We've previously spent hands-on time with both the Wii Remote and Balance Board controls for Electronic Arts' Skate It, but until now our time with the game had been limited to free skating around the city of San Vanelona. There was still a whole career mode that had yet to be seen--until now. We were able to play through the first half hour or so of Skate's It's career mode, and though a few missed rail grinds and horrific spills might have bruised our egos a bit, we emerged with a bunch of details on the mode.
Skate It takes place in San Vanelona, five years after the events of the original game. A series of unspecified disasters has rocked the city, leaving it in ruins and almost completely devoid of human life. Almost. You're one of the last people left in the once-great city. Why? Because all of the destruction has created a new landscape--one perfect for skating. One day you're skating around a school when Reda, the photographer from the first game, spots you. He breaks out his camera, you do a few tricks, and the next thing you know, you're gracing magazine covers, earning sponsors, and traveling the world.
Before the whole "traveling the world" thing, you'll need to create a skater. Using the game's deep character-customization tools, you'll be able to make pretty much any crazy-looking guy or gal you'd like. (You couldn't make female skaters in the original.) Once you've got their faces just right, you can dress them in a wide array of clothing, much of which is name-brand, as are the skateboards. There's plenty of stuff to choose right from the get-go, but you'll unlock plenty of gear as you progress through your career in case you want to freshen up your look.
You'll also need to pick your control scheme, of which there are three available. The most basic uses only the Wii Remote; you tilt it to steer and flick it to do tricks. If you're looking for a little more control, the second option lets you plug in the Nunchuk, which is used to steer the board while tricks are relegated to the remote. The third control scheme uses the Wii Balance Board and the remote. Given that we had previously covered both the first and third control options, we chose the Nunchuk-and-remote combination. Right off the bat the game puts you through a tutorial to help you learn the controls. We started outside what was once a school, skating from point to point without having to worry about doing any tricks. Tilting the remote slightly forward or back let us easily perform manuals. As soon as we showed that we were capable of remaining upright on a moving board, it was time to move on to some tricks. You can ollie by flicking the remote upward, and you can nollie by flicking it down. Add a twist left or right and you'll be able to perform kick flips. You hold the B button while in the air to perform a grab. We struggled a bit while trying to grind rails in the tutorial, but it wasn't too long before we embarked on our career.
Career mode is all about challenges, which can involve grinding a rail for a certain distance, jumping a specific gap, earning a set number of points for a trick, and much more. Quite often you'll have to perform several different acts to complete a challenge. Earn the bare minimum and you'll "own" it; really blow the score out of the water and you'll "kill" it. Regardless of whether or not you kill or own a challenge, the game will track your high score, which should give people who strive for perfection plenty to do. Many challenges are located at preset markers, but not all of them. You can access some challenges simply by pressing the D pad. Not always having to skate around in search of something to do is a great feature, but keep in mind that just because you can take on a challenge doesn't necessarily mean you're in the best spot for it. Depending on the task at hand, you'll sometimes have to scour the level for the best location.
Fans of the original game will remember "anywhere film," in which you're given a group of tricks and are free to do them wherever you'd like. Skate It introduces "anywhere photos" to the mix. These are like anywhere films, but, you guessed it: They're photographs. Once you've successfully completed the objective, you're able to pick your favorite shot and send it off to a magazine. Rest assured, there are plenty of ways to stay busy. It wasn't long before Rob Drydek messaged us and asked us to check on his apartment (or what was left of it) in the Matrix Complex. Once there, we had to do a "spot film" challenge and grind down a long rail to get to the elevator. We must have done a pretty good job, because the next thing we knew, Danny Way was inviting us to Paris to check out the Mega Compound. That's right; you can travel the world in Skate It. Real-world locations in the game include London, Paris, Rio, Shanghai, and Barcelona.
Want more? You got it. During the course of your career you'll notice some challenges that, at least at first, simply cannot be done. That's where modifying locations comes into play. Need to grind something, but have no rails around? Can't reach that gate high up in the air? As you progress, you'll unlock objects such as kickers, ramps, and rails, all of which can be used to alter the landscape. Using the simple level editor, you can move existing objects as well as add new pieces. Not everything can be altered, but it doesn't take much manipulation to totally revamp a level.
After a number of nasty-looking falls and more than a few broken bones, our time with Skate It was over. But before we let the crew from EA escape, we managed to glean a few details on the Nintendo DS version of the game. Although the city hasn't been destroyed in the handheld version, the goals remain the same. Like in the Wii version, you'll also be able to travel the world in your endeavor to become Thrasher skater of the year. Lastly, we found out that you'll be able to build your own skate park in a warehouse, create custom challenges, and share them via Wi-Fi.
Neither version of Skate It has a firm release date, but you can expect them to hit store shelves before the end of the year. Until then, check back for the latest.