One of the featured games at EA Canada’s Open House earlier this month was a new IP called SKATE. Developed by EA Black Box, SKATE hopes to push and shove its way to make room for one more skateboarding title in the already monopolized genre.
At first glance, SKATE is hard to tell apart from the Tony Hawk series, but Tony Hawk this certainly is not. SKATE offers a whole new experience, providing not only new controls and gameplay mechanics, but a new way to share your experience with your friends.
To start off, let’s talk graphics…
After talking with the executive producers, we can confirm that EA Black Box hopes to have the game running at 1080p resolution with an undetermined frame-rate. Although the frame-rate is a toss up now, EA Canada suggested that from now on everything new coming out will be running at 60fps.
When looking at the character models there really wasn’t anything impressive; basic cloth physics and par facial modeling. Now I know that the game has a few months left in development before releasing in stores, but there were also quite a few bugs including clothes clipping through the characters body and awkward blue lines every so often attaching the character to the skateboard.
The environments were probably the best looking thing about SKATE. Everything from cracks in the concrete to sun-reflecting skate ramps; the textures are sharp and beautifully rendered. Even the addition of depth of field added to the realism and made a nice touch to the overall look.
Gameplay and controls…
In SKATE, you no longer use the face buttons to perform flips and grabs. EA’s plan is to immerse you into the game by giving you a new configuration that gives you total control over the board. Now players will utilize the thumb sticks to flip/ollie the skateboard (which is all physics based), use the back buttons for grabs, and the face buttons to spin and modify the tricks. This may sound difficult but it’s actually quite refreshing. The new controls give the player a more triumphant feeling of completing tricks, when once in Tony Hawk were much easier and not much of a payoff.
The synopsis behind SKATE is simple: build and customize a character, start as an unknown, accomplish tasks and tournaments, be featured on SKATE magazine, and finish as the #1 skater in the world. There is one city in SKATE which is completely open ended allowing the player to explore and take goals as they wish. Certain tasks the player will find include everything from photograph poses to completing big gaps. By completing goals and tournaments, players can unlock new skaters earn sponsorships for new gear. Although I have to say, in terms of storyline there isn’t enough to differentiate SKATE from Tony Hawk.
Now the best feature about SKATE (listen closely), is the ability at anytime to jump from skateboarding right into a replay editing mode where you can edit, change camera angles, add slow-motion and various filters, and then upload your video onto EA's servers for friends and others to download and rate. Basically if you can land a Christ-Air 540* over the top of a building, then you can jump into edit mode, add slow-motion, spinning camera angle, and then upload onto Xbox Live or PlayStation Network for friends to view. The top videos will be featured on the respective online platforms, as well as available on PC from EA’s website.
In the end, SKATE provides enough content and new features to pass off as something new and different from the Tony Hawk franchise. Will it sell better? That is up to the consumers. It will be tough to beat an established series such as Tony Hawk, but SKATE looks to be a great first entry into the genre from EA.