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Critical Reception: EA Black Box's Skate 2

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to EA Black Box's Skate 2, which online reviews describe as "one of the most realistic, challenging, and fulfilling skateboarding games around" - details, impressions within.
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to EA Black Box's Skate 2, which reviews describe as "one of the most realistic, challenging, and fulfilling skateboarding games around." Though Activision's Tony Hawk franchise set the standard for modern skateboarding simulation titles, many say that the series has faltered in recent years. Critical reaction to the latest series entry was particularly poor, and Activision is currently prepping the franchise for a major reboot later this year. Last year, meanwhile, EA's Skate surprised longtime Tony Hawk fans with its unique, realistic take on the extreme sport genre, and earned widespread acclaim from critics. This week's release of Skate 2 earns a Metacritic-averaged score of 83 out of 100. Brian Rowe at Planet Xbox 360 gives Skate 2 a score of 9.1 out of 10, claiming that the title succeeds in areas that the Tony Hawk series never explored. "Once again, Skate 2 isn't EA's response to the stagnant Tony Hawk series," he begins. "It's the Tony Hawk destroyer, so long as you believe in working for your reward instead of button-mashing for instant gratification." Skate 2's complex control scheme provides depth that other franchises lack. "Every board trick is mapped to a movement of the analog stick, with the shoulder buttons managing the myriad of grabs," Rowe explains. "Forget about spinning ollies and blind grinds, because precision and flow are everything. A simple line like a heelflip-to-tailslide on a rail can quickly become an hour-long session of fumbling fingers and horrifying bails that'll execute your manhood." Skate 2 also boasts improved skater maneuverability. "Without a doubt, the most welcome addition to the Skate 2 move set doesn't even involve the board – walking," Rowe writes. "Climbing isn't an option and the characters move like arthritic cavemen who just soiled their pants, but at least you don't have to circle the block to get back up a set of stairs anymore. Along with hopping off the board is the ability to move objects like rails, benches, and kickers around as you see fit." Rowe also cites an improved replay mode and greater trick variety as contributing to what amounts to a solid skateboarding title. "It's amazing how little additions like getting off the board, fastplanting, and even sorting your replays into categories can have such a profound affect on the whole experience," he says. "The first Skate was nowhere near perfect, but it was a massive step forward in the right direction, and away from the high-flying acrobatics and rooftop grinds that have nothing to do with actual skating. To that end, Skate 2 feels less like a sequel, and more like the realization of the original dream." Over at IGN, Chris Roper rates Skate 2 at 8.3 out of 10, noting that the game feels more like an improved version of the original title than a full sequel. "It's clear that Black Box was sticking closely to the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' rule," he says. "After all, Neversoft had been trying to reinvent its Tony Hawk franchise almost every year and it had long been having a hard time making many of the new directions for the series stick." While Roper appreciates the sequel's new ability to move objects within the game world, he finds the on-foot controls lacking. "Moving objects around and setting up your own line is great, but moving your skater around on foot is borderline terrible," he criticizes. "The camera is janky and your movement is so stiff and unnatural that you're almost always fighting the controls to get your skater to do what you want him to. While it's kind of easy to line up objects exactly where you want them, just getting your skater to be in the right place to grab said objects can be a pain." Roper also finds fault with Skate 2's story missions, but praises the ability to skip them altogether. "Like last time out, pretty much the entire city is open from the start," he explains, "and your skater starts out as good as he (or she) will ever be. This formula remains fantastic, allowing you to pretty much ignore the goals and story stuff and just go around and skate to your heart's content." In all, Roper finds Skate 2 to be superior to its predecessor, despite its problems. "The story presentation has issues, the on-foot controls suck and it can feel a little too similar to the first game on the whole," he concludes. "Again though, for all its issues, Skate 2 is still a hell of a lot of fun and anyone into skateboarding titles should look no further for the best thing on the market right now." Martin Korda at Official Xbox Magazine scores Skate 2 at 8 out of 10, praising the additions to its innovative control scheme. "Skate 2 is all about the tao of skating — being one with your board, manually controlling your movements with the analog sticks (right stick board, left stick body) rather than pummelling a series of button combos," he writes. "There's a gaggle of new grabs, plus sweet new moves like footplants and hippy jumps." "Of course, you won't do them right away," Korda warns. "Your first few hours are spent primarily on your backside, but with perseverance, you soon start to learn the subtleties of boarding — and the satisfaction you feel when you've nailed a new trick is euphoric." Korda finds that this initial learning curve pays off in the end, however. "While it's frustrating at first, Skate 2 gradually morphs into one of the most rewarding sims we've played for quite some time," he praises. "The freeform nature of the action is perfectly complemented by the option to move objects to create new obstacles and ramps, while the ability to get off your board is also welcome, despite the baffling omission of a walk-backward ability." While he notes issues with Skate 2's off-board controls and weak story mode, Korda recommends the title for its impressive realism and satisfying gameplay. "Though not without its faults," he writes, "Skate 2 is one of the most realistic, challenging, and fulfilling skateboarding games around. And it's better than having your skin flayed off by asphalt."

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