendude - being able to adjust the camera would be brilliant in some situations. Sometimes your character gets in the way of what you need to see to do a stunt (handrail, for instance) - or perhaps make the character semi transparent when you come up to something like that.

Maidendude
Maidendude

Prayers have been answered! This is a definite buy now that you can hop off the board. Now if they only allow us to change the camera angle then this would be the best skateboarding game hands down no questioned asked.

squirlnuts2005
squirlnuts2005

cant wait...if they have all the old stuff and new...this should be what skateboarding games should look and feel like.

ultralesus
ultralesus

Might be a good time to play Skate 1...

IZZO71
IZZO71

I am glad they allow you to get of the board now. My friend was just playing skate for the first time and he asked me if he could get off the board. I told him you couldn't and he responded by saying that is retarded, how can you have a realistic skateboard game when you can get off the board?

biglll1234
biglll1234

this is the game of the century forget tony hawks he is getting old so is his games this will be the new best skateboarding game ; )

ANDudeMan
ANDudeMan

So glad they are adding a whole bunch of new tricks. im getting bored with the normal ones. now this is going to be a real skating game.

mjk_1
mjk_1

skate 1 was pretty good... can't wait to see how this turns out.

andrewil
andrewil

THIS IS GREAT!i think its weird that they've added all the things that people were talkin about on xbox live.on the video editor you should b able toput the camera down in a certain place rather than it following u all the time.dont get me wrong though,it looks so good.i think their gonna suprise us by bringin it out sooner than we think.hmmmm.oh yeah and the hats should be better.did anyone notice that the back of the flat peak ones were too short and the would only go like a quater down the characters head.that was soooo stupid.

cky17
cky17

They need more sponsors in the game such as Element and Adio.

mongareric
mongareric

Are they going to make the pedestrians actually try to get out of your way? Besides not being able to walk, that was the thing that annoyed me the most. Pedestrians just watched you slam right into them. I'd rather not have pedestrians at all than have dumb moving obstacles.

blink182plus44
blink182plus44

this game looks great playing with girls getting off bored handplants more new tricks

cky17
cky17

It is going to be awesome that you can get off the board and walk now because it will be easier to get to the good spots so you can just walk up the stairs to grind a rail instead of skating all the way around the building.

Bloodbath_87
Bloodbath_87

So glad that you can get off the board and walk now. That was one of my biggest problems with skate.

ninjarat
ninjarat

Looks good, the wii's intergration of the balance board sounds promising.

-SiiLeNCE-
-SiiLeNCE-

this looks awesome but im still waiting on new weather effects and new online modes

dj_c4
dj_c4

Game looks awesome. Can't wait.

Blood_Diamond
Blood_Diamond

I did the same as shortys1803, after playing skate tony hawks developed a bitter taste that could all be washed down with a tall class of skate, I was hoping walking was gunna be around in this one makes things easier the amount of time i spent lining my self up to shoot vids on the last one :'( i killed my control pad because of it :$... and the new grab system looks amazing and the "hippy jump" NNNNNICE!!!

Razieluk
Razieluk

Are people not reading the above??? YOU WILL BE ABLE TO GET OFF THE BOARD AND WALK in Skate 2!!! Grrr. Take a minute to read the preview before posting.

blueblur87
blueblur87

hopefully... there will be no lag online, the video sharing will work fast, and the game will stay at 60fps. I also hope the video editor allows you to save infinite videos as long as you have the hard drive space, and saves them as in-game footage files rather than mpeg. I also want more camera options, like you get in driver 2 on psx... e.g. tripod cam which you can position yourself and automatically follows you, or a still cam which captures one view, and also ability to zoom in and out etc, and also to make a skate video from many clips.

blueblur87
blueblur87

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]