Black Box came back with vengeance in it’s follow up to their first Skate game, with Skate 2 just a couple years later. Everything is improved, with better fidelity of the graphics, a much larger city and even more events and objectives to complete. But with those massive lists of items to check off, the game also requires a fair deal more skill to complete, which can get frustrating for someone who has a harder time pulling off the more difficult tricks.
Another amazing intro delivers the story of your personalized created character getting out of jail, complete with a huge list of professional skaters making cameos. And this time, a lot more effort was given to allow the pro skaters to show off their own personality. No longer are the big names of skateboarding sounding bored as dirt or lame. Even some lines are tossed in to break the fourth wall and make fun of the fact you are playing a video game. Giovoni Reda, your ever faithful cameraman and one man hype crew does a great job of shouting out when you really beef it hard on a rail or slam your head into the ground with bone breaking speed.
The game’s new-ish location “New San Vanelona” opens up the level design to a ton more locations. Everything from overgrown pools, to spillways and skateparks. The addition of overgrown sections to previous locations from the first game is a really nice touch, that just ups the production value of the new game. It reminded me of the new Tony Hawk Remake, where they took the old locations from the first two games, and gave it a new coat of paint with adding crawling vines and overgrown moss to give the levels an abandoned to nature feel.
The skating returns to the original’s slow and low style that the series is now known for. While sometimes the character can get in the way of setting up a good line, and not letting you see exactly when you need to ollie onto a ledge, it’s fairly easy to just trust your gut and still be able to hit the grind perfectly. The trick system stays the same with its patented “Flip Stick” system, but it’s actually expanded upon with grabs now able to be tweaked and showing that the series can grow. Which also adds to the difficulty to the game later on in the final steps of the “Career” objectives.
While there isn’t a linear path to finishing the game, there is a fairly loosely put together story that your character was in jail for an unspoken reason, and is trying to redeem themselves in the eyes of the community and fellow skaters. The community especially, plays a larger, but not all that important role in the story, as a new corporation has come in and cleaned up the city. But in doing so, has capped rails and grind spots all over the city to discourage skateboarding. Luckily there is a skater that you are able to call up, thanks to your handy dandy Sidekick (™) mobile phone and he’ll come right over and bust the caps off with his crowbar… for a fee of course. Big Black also makes an appearance (Who I met at E3 one year and was a real cool dude) allowing you to hire him to run off security guards who are hassling you when all you are trying to do is grind a phat rail.
Money allows you to purchase new items, accessories, and clothes for your skater, along with hiring the aforementioned help, But sadly all clothing items are all cosmetic. Except for a few pieces of property you can buy to give back the community. Like a new skate park, or fixing up an old one. The money becomes pointless if you learn how to play the game right and make solid bets on yourself to complete races.
Races are one of the events in the game, they are called “death races” and are some of the most fun I had with the game. Giving you a task to get from point A to point B as fast as you can. However, there are plenty of obstacles and traffic you’ll have to dodge as you make your way downhill. While other games would just have you race, the oncoming traffic, various pedestrians walking in your path, and just general crap in your way makes the races not only more serious, but way more entertaining as well. Every turn could have a car pop out in front of you and collide with you head on. Which sends the skater flying through the air and landing on a body part that shouldn’t bend the way it currently does.
Bails have been ratcheted up a ton too, thanks to the new Hall Of Meat, that will calculate larger than normal bails, and show you what parts of your body sustained the most damage.
Giving a X-Ray with all the broken bones and other serious trauma the skater has. I spent countless time in the editor rewinding and slowly playing back the footage of what should be considered a snuff film. I took as many of the most horrible accidents I could and playing them back days later still elicited a massive amount of laughter after viewing each one again.
Skate 2 takes the original game’s mechanics and cranks them up. Adding more objectives and events, along with giving the game a larger sandbox to play around in. There were plenty of times I spent longer than I needed to in an area, just because I liked hanging out and skating in there to begin with. Creating new lines, biffing it harder than anyone should be able to walk away from, and then replaying the footage back and making a mini skate movie.
Some events, like getting a specific amount of points, or nailing a single tick perfectly, or even just playing a game of S.K.A.T.E. with other pro skaters doesn’t really add much enjoyment, mainly for the fact some are just much more difficult than they needed to be. I got stuck on a certain objective more than I’d care to admit, and taking a break and coming back to it later on really did help, but making it so difficult, along with the fact that I just can’t seem to constantly pull of certain tricks almost guaranteed I would be left with a game I never finished.
For whatever odd reason, this is the only Skate game that isn’t purchasable online as a digital copy. I already had Skate 1 and Skate 3 installed and ready on my Xbox, but Skate 2 was just plain not available. Which sucked, since I didn’t want to go hunt down a copy of the middle game in a series. I ended up paying $30 for a Xbox 360 copy on ebay, and it ran perfectly fine on my Xbox One X. I have no clue why this is the one game that isn’t available to purchase digitally, I’m assuming it has something to do with the music licensing.
Skate 1 lays the foundation of what Skate 2 became. Each character brings up the past for you, and while the custom character doesn’t really talk, there is enough with the custom emotes or what are called gestures you can perform as well. I made Up on the D-Pad to throw up the horns symbol whenever I wanted to. Which looked great when I activated it right when I landed a trick. Or assigning Right on the D-Pad to give a Fonzi-esque thumbs up, that when timed perfectly with a very aggressively nasty bail, signaled to the skate crew that my character was still A-OK after falling off a cliff head first into a car’s windshield.
There is something so genuine about these skate games, where everyone seems to be in on the fact that this game is mostly silly, but still takes the culture of skateboarding deadly serious, and wants to have a blast while doing it. I couldn’t have imagined having more fun with a skateboarding game that I did with the 2020 Remake of Tony Hawk, but Skate 2 really is something very unique and special, and I think I find the more methodical and smaller scope of the trick system to be more enjoyable now. Each series has their way of bringing out some of the best in skateboarding, but I think Skate now takes the top prize in my mind of what a skateboarding game can be.