Skate 2 isn't as innovative as its predecessor, but it's much better. The new era of extreme sports games begins now.
What really sets skate apart from past skateboarding games, is its unique trick system. Implementing a Fight-Night-esque control scheme in which the right analog controls the way your board flips. There is, of course, no grind button. Using momentum and physics, just jumping on a rail will allow you to grind. It takes some getting used to, but it becomes natural in time. It still works extremely well in Skate 2, and with a few new improvements like the ability to use modifiers for footplants, the whole core is still intact. Liptricks are now possible using the R1 button, and with those previously mentioned modifiers, more extreme moves like inverts are available. The trick system still feels really innovative and fresh, especially if you've never played skate before. Certain tricks are hard to differentiate from each other, which can be a large issue for more trick oriented goals in the career mode, and in the competitive game of S.K.A.T.E. (which is like HORSE), but when you're just cruising the city, looking for lines, it's a lot of fun and feels intuitive.
There are many more places to get huge air in the New San Van. This opens up a new emphasis on vertical moves, which were in Skate, but you never really had the opportunity to fully use them. That can't be said about Skate 2. You will get high in the sky.
In Skate 2, you can create your own skate from scratch using an impressive and deep interface, allowing you to create whoever you want. In terms of the story, you play as the same skater from the first game, and after spending 5 years in prison, you find that San Vanelona has changed. Earthquakes have shifted the land, and the evil MongoCorp has taken over rebuilding the city, making it a not so friendly place to skate. It's up to you to reclaim the city. It's best to call this an overall setup for the story, in which case it does a great job.
In Career mode, you skate around the city taking photo sessions to get onto covers of Thrasher and The Skateboard Magazine, which has you jumping over fountains, speeding down mountains, and the like. One issue found in the original, was that too many goals focussed on utilizing the trick system to do a certain trick, which became infuriating because of its difficulty. That's been remedied completely here. The career mode consists of photo shoots, jumping gaps, gaining high scores, and doing races. The occasional game of SKATE pops up every now and then, but it's still good fun nonetheless. This isn't to say the game is completely devoid of difficulty. What Skate did greatly was it captured the essense of trail and error that comes with the real life sport, and that's in full effect yet again. It's still tough to nail the perfect line that you want, but when you do, it's more satisfying than any amount of blood or headshots can bring. It's exhilarating.
New San Vanelona has really changed and matured into a skating haven. Each locale, from the Rez, to Couger Mountain, Downtown, Old Town, and the Waterfront each have their own unique style. As you may remember, the Rez was the perfect place to hit up for some speed. Couger Mountain is the new spot for this, which then leads into the Rez for some awesome races. Old Town and Downtown resemble Vancouver very well, capturing the city's urban feel and vibe. The Waterfront has been completely recrafted, feeling like a beautiful and bright plaza perfect for skating. The most fun you'll have in Skate 2 is just skating around searching for the perfect place to hit up.
The ability to get off your board was oddly gone in the first game, but is now here in Skate 2. The controls suck, your skater is slow, and he turns like an old lady, but hey, it's better than not being able to do it altogether. You can finally go up a set of stairs! Ah, the beauty of evolution. As seen in Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, you can now move objects around to create your own perfect line, and then upload that spot online for people to try out. There are some costs to this, however, and a few flaws. So that each object could be light enough for your skater to move around, simply bumping into them will move them, throwing off your potential skate video. It's not a big problem, but it's very unnecessary.
Some new game modes made their way into the equation, but Hall of Meat is the true hero of the day. You garner points for bails. Painful. This can honestly become an unhealthy addiction, as it can be played offline with 4 people, or online with 6 friends. There are some undeniably satisfying cliffs and walls to hit, so be on the lookout.
Jumping online reminds me of Burnout Paradise. Hitting the select button brings up the online menu, where you can then jump quickly into a freeskate session and setup your game there. It's a breeze. Any game modes found in Skate 2 can be done online, with full headset support. There are freeskate challenges, like Burnout's free drive mode, such as 6 skaters on a rail simultaneously. With modes like SKATE, Hall of Meat, the ability to upload your own replays online, full stat collection, (and did I mention Hall of Meat?), Skate 2's online mode is fully robust and will keep you occupied with limitless possibilities.
The graphics engine has been booted up to 60 frames, and the lighting has been contrasted more, giving off a sunset glare most of the time. It's a good looking game. The physics and animations, as always, are fantastic, and while some of the texture work could be better, the anti aliasing is great, and there is little blur. The camera remains unchanged, sometimes getting in the way, but it maintains the rush of adrenaline that comes with going fast and hitting rails. The soundtrack is no slouch, with some really great tunes, and the pro skaters in the game are all voiced by the skaters themselves. It's very authentic.
I must give my regards to EA Black Box. It's because of them that Skate and Skate 2 have had this hilarious, light hearted, laid back personality to it. It's a game about the fun. Hanging with buds online, playing a game of Hall of Meat. The funky soundtrack. The funny situations. Skate may live on, but I fear that the personality aspect and awesome vibe may go with Black Box. A moment of silence for an awesome developer.
Skate 2 isn't a revolution, but it is a damn fine game. It's the first must buy of 2009, because Black Box's swansong project is as good as they come. It didn't fix all of the series' issues, as the camera problems remain. However, it's a big upgrade to an amazing gameplay experience. Skate 2 is recommendable to anybody who doesn't have a nasty hate for skateboarding.