Sunday, February 15, 2009

Parappa the Rappa: Skate 2 CANTA review

In 2007 EA Blackbox's Skate stole the heavyweight championship belt off the ailing Tony Hawkes franchise for the skateboarding genre by focusing not on arcade-like craziness but instead on realism and a revolutionary 'flickit' control scheme. Skate 2 has finally arrived with much hype expanding the tricks to twice the amount of the original, as well as a redesigned city and the ability to hop off your board to move objects around to create your own line anywhere in the game. Along with these features Skate 2 still very much feels like the first game, encouraging you to explore New San Vanelona to find hidden spots to destroy (or 'Kill') and complete a very wide range of challenges.

Like most games nowadays there is a plot, but really it's just your average quest for skater of the year theme which quickly takes a back seat. The only important thing about the plot that links with the gameplay is that while you were in prison (yeah, weird I know) a natural disaster occured and a corporation known as MungoCorp rebuilt the city but have capped many a skate spot and have infested the city with security guards. This ties into the gameplay loosely by setting you challenges revolving around avoiding said-guards and uncapping spots to make them accessible to you and other skaters, but that's really it. While the story may be weak, everything else is solid.

Blackbox have taken a leaf or ten out of the Tony Hawkes franchise's book by allowing you to hitch a ride on cars by way of skitching and giving you the ability to abandon your board to run around like a nice normal person. The reason for the latter is so that you can walk up stairs and even grab onto certain objects to move around to create you own line. While this is a brilliant idea and can really liven up a dull line the off-board controls feel stiff and wooden (think old-school Tomb Raider bad) compared to how Tony Hawkes Underground managed to pull it off. The result is an at times frustrating experience that feels like it was tapped on at the last minute, and is ultimately pretty disappointing seeing as this was one of Skate 2's main selling points. Another leaf that has been taken out of the Tony Hawkes game bible is the inclusion of bonelesses, no complies, footplants and handplants resulting in a more diverse trick book, albeit at times difficult to pull off. Speaking of tricks, the flickit system of course remains, assigning the left analogue stick to controlling your body and the right for your board, but has been expanded to include fingerflips as well as more grabs and grinds.

Skate 2, like its predecessor, is not a very easy game to play and has a fairly steep learning curve in respect to getting used to the controls, however since there are no stats to assign, your skater's limitation is down to your own mastery of said controls. At times this will leave you wanting to hurl your controller through a window/TV/annoying flatmate's face, but the immense satisfaction of finally pulling off a killer line or trick is worth every painstaking moment.

The signature low camera angle of Skate remains giving you the perspective of your cameraman buddy Reda (who looks remarkably like last year's VP Amedeus Rainbow) which results in an at-first annoying but ultimately realistic view focusing not on your skater but rather your tricks. However if you do find yourself pining for the Tony Hawkes' camera angle Skate 2 has included the option to do so. One thing does have to be said about the characters though, the dialogue is littered with 'sick', 'buttery' and 'dude' to such a point that I wonder if all skaters actually talk like such douches (ummm hi CUBA).
It has to be said that it is very fortunate for us students that Skate 2 has been released this early in the year so far away from assignments and exams. The sheer amount of hours you can easily sink into just screwing around New San Van completing some excrutiatingly hard challenges, making skate videos using the very flexible replay editor and even taking it online to kick some n00b ass is epic. The game even caters for the players who totally suck at skateboarding by expanding the original's Hall of Meat rewarding you for hurting yourself in certain ways. This of course results in further procrastination by throwing yourself off stupidly high buildings and dams just to see how many bones in your rag doll body you can break in one go.

While it may have failed to live upto all its promises effectively, Skate 2 is still a superb game that has the potential to destroy your social life (in a good way) and is a must have if you have ever been a fan of skating.

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