Skater XL Review
Many of us have only dreamt of being able to adorn a skateboard with the finesse of Bob Burnquist and the technical ability of Rodney Mullen. Back in my teens, I regularly nursed injuries caused by attempting tricks and flips that I had seen perfectly executed by the greats of the sport. Then my life changed; Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was released. Being able to live out my fantasy in the virtual world was a dream come true.
Fast forward to 2020 and that need for a skating game has re-emerged. After flooding the market during the late 90s and early 2000s, fans of extreme sports have been living in a 10-year drought, yearning for a game that faithfully replicates the sport. Grinding its way to the Playstation 4 is Easy Day Studios’ Skater XL, but is this the skateboarding simulator that many of us have been waiting for?
Boasting physics-based controls, you can manipulate your board any way you like, giving you complete freedom as you roam the streets. Each analogue stick corresponds to your respective foot and the triggers are used to maneuver. At first, this is difficult to grasp, but after a few hours, it will start to click. Pulling off flips and tricks is the bread and butter of the genre and doing them in Skater XL is massively rewarding. Trick combinations are difficult to perform as you have to consider the movement of each foot on the analogue, the grab with the R1/RB or L1/LB and then the rotation. As a result, this can make basic tricks feel like a mammoth task but the sense of achievement is flawless.
Skater XL is a barebones title. A set of tutorials will teach you the basics and then there are Challenges. Ranging from flips and tricks to manuals and grinds, the challenges help to give purpose to your time spent on the game. The difficulty ramps up as you progress through and helps you to master the controls. After that, you simply have to find your own fun.
You can instantly set spawn points and respawn by hitting up or down on the d-pad, which is a cool feature especially when you have found the ideal route for a series of tricks. On top of this is the robust replay mode, which gives you complete control over the camera and keyframes so you can perfect your videos before uploading them to Youtube.
With five maps plus three that are community made, finding spots and runs is essential to the game. From Schools to skate parks, each area has lots of spots where you can combo from big air to grinds but doing so is all on the gamer’s shoulders as you are given no guidance as to where to hit those gnarly lines. Graphically, there is an inconsistency with the developer and community created maps. Some areas look incredible; the sunsets on the horizon creating a lens flare as you skate by, but other areas look unpolished and dingy. Whilst skating around the streets of California you are bound to crash and burn, and though this is amusing, the clipping issues that occur at these points are more frustrating than fun.
Stylin’ and Profilin’
The game also features four iconic skaters: Tiago Lemos, Evan Smith, Tom Asta and Brandon Westgate as well as being able to customize a male or female avatar. You can select from an array of options to make your character look the way you want and wear fashionable apparel within the skating community. Although the character models aren’t particularly detailed, they look great when skating the streets and suit the overall aesthetic of the game.
The soundtrack in Skater XL is superb and captures the feeling and lifestyle of being a skater. Tracks from famous artists such as Modest Mouse, Interpol and Kratos Himself provided a perfect backdrop when pulling off a Pop Shuvit into a backside 50-50.
Although Skater XL nails the feeling of being a skater, the game isn’t without its issues. Lacking some of the basics gamers would expect, such as a trick score, objectives and multiplayer, Skater XL feels… well, unfinished. There are performance issues, as the framerate regularly drops especially when moving from challenge to challenge. Load times are excruciating and bails are hilarious. Arms can flail, limbs can disappear into the scenery and bodies can skyrocket.
Skater XL is a strong proof of concept but it’s currently incomplete. It has successfully created a physics-based control system that is both complex and rewarding. This will appeal to skaters as it’s the closest that video games have got to simulating the sport, however, Easy Days Studios has failed to gamify the experience. With more objectives, a story, voice acting and various modes, this could have been the skating title that gamers have been waiting for. Although post-launch content has been promised, many may have bailed before then.
***PS4 review code provided by the publisher.***
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- Physics-based control system
- Killer soundtrack
- Nails the feeling of being a skater
- Lack of content
- No multiplayer
- Needs to be gamified