by Matthew Thompson (Images-EA)
(I am counting down my 25 favorite games of the last console generation. I explain a little about how I put the list together in this introduction. And you can see a collection of all my articles on the Best of 7th Gen compiled here.)
I still remember playing the original Skate for the first time. It changed the way I would view skateboarding games from that point forward. I loved the Tony Hawk series from the time my friend first brought over the original game to play on the PS1. THPS2 remains one of my all-time favorite games on the original PlayStation. But eventually that series wore out its welcome. It was partly the shift in focus to the silly antics of Bam Margera and company, but it was just as much fatigue. Skateboarding games needed a fresh start and EA’s Skate series delivered exactly what I was looking for last-gen.
My first experience with the series was the demo for the original on my PS3. And much like THPS2, I’d put way more time into it than I should have. At first I was just trying to come to terms with the new control scheme. The dual-analog trick system was revolutionary. As someone who spent my teenage years trying to master the rather difficult sport, I could appreciate the steep learning curve in Black Box’s new skate sim. That’s the other thing. This was a vastly more grounded experience than previous skating games. Almost the Gran Turismo to Tony Hawk’s Mario Kart. And while that isn’t for everyone, for someone like me, who spent his youth pushing around on his Think board, who had grown tired of Tony Hawk’s sky-high crane-grinding, it was just what I needed.
Before long I was blitzing through the opening tutorials for more free time in the demo’s small concrete park. I was addicted and that was before even playing the full game. When that came out, I discovered the joys of San Vanelona, a fictional combination of San Francisco, Vancouver and Barcelona and an open-world skating paradise loaded with ledges to grind, stairs to gap and steep hills to carve your way down. There were various challenges to take on and contests to compete in during Skate’s enjoyable career mode, but it was searching out and finding great spots, whether that be the game’s designated ones or some small place you discover for yourself, where the game was truly at its best.
The fun also extended to multiplayer with the wonderful Spot Battle which tasked you with topping your friends’ best tricks on some of the game’s finest locations. This was a staple of my game night back then when it was more lively and I still have great memories of those times. Snaking your friend’s winning score (a last round steal of their win on the current spot). Or trying to stay up so we could get to “The Ross” (playing long enough for Rick Ross’ “Hustlin’” to play naturally via the game’s soundtrack). And of course fave spots like The Walrus, The 30-Stair Rail and traditional game night finale, The Mega Compound. Even today me and a friend will return to this series which is among the most surprisingly great multiplayer modes of the seventh generation of consoles.
Skate (along with its sequels) gave me exactly what I wanted from a skateboarding game after having fallen out of love with genre-juggernaut Tony Hawk years before. Its innovative control scheme and more grounded approach breathed life into a sub-genre of games that had been in desperate need of a new direction while letting me get back on the board virtually with my real-life skating days long behind me
A few more things:
- Like LittleBigPlanet, this was another series that was a toss-up between 1 and 2. Skate 1 was more innovative, had the freshest setting and the best career mode along with more memorable moments with friends. Skate 2 added off-board controls (welcome regardless of how poorly they controlled) and seems to be the one I go back to these days for multiplayer. Skate 3 dropped local multiplayer in the initial release and its segmented map was a step back. Still a fun game though.
- My favorite spot is Skate 2’s Fun Track. So many options and a tough final jump that is still satisfying to land every time I do it.
- I’d love a new Skate game for current gen! It has been long enough from 3 and I’m aching for a new one. It seems this series is done for though probably.
- Clue for #17: It is my favorite stealth game ever.