Previews// SKATE

It wasn’t too cluttered with loads of rails and boxes and all that mucky muck

Posted 12 Mar 2007 15:30 by
Jerry Hsu
Jerry Hsu
San Vanelona, Jay Balmer informed me, is going to be skateable, with all the traffic and angry pedestrian/security guard hazards that entails. The way Balmer describes the city and how it is fully reactive in the game made me think of the opening scenes in the classic Bones Brigade video, Future Primitive, where the narrator describes the evolution of the American city over the last 200-plus years as, unwittingly, the creation of the biggest play area for skaters. I digress, but the point is that this is clearly a game that has been built by a core group of very hardcore, dedicated skateboarders. This is in every way entirely right, proper and a good thing.

However, on this occasion I only got to spend an hour or so skating around a perfectly designed little skatepark while I got the hang of and feel for those beautiful controls. The skatepark level was fairly gritty looking, much more realistic than ?certain other games? ? it was also clearly designed by one of the team who shares my love of good parks.

It wasn?t too cluttered with loads of rails and boxes and all that mucky muck getting in the way. Instead there was a lovely deep bowl that I could easily have spent the whole time just bombing around; now and then flying out the top for some beautifully executed method air. Outside of the bowl of death there were a few stairwells with rails to grind, a few walls to ride and some nice smooth humps to practise ollie-ing over.

There were also some nice long grinding rails surrounded by plenty of run-up and run-off flat concrete. Grinding comes a close second to kick-flipping on the grin-o-meter. Again, you don?t press any buttons, you merely have to get your speed, timing and ollie just right. Just as in real skating. It was when I successfully pulled off the first grind, probably ten or fifteen minutes into the game, that I had already decided I was playing something very special indeed.

As well as the cameramen in the game, mentioned above, who are integral to completing mini-missions that you need to do in order to unlock new areas of San Vanelona and progress, another key aspect to SKATE is the ability to make and share your own skate videos.

?Without footage, it?s fiction? was Jay Balmer?s line, which he used a few times to remind me that the amateur skate video is a key aspect of contemporary skate culture. So, the fact that you can keep your replay footage and export it from the game to either a dedicated website (featuring basic editing tools), or to your video editing software of choice, really is something that will appeal to the skaters.

The influence of skate videos is also clear from the slightly fisheye-lensed, close-to-the-ground camera that follows your character around.

This reminds me of another mind-blowing aspect of the incredibly realistic physics in the game: the fact that when you watch a slo-mo version of a replay, the audio is also in slo-mo. So, you hear every slap of board to foot to ground; every spinning wheel, IN? SLOW? MOTION!

Balmer actually informed me that there were two high-level physics theorists on the team ? one of whom had actually previously worked as a rocket scientist. This game, so it would seem, is rocket science!

So, (SKATE is currently scheduled for late 2007, and I for one am praying EA gets it out in time). I will then happily be making my own SKATE videos and posting them on YouTube or sending them to other people?s mobiles; at least, that?s Balmer?s/EA?s dream.

Not to sound rash, but SKATE has already become my game of the year, and I?ve only probably played less than two per cent of it.

See SPOnG?s detailed interview with SKATE Producer, Jay Balmer, right here.
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