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Skate 2 Hands-on Preview

Skate 2

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Expected Release Date: Q1 2009

Three or four years ago everyone thought that the skateboarding genre was pretty much filled up and if a developer had expressed any intention to create a new skateboarding game for consoles then you could bet your bottom dollar that the publisher would quickly talk them out of it. That space was filled by one man; Tony Hawk.

Last year though someone else decided to move in with ol' Tony and the new face of skateboarding came from a wholly unexpected place.

I mean, I don't want to cruel, but EA isn't a company which is exactly renowned for massive innovations in sports games. The company is perceived by many as just spinning out yearly iterations of Madden or FIFA.

So, when [i]Skate
arrived on consoles last year a lot of people were taken aback. Not only was it a high-profile competitor for Tony Hawk, but it was also a bloody good game. It was fun to play, easy on the eye and surprisingly innovative thanks to the more realistic controls. Could Skate really take the throne? It had a damned good go.

Skate 2 Hands-on Preview

And now it's trying again, with both a new version for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and adapted versions for the Wii and DS under the name of Skate it!. Oddest of all, the ports are actually pretty damned good too. Who'd have thunk it?

With a newly refined control system, the ability to alter the levels in real-time and a whole series of new game modes and multiplayer content, Skate 2 and Skate it! are now a more serious threat than ever to the tired likes of Tony Hawk's Underground Pro Skater Remix Proving Ground Sk8land X2. We take a look to see if the new kid on the block is actually going to be able to nail it with the latest game, or if this is just another painful bail waiting to happen.

Pro Skater

When you think of a game with a decent story, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll think of a skateboarding game. Though some of the past Tony Hawk's games have tried to add in some semblance of plot with round-the-world championships and so on, the sports genre as a whole isn’t really suited to telling a convincing narrative.

And Skate is no different.

Still, there is a vague plotline here which sees your hoodied main character getting spotted by a up and coming photographer and the two of you embarking on a campaign to get your character to be one of the figureheads of the skateboarding sport.

Skate 2 Hands-on Preview

What’s especially interesting though is that the story that’s really being told isn’t one of characters, but of locations. Unlike many skateboarding games, Skate didn’t focus on putting players in real locations spread out across the globe. Instead, nearly all the action was set in the fictional city of San Vanelona and it’s sprawling, open environments.

Skate 2 treads a similar track, once more setting the action in this fictional city. Don’t expect the same old levels as before though, as the city has been hit with a series of earthquakes in the interim and is in the process of being rebuilt. New San Vanelona as it’s now called is a mostly empty, half-demolished urban jungle filled with cracks, holes, massive collapsed structures to leap off and over.

Some of the environments you’ll see will be familiar and there are a good number of areas that are re-used, but things are never exactly the same. The piles of rubble and repositioned railings and statues have completely rejigged how the game is to be played, opening new routes and creating or blocking different areas for you to explore with your wheels.

At the same time however, the construction has meant that some entirely new areas have been formed. The suburbs of the original game for example are no longer the dull, semi-pastoral flatlands of the first game – they are now renamed The Projects and the tower blocks that have filled that space provide some of the largest jumps and gaps to be found in the game.

Who says change is a bad thing? Not us, that's for sure...