Shaun White Skateboarding [Review]
I have come to the realization that it’s over. The golden age of skateboarding games is over and it’s never coming back. Shaun White Skateboarding is a decent attempt at bringing the genre back to the level it once was with Tony Hawk 2 or THUG, but there are definitely shortcomings that keep the game from reaching that goal. I know you’re probably expecting me to totally trash the game at this point, but it’s not all bad.
The game starts you in a world controlled by “The Ministry” where individuality, standing out, and pretty much anything that’s fun has been outlawed. Shaun White was helping restore the world back to the way it was, but he has now been captured and it’s up to you to free him. When you first step out into the world everything is gray and bland. You can restore life to this world by kickflipping, grinding, and doing vert tricks all around the environment. As you paint the world around you it looks pretty awesome; trees come to life and you will find really sweet artwork all around the place.
You can also change the environment to a degree for it to become your own custom skate park. As you skate around you will find rails, half pipes, and street ramps that you can shape as you ride them to help you reach areas that would otherwise be impossible. In the beginning you will not be able to control shaping, but not too far into the game they teach you how to control your own shaping. Doing tricks builds up your influence; the more awesome the trick, the more influence you gain. There are multiple levels of influence and the higher the level the more powerful your influence is. You will be able to use your influence to unlock more areas, ramps, and buildings, and free other people from the influence of The Ministry.
As you make your way through the game you will come across many challenge points that will reward you with XP and items for completing them with either a certain amount of points or time. You can use your XP at the skate shop to buy new tricks. The items you get consist of new clothing items that you can use on your skater. I was originally going to trash the create-a-skater function, but once I found this out I was a bit more forgiving. They definitely could have given you a few more options when it came to color and creating the face of your player, but to be honest I really don’t spend too much time in those modes anyway.
There is no shortage of street ramps, half pipes, and rails to trick and grind on. While there are lots of places for you to have some fun, actually having some fun isn’t as easy as you would think. The level design could definitely use some work. I found it wasn’t so easy to keep combos going. Switching rails or half pipes can be quite cumbersome and annoying; this really breaks up what could be smooth game play. I think the thing that annoyed me the most is that there weren’t enough half pipes. When I play, sometimes I just like to get into a pipe and do air tricks for a little bit for some fun. Unfortunately, most of the skate parks’ quarter pipes are spread far from each other, so it’s difficult to get a really good flow going. When I did find half pipes most of them weren’t very wide, or they were curved which can lead to falling off if you’re not careful.
The biggest problem I had with the game was the control. You use the right analog stick to control your moves, and honestly I felt it required too much thinking to get the results I wanted. Firstly, many commands overlap and their execution ultimately depends on where you are on the ramp. For example, if you want to transfer you need to hold up and right trigger on a ramp as you come off of it. To do a body flip is the same command. So basically, if you were a bit too early or too late hitting the command for a transfer you would end of body flipping instead. The reverse is also true: sometimes I would transfer instead of body flipping.
Vert commands also overlap and are dependent on timing to get the result you want. You need to execute your command while still on the ramp if you want it to be a kick. If you don’t all you will be able to do is grab once in the air. You can try to execute your kick as you are reaching the very top of a ramp, but most of the time it will just leave you hanging with a grab. Commands aren’t always responsive, the biggest offender being the wall ride. To wall ride all you need to do is skate close to a wall and press A. This doesn’t always execute properly and caused some grief on a few missions, or sometimes when I just wanted to do it… ya know… just because.
The controls definitely take some getting used to, and with time I imagine someone could get very proficient with them. However, it just felt like it takes too much thinking to do the tricks you want to do. Not only do you need to worry about which direction the control stick is in, but also your timing and what additional buttons you need to press to execute your trick. Another thing that disappointed me was the lack of big air. You could tap your left control stick while on a ramp to get more speed for better air, but nothing compared to the big air you used to get with Tony Hawk games. The lack of big air means you can forget about chaining tricks together in the air. Honestly, with the way the control scheme works I don’t think chaining tricks in the air is possible period. I understand that chaining three different kickflips with a grab isn’t realistic, but it’s still fun; and this is a video game.
I think this game had great potential to put this genre back on the right track. However, the control scheme sucked most of the fun out of playing the game. I found myself having to be way more technical with my tricks than I really wanted to be. If you’re really into the Skateboarding genre, you might want to pick this one up. If you’re like me and just looking for some fun, I can’t recommend buying this game. Your experience my vary, but I would definitely say rent before buy.