Skate 2, the Devil, and me

This is a long one, sorry.

I haven’t played a sports game in a long time. I used to pick them up occasionally: Madden one year, NCAA Football the next, sometimes NHL… maybe play it for a day or so and then move on to the next game. Replayability was never about difficulty for me, not to say that all sports games boil down to AI…but that is kind of the way I see it. It’s playing the computer while you have to rely on the other members of your team, which are being controlled by the SAME computer! Well I just don’t trust it. Maybe I suck at (sports) games, but it is also possible that my offensive line is taking it easy on the defensive line because at the end of the day I’m not a part of their virtual world. Those bastards plot against me all the time. I didn’t write the code for the AI of my team therefore I cannot trust it. Right Ken? This is my problem with any NPC co-op segment in a game. But there is a special place in my gaming heart for the Tony Hawk and SSX series. Me vs. the virtual world! To conquer the mountain or the streets!  Where I can pull off moves that I, nay no one! could ever pull off in reality. Better than all of the other computer players. Did I say other? I mean…

Never having played Skate1 before the controls took me a while to adjust to. If you’ve ever played a Tony Hawk game than you know the feeling of instant gratification that those controls give. Hit X, Ollie. Simple as that. In Skate the design is that on the right control pad you kind-of-sort-of-not-really-but-there-is-only-so-much-you-can-do-with-a-controller-before-it-becomes-to-difficult-or-long-a-command-that-it-is-seen-as-ridiculous-or-to-esoteric-to-enjoy

ollie, which translates to a down->up motion. Then other flips tricks are executed with a similar motion on the control pad. Simple enough? I had an extremely difficult time adjusting to the controls. It seemed that no matter what I told my skater to do he would do something else. After a few days of being frustrated with the controls I picked up the controller to play and everything was fluid. Once the controls are comfortable for you skating around the city becomes cathartic. It’s not like actually skating but it does require much more effort to pull off a trick than just tapping a button, making tricks more rewarding when you hit them.

I almost gave up early on, but the game consistently and constantly drew me back in. It had nothing to do with the story, which is terrible, but it was never meant to be good. It’s not what drives you to play it. You just got out of jail and your skating again… I think that about sums it up. I probably would have written something like you’re on the run from a traveling salesman who is posing as your dad but is really the resurrected corpse of King Tut who knows that you hold to key to unlock the power that visitors from (Pluto? no not Pluto because it’s not a planet anymore… Mars is just too cliché… same thing with Venus… let’s go with) Mercury left behind last week at your birthday BBQ that they crashed, and to make up for gave you this key and a bunch of skateboarding knowledge and skills that you use to…well just become a bad ass skateboarder. But that’s why I don’t write.

The setting is amazing. A giant city to skate around in, full of moveable objects to create Rube Goldberg-esque skating platforms. While you can step off your board it is far more enjoyable to skate. The only times I ever found myself walking were:

1) To move an object

2) To climb up stairs

3) I was stuck and couldn’t move on my skateboard.

Of course whenever I was stuck and tried to step off my board I would almost always fall and reappear still on my board, which is giant pain in the ass

I still enjoy the hell out of it, though. My favorite aspect of the game is that I don’t have to sit down and devote my life to it. The story progresses when you want it to, there are no hour long cut scenes to sit through before the next save point or anything of the sort. If you don’t like the challenge you’re attempting at the time it’s not a problem, just quit it and try something else and come back to this one later. It couldn’t be easier to do because you can warp to any available challenge simply by opening the menu, which means you can spend less time looking for challenges and spend more time skating around enjoying the city and then performing a challenge whenever the urge arises. If I come home from work at 11 and just have this urge to play a video game, I’ll throw in Skate 2 so that I can play something just for 10 or 15 minutes and feel like I’ve accomplished something in the game.

This isn’t to say that playing Skate 2 for hours is impossible. I’ve found myself drowning 5 hours straight into the game. There’s never a moment where I become too frustrated with the game (after I got the controls down, that is). Just last night I was waiting for some friends to sign onto X-Box Live for our weekly Left 4 Dead game and decided to throw in Skate 2 for about an hour before they signed on. Before anyone signed on and I was pretty much done with Skate 2 for the night I ran to the fridge to calm my case of the munchies. With my corn chips and dip in hand I was ready to play again when I started to hear three voices in an otherwise dark and empty room. The only voice that I think I understood was of a female whispering the word "whisper" over and over again. The other two were either in languages that I didn’t understand (you know anything other than English) or were greatly manipulated sounding English. One of the other voices seemed to be a male, much deeper than the other two, like an overdriven bass, but so quiet and droning that I couldn’t understand anything. It may have been slowed down speech but I couldn’t tell. The third voice was also a woman, but completely unrecognizable. Maybe it was because all three were speaking at the same time but nothing she was saying was comprehendible. I tried to talk to them but they did not respond back to me. Maybe they didn’t hear me or they ignored me. They weren’t in the room I was in; they were one or two rooms away. I couldn’t tell how far but I didn’t want to go and find out either. When I left the voices did not follow me and by the time I was back in my room I couldn’t hear them anymore. Maybe they are confined to that one room, something might have happened there to make them attached to it. Or maybe they were just having a party and I crashed it. Maybe the reason that they didn’t hear me when I spoke was because I wasn’t in the same room, or maybe I just have the ability to hear them. Whatever it was, I’m going to check again tonight and see what happens.