If you earned your scars in the Tony Hawk Pro Skater school of impossible physics doing fifty foot Christ Airs then you’ll get a shock when you step into Skate 2. You'll bail and bail and bail again. Trying to nail a simple 50/50 grind will have you eating dirt or nursing your nut-sac. Learning the ropes of the game will initially feel as hard almost as learning to skate for real.
You're dropped into a sandbox city called New San Vanelona. A tutorial guides you through the controls, but the difficulty curve is harsh. The controls reflect the actions you’d be required to do in real life, as if the analogue sticks were your feet. To ollie you pull back on the stick and quickly flick it forward. To kickflip you perform the basic ollie manoeuvre but 'kick' the stick out to the left or right. If you've any real life skating experience you’ll quickly grasp the connection between feet and sticks.
Once you've mastered the basics, the directions and motions needed to pull off more elaborate tricks like pop-shuvits or 180 heelflips will register in your brain even before you’re told how. You’ll still bail frequently, but it becomes less frustrating. When you manage to nail something relatively simple you’ll feel like Jesus. That sense of earned smug is what’ll keep you coming back for more.
The THPS games didn't translate well to an open world sandbox style environment, but Skate is more successful in that respect. There's no quick-burst arcade-action. It's a tough physics engine that relies on realism to create a more believable world structure. Eventually, you'll be rolling around San Van, picking up challenges and entering competitions as they become available. If you suck at Vert there are plenty of Street courses or Downhill races to keep you occupied, but you’ll have to hit the halfpipe sooner or later.
Kick some ass, get some sponsorship, earn new threads, wheels, deck, etc. When you make the cover of 'Thrasher' your life will be complete.
3½ pleasurable punishments out of 5