Still, the game’s a hell of a lot of fun anyway, and the more realistic style of putting together lines of tricks for points still feels fresh – even though it’s been over a year since the first game was released. After almost a decade of the tired Tony Hawk combo formula, Skate really does feel like the future of extreme sports games, and I can’t wait for other developers to catch up to what EA Black Box has done here. The ability to record your feats for posterity certainly helps: the editor’s now easier to use, videos can be longer, and sharing them is easier than before. Sites like GoonSkate certainly help, too.
Jumping into multiplayer with Skate has pros and cons. The local modes consist only of “Party” games, which in this case means taking turns instead of playing at the same time. This was presumably done for frame rate issues, but we’ve seen plenty of games with even more demanding visuals do just fine with split-screen play. The new Hall of Meat mode is a hell of a lot of fun to play with others as you each try and destroy your bodies with the maximum damage possible, but all you’ll really see is a point total to sum up your bail. It’d have been amusing to have goals to break specific bones or rack up a certain amount of bone breakages, but here you’ll primarily be trying to get the most hangtime possible with the most creative use of poses (you can contort your skater’s body to do divebombs, free falls, judo kicks and cannonballs) and the damage is pretty uniform once you make your unpleasant landing.
Online, there are modes that both have each player taking turns as well as skating together all at once, and most of these are a blast as long as everyone’s got a near-perfect connection. I’ve no idea why, but even though only one person plays at a time in Hall of Meat mode online (where you and up to 7 other people take turns and watch each other), there’s still lag. It can really screw up the whole experience, sadly, and right now there seems to be a lot of it. Not that this isn’t some kind of depressing trend in online console games recently: game’s released, there’s tons of lag, developer releases a patch to fix the lag two weeks after most players have moved onto another new release (Mortal Combat is out in less than three weeks!). I’ve heard mixed reports of online play, with some saying that the network code is better than the first game and some saying it’s worse, and for me the experience was definitely worse.
One thing I have to say is that playing Hall of Meat online will have you and a bunch of strangers laughing together pretty often. It’s a nice change, hearing actual laughter coming through the headset, instead of the angry diatribes and racial slurs I’ve pretty much come to expect from action games on Xbox Live. If you just want to laugh with others while watching skaters break every bone in their body, then this game should be at the top of your list.
Skate 2 does a good job of adding new features and moves while trying to innovate the style and keep everything fun, but there’s still a few things missing that could have made it a classic. The career mode goal structure needs a little more freedom and less frustration, the local multiplayer modes need split-screen play, and the online modes could use a fix for the lag. Even considering the issues, this is still a great skateboarding game, and really can be a lot of fun if you get into learning the controls, editing your own replays and videos, and putting together some good Hall of Meat bails with your friends online.