Ask yourself a question: do you want a skateboarding game that depicts real-life skateboarding and is almost as hard to master as the real thing, or do you want a video game that’s actually just fun? If you want the former, you should check out EA’s Skate series. But if you’re just here to have a good time, you might like what Ubisoft is doing with their new Shaun White Skateboarding.
The concept at the core of Shaun White Skateboarding is best exemplified by the word “transformation." What the developers mean when they use the word repeatedly throughout demos of the game, is your ability to transform the game world, turning a drab, gray city into a colorful skatepark wonderland.
To engage in this urban renewal, all you have to do is pull of tricks. Or rather, first fill up your “flow” meter by… pulling off tricks. Once you have the first stage of flow filled up – and it really helps to fill it up more quickly by chaining tricks together – any trick you do over a yellow-coded area will open up an obstacle, off which you can pull more moves. There are three stages of flow – yellow, blue and purple – and corresponding areas that open up ramps and vert and rails of all different types.
You’ll also unlock people with your “flow pulses." Doing a trick while your flow is charged up sends out an omnidirectional pulse of energy that creates those obstacles, but also frees up the people nearby from their doldrums. You’re not just transforming the city, but the people in it as well.This gets to the core of what the story is about, something that Shaun White personally wanted to see in the game: a unique narrative. Written by Family Guy scribe John Viener, the story revolves around the restrictive Ministry, which has banned skateboarding and other fun stuff in the city, and reduced it to a bland and gray mediocrity full of joyless drones. Like Detroit, but with less rubble. The gameplay and narrative work nicely together, as you transform the city back into something more colorful and alive.
There’s another way to transform your environment, but it has more to do with expanding your options for exploring the city, and creating unique lines for you to skate and create huge combo scores. “Shaping” is something you can do with certain rails you find in the game, that allow you to dictate where they go once you get on them and start grinding. Jump on one, and you can point it wherever you want (almost) as it forms itself in the air. It’s a bit like flying, but afterwards you have a new rail that can lead you to harder to reach sections of the levels.
If it sounds like you’re going to have to master a bunch of difficult tricks just to build up your flow meter, fear not. Shaun White Skateboarding’s controls are very accessible, maybe almost too much so for hardcore fans. But for button mashers and fun addicts, it will come as a relief that the tricking system is so simple. It involves nothing more than the sticks and one face button and one trigger. In the Wii version, it’s done with pretty simple Wii remote flicks. Even grinding is simplified, and doesn’t involve a balance meter (well, the Wii version does). It’s more intuitive than that. Easier tricking means more time exploring and just having fun.
There will be multiplayer, though Ubisoft isn’t revealing a lot at the moment other than there will be co-operative and adversarial play, online and split-screen. I also got a look at the 3D option available for the PS3 version, and it was pretty cool. 3D games are having a hard time getting past the gimmick stage, not unlike movies, but a skateboarding game – especially one that bends reality like Shaun White Skateboarding – seems like a pretty good application of the tech.
Shaun White Skateboarding will be out for Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii this Fall.