The first Skate left me a bit cold, I was playing through the story and remember being so frustrated by a challenge that required me to do a specific trick down some stairs that I gave up, and didn’t play it again. I don’t think the controls were as forgiving as they feel in the sequels, but maybe I’ve just become more accustomed to them. At the time I suppose you could say the control system was revolutionary, though that word sounds a little grand for something as niche as a skateboarding game. Using different tweaks, nudges and caresses of the right analog stick to do the different tricks was so different to the sterile button presses of the Tony Hawk games, it made you feel like you were actually doing something yourself rather than telling someone else to do it, it took a bit of skill to execute a trick successfully. I really liked Skate 2, it felt more polished, I felt the controls were more forgiving and it had a decent single player. It still had the problem that performing specific tricks still felt a bit hit and miss; I could skate really nice lines, a flip trick into a grind on a ledge, a flip trick out into a manual, and finish with an ollie and a grab down some stairs, I could do this effortlessly. But ask me to do a 360 flip into a 50-50 grind with an inward heelflip out and I’d be lost. After looking it up in the game’s trick list it would still take many attempts to get the desired outcome, and more often than not frustration would result. Skate 3 also has this problem. I suppose it’s not really a problem with the game but with the player. Without wanting to sound like a workman blaming his tools, I think this problem would be lessened if the analog sticks on the 360 (and the PS3 for that matter) had the octagonal guide that Nintendo analog sticks have had since the N64, but I think it’s a Nintendo patent. Then you’d have some tactile feedback for what a quarter of a turn or an eighth of a turn was and would be better able to execute the tricks that require such rotations.
Skate 3 seems to have done away with a proper single player, basically you create a player and are just told to get on with things. There are various challenges to complete, and if you do them you unlock more, until eventually no more unlock and you’ve done them all. It’s a simple as that. The vast majority of these challenges can also be done online with friends, with whom you can form an online skate team, though this probably isn’t as fun as it sounds. Note that each member of your team has to do the said challenge for everyone to complete it, and for some reason when you do the challenges online you have a time limit which is not present when doing them offline. So if a team of four start a challenge and three of them do it within the time limit, but the other one does not, then tough luck, everybody has to do it again. This can be very frustrating, and ups the difficulty a bit. Some of the challenges are quite difficult and will certainly take multiple retries, even for experienced players. So by making it so the whole team has to complete it for it to count seems a little unfair. It will definitely frustrate those who play with friends less skilled than themselves, as they have to do the same challenge over and over until all their team-mates can manage to do it in the same time limit window. Or someone who wasn’t very good who managed to do a challenge after many failed attempts, only to have to do it again due to a team-mate being unsuccessful. It doesn’t seem very rewarding playing online co-op because of this, in fact you seem to be punished for doing so. Play on your own and most of the challenges have no time limit, you can keep retrying until you’re successful, and when you are you’re done, no waiting for others to do it as well, or being punished if they fail. I found the game also seemed to suffer from a drop in frame rate in some parts, particularly during events and challenges where there were a large number of AI opponents all on screen at the same time. In one particular part, a contest inside a large indoor skatepark, the game almost became unplayable until the AI skaters were off the screen. The game allows you to create your own skateparks, but whenever I skated around either one I’d make myself, or one I’d downloaded that had been shared by someone else, the frame rate seemed very low, to the point of becoming a major nuisance.
I found the lack of a proper story to be a flaw. You’re apparently trying to sell boards, and each challenge you successfully complete means more boards sold. There’s no reward other than opening up more challenges and more stuff for you’re character to wear, it all feels very pointless. The only real motive for selling more boards is to move up the online leaderboards. You can go pretty much wherever you want on the map from the very beginning, only the indoor skateparks need to be unlocked, there’s no gradually unlocking sandbox, it’s all there from the start. I suppose this is the point, as the focus is on online collaboration, but for me it just felt like they hadn’t put in much effort. It’s like they’re saying “Here’s this playground, go crazy”, before walking off, and just before they leave they turn and say: “Oh, by the way, there’s these challenges you can do if you’re bored.” I know Skate 2’s story was hardly Bioshock or anything, but there was much more to it than this, and it felt more rewarding to play because of it. As there’s little difference gameplay wise from Skate 2, the game feels more like Skate 2.5, and as such introduces doubts in my mind about how worthwhile a game Skate 4 will be when it is inevitably released. Don’t get me wrong Skate 3 is a good game, but I don’t think it’s as good as Skate 2, and I fear the series as a whole may become a bit stale if it goes down the path of yearly updates.