I mentioned a few days ago that I picked up Skate for the 360, a game I had my eye on because I loved THPS2 (PC) & THPS3 (Gamecube) several years ago and haven’t really played a game like that since, especially given the THPS franchise has gone downhill in recent years. For those who don’t know, the difference in Skate is that while in THPS you had buttons and directional controls to do things like grinds, kickflips etc, in Skate you have one stick to control your board, and one for your body, and all tricks are pulled off by simply moving those in fairly representative ways - so grinding is now a case of positioning your board in the right place, for example by rotating your body 90 degrees in flight to land with the board astride a rail (a boardslide) - no tapping a button to miraculously attach yourself to the grind point or anything.
This has 2 effects - it feels a lot more realistic, and it’s also a damn sight harder as well; getting the stick combinations, direction of motion, body & board angle and critical timing right all at once feels very much like the rub-your-tummy-while-patting-your-head challenge. As such, you spend a lot of time falling off, which is I guess a pretty accurate simulation of skateboarding. My experience with it in real life when I was a kid was that I was terrible at it, and after eating tarmac for the twentieth time (without any safety equipment of course, these were after all simpler times when bumps and scrapes were considered normal childhood experiences and not grounds for lawsuits) I decided I preferred my bike as a practical mode of transport. I’d love to be able to be a skater, but I wasn’t willing to endure the pain to get there.
Skate is great fun, even when you are spitting virtual teeth half the time. It’s a good simulation of the thrills without the painful consequences, and the difficulty level of the more manual control just makes it even more satisfying when you pull something off. You can also record what you do and upload it as videos or images to the Skate portal, which is great. I spent ages last night trying to pull off what would have been a really rudimentary grind in THPS (see image on the right - yes, I made my character as basically a cooler version of me), but was pretty tricky to do in Skate if you’re new. And that’s the thing - it would be a pretty tricky thing to do in real life too; by making simpler things harder, Skate re-introduces the satisfaction of pulling off things THPS would consider mundane, but should really be quite impressive. Once I finally made this 10m grind (it’s curved, and right on the edge of a moderate drop so hitting it right without overshooting was tricky) I was grinning inanely, and went on to mess about with the video editor for a while to store the moment for posterity. Lots of fun.