Skateboarding Is Not A Crime (Or A Complete Game)
HIGH The dual-stick controls are tough, but rewarding.
LOW No actual modes.
WTF How did a curb cause catastrophic bone loss?
The media has made it seem like skateboarding is trending again, but in reality, skateboarding has never gone away. It has survived pegged cuffs, mullets, nu-metal, a terrible Christian Slater movie (and more!) without ever changing its fundamentals.
In the videogame world, skating has just as colorful a history. From the arcade gymnastics of Tony Hawk Pro Skater to the realistic focus of Skate or the YouTube-inspired Session, something as simple as riding a wooden plank with wheels has taken on countless digital interpretations. The latest entrant is Skater XL — arguably the most complex representation of skating to date.
From the outset, users should know they’re not going to grab a controller and magically master Skater XL’s control scheme, nor are those button-mashing Hawk combos going to work here. In an effort to recreate the physics of the sport, Skater XL has mapped almost all of the controls to the analog sticks, with each one representing the on-screen character’s feet.
If it sounds overly complex… it is. Even the simplest ollies and grinds become exercises in precision stick movement. As a technical achievement, the developers absolutely nailed the weight and feel of maneuvering a skateboard. As a gaming mechanism, there’s a lot for users to learn.
That said, players that devote the time to mastering Skater XL’s controls will be rewarded. Simple flips and grinds feel like monumental achievements, and those initial linked combos deliver a sense of accomplishment that grabbing a hidden Tony Hawk videotape never could in the modern day.
Visually, Skater XL feels like an early Xbox One title, meaning the player models and backgrounds are clean, but a little weak by 2020 standards. However, any realism portrayed by the visuals is immediately wiped away when the user crashes and the over-the-top ragdoll physics take over, though. Even the most benign slip-ups turn the onscreen character into a marionette, and simple falls look like catastrophes.
While the visuals are a little dated, the licensing and audio are spot-on, with a giant slate of well-known songs and brands represented. The environments are well-designed, giving users plenty of room to learn and just as much to skate through after they do. Though they lack variety, there’s more than enough to explore. Community-built maps are also available, and the prospect of an ever-growing list of scenarios is enticing, to say the least. That said, Skater XL‘s biggest letdown comes from the lack of missions or structure.
While there are plenty of trick-based tutorial challenges in place, once mastered, there’s no growth tree or clear line of progression to follow. Gamers will likely find enjoyment in mastering certain combos, but before long, they’ll realize they’re in a fairly limited environment. This effectively turns Skater XL into a self-governed “free-skate” title with no further accomplishments to be had. Even a basic score counter would have motivated gamers to push harder, but there’s nothing like that here.
Likewise, the console versions do not feature any kind of multiplayer. Coupled with the lack of NPCs or moving objects, the game experience starts to feel pretty lonely in short order.
At the moment, Skater XL feels more like a skateboarding and lifestyle simulator rather than a fully fleshed-out game. There’s plenty to try and the difficulty level will keep enthusiasts glued to their screens in hopes of nailing those elusive combos, but as a gaming experience, it comes up short.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Easy Day Studios Pty Ltd. It is currently available on XBO, PS4 and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox One. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Mild Blood. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is a skateboarding simulation game in which players can perform tricks while skating around realistic California-inspired environments. Locations include a variety of cityscapes, parking lots, and skate parks with ramps and rails. During deck selection, a cartoony logo of a severed blue hand can be applied to players’ skateboard.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game features mild tactile feedback through the controller. While there is a large array of user-made mods offered in the PC version and several already available in the console community, the core game does not make font sizes and graphic displays adjustable. That said, there are no elements that would be hindered by the loss of sound. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. The game’s controls are entirely dependent on the two analog sticks and how they correspond with the game character’s feet. Shoulder buttons offer additional control options.
When not writing for Gamecritics, Brad spends his days managing several sports and entertainment websites, handling several freelance writing contracts, and occasionally playing the role of "Dad" when time permits.
Brad is also the only guy on this staff who prefers the Xbox One to other platforms. And he's not budging on that one bit.