Skater XL Review: I Can't Wait For Skater XL 2

6.5
  • Playstation 4
  • Windows
  • Xbox One
  • Sports
2020-07-28
unnamed
Skater XL is now available Easy Day Studios

A major skateboarding game has not come out in many years, with the most recent high profile release being 2015’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. To say that game was a failure is putting it lightly. And as much as I love the (good) Tony Hawk games, they don’t quite scratch the itch left by the Skate franchise. I boot up Skate 3 semi-regularly because it’s still so much fun to just skate around, pulling off tricks here and there.

So when Skater XL started showing off its approach to a more realistic skateboarding sim, I had hope. When I heard several major skate companies were featured in the game for added realism, I was stoked. Could this be the mythical Skate 4 I was hoping for?

Sadly, dear reader, Skater XL shows so much promise, but can’t quite deliver. There are great ideas here, and when things are working right, Skater XL can almost live up to my lofty hopes. But things don’t exactly go right that often, as bugs plague the experience frequently enough to become frustrating.

Before getting negative, let’s talk about some of the things Skater XL does well. The overall vibe is great, and the game looks solid enough. You aren’t going to be blown away by the graphics here, but they’re serviceable (when there aren’t any weird flickering issues). Some of the level design is really solid as well, with the High School level in particular showing what Skater XL can do.

The soundtrack is also phenomenal. It’s packed with pretty major bands like Modest Mouse, Silversun Pickups, Band of Horses, Interpol, and Animal Collective. However, here’s the weird thing with this soundtrack: there aren’t any jukebox controls, so you can’t skip songs, play specific songs, or even shuffle the playlist. You hear the same songs in the same order every time you turn on the game.

Also, like Skate before it, Skater XL includes tools to edit and share video clips of your skate sessions. The tools are easy enough to use, so expect some impressive videos of both skating and hilarious crashes.

Brands - Manny Pad
When things work properly, pulling off tricks in Skater XL is pretty darn fun Photo: Easy Day Studios

However, the thing that makes or breaks Skater XL is the gameplay and how it feels to pull off tricks. The skate mechanics in Skater XL seem to take the approach from the Skate games where instead of pressing a button to do a trick, you need to push the controller sticks into specific directions to perform certain actions or get your body repositioned first before pulling off a trick. However, Skater XL goes beyond Skate’s control scheme to be even more complex, with one stick controlling your left leg and the other controlling the right.

This system can work really well, but often breaks. You need to hold the sticks down to ollie on your board, and frequently holding the sticks down would send my skater flying. It’s also very easy to do different tricks instead of the ones you’re trying to perform to complete challenges.

Brands - Back Lip
It's cool to see some real-world brands like New Balance and Element in Skater XL for that added sense of realism Photo: Easy Day Studios

Speaking of challenges, there are five developer-created maps and three community-created maps, and each has its own unique set of challenges. These can range from simple tricks like jumping over a bench, to advanced lines, with your skater needing to complete a series of tricks in a row without messing up. These challenges help provide structure to Skater XL’s gameplay, but unfortunately there’s no real reward to complete them. It would have been cool if there were at least some unlockable boards or clothing options.

As for the levels themselves, some are great and others feel lacking. The previously mentioned School level is filled with objects to trick off of and cool lines to discover. Many of the features are seamlessly built into the level, while the more obvious skateboarding objects at least thematically make sense. However, other levels don’t feel like there was as much care or thought put into them. For example, the West LA Courthouse level is essentially just a small, flat courtyard with one interesting feature to skate around. It seems like even having one or two fewer levels would have been a smart move if they all could have had the attention put into them like the School level.

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The big ramp map in Skater XL is fun, but shows how fragile the physics system is Photo: Easy Day Studios

One of the levels is just one massive skating ramp structure, and while the level is small, skating around on the huge ramp is very fun. That said, the big jumps also highlight how goofy the physics of Skater XL can be. Performing small tricks like doing a kickflip feels pretty natural and somewhat realistic. However, I don’t think anyone is capable of pulling off tricks like a 1260 Hard Septuple Flip or a Backside 900 1800 Laser Quintuple Heel, even when going over some huge jumps.

While this review may come across as negative, I still mentioned in the headline that I can’t wait for Skater XL 2 or Skater XXL or whatever it may be called. There’s a lot going right with Skater XL, and some more work on it could have led to a much more impressive game. A sequel could allow the developers time to build on what they have already created to clear up the issues and craft something really worthwhile for gamers looking for a modern skateboarding game.

If you’re really missing the Skate franchise, I do recommend checking out Skater XL. With the possibility of more community created levels and hopefully some of the more glaring bugs getting patched out, hardcore fans will have tons of fun with the creativity and flexibility Skater XL offers. You’ll just likely be frustrated frequently with some of the issues in between those moments of creativity.

REVIEW SUMMARY
Skater XL
6.5
Skater XL Review: I Can't Wait For Skater XL 2
There’s a lot going right with Skater XL, and some more work on it could have led to a much more impressive game.
  • Amazing soundtrack
  • The best skateboarding game since Skate 3
  • Unfortunate bugs
  • Overall lack of polish
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