When Skate was released in 2007, it took a fresh new approach with a control scheme that made tricks feel more realistic and satisfying than in any previous game. Skate 2 refines this system somewhat and, impressively, adds a wealth of new features and tricks to its predecessor's already sizable repertoire. Some needlessly frustrating challenges and annoying AI, as well as a couple of strange design choices (physics-enabled litter, anyone?) prevent this from being the great sequel that it should have been, but Skate 2 is still a lot of fun and bodes well for the future of series.
Take the time to explore the city and you'll inevitably find new spots to skate.
Like the first game, Skate 2 has something resembling a story in Career mode, though that story takes a backseat after the first hour or two. Returning to New San Vanelona after a stint in prison, you discover that the fictional city, which was largely destroyed by some kind of natural disaster while you were inside, is barely recognizable from the first game. The facelift comes courtesy of the Mongocorp company, an organization with a penchant for structures that incorporate quarter pipes, ramps, and rails, and with a seemingly endless supply of anti-skater caps and clips (you learn how to remove these early on) with which to adorn them. Mongocorp's security guards are quick to deal with any skaters who stray too close to the company's private property, but the city isn't anything like the police state that Skate 2's intro movie would have you believe it is.
Where the narrative is concerned, your goal in Skate 2 is to rebuild your career and to reclaim New San Vanelona for skaters in the process. Making a name for yourself as a skater involves entering races and trick competitions, going head-to-head with pros who have devised challenges for you, and doing photo shoots for magazines. Skate 2 is at its best when it affords you the freedom to perform whichever tricks you want to in pursuit of a high score or, as is the case in photo shoots, to adhere to fairly loose guidelines. Unfortunately, there are still a number of challenges in which you're told exactly which tricks you must perform to succeed, the most common of which are games of S.K.A.T.E. against the numerous pro skaters who appear in the game. Given that none of the tricks in Skate 2 require complex controls to perform, the problem isn't that performing specific tricks is difficult; it's just that so many tricks are executed in very similar ways. The analog-stick controls aren't precise enough for you to nail specific tricks every time, so you end up having to retry these challenges not because you bailed, but because you landed the wrong trick.
The retry button also gets some use during photo shoots when, on rare occasions, you might be told that you've failed a challenge when clearly you've fulfilled all of its criteria. The opposite is also true, and being told that you've passed a photo shoot when all you did was fall off of the end of a ramp or skate idly past the photographer can make for some particularly mundane magazine shots. It's conceivable that you'll make it through the entire game without encountering this particular bug, but it happened to us on more than one occasion.
Skitching is a great way to get around the city if you're in a hurry.
Challenges are scattered around the city, and you can reach them either by warping to them instantly via a menu screen or by skating around the city with an annotated map to help you. The former is a useful option if you're in a hurry to unlock pro skaters and licensed merchandise for use online, but the latter is definitely the better way to play because you inevitably find cool spots to skate as you explore, many with their own optional challenges. Being able to get off of your board means that you can reach areas such as the roofs of buildings that would otherwise be inaccessible, and although the on-foot controls feel clumsy, the ability to walk is nevertheless a welcome addition given the prevalence of flights of steps, curbs, and the like.
Stepping off of your board isn't good only for exploring and for negotiating steps; it's also the only way to take advantage of one of Skate 2's other new features: the ability to move objects around to create your own skate spots. This feature is used only rarely in challenges, which is just as well because though it's a great idea in theory, it doesn't add a lot to the game in practice. Moving large objects around is surprisingly easy; you stand next to the item that you want to move, hold down a shoulder button, and use the analogs to reposition and rotate it. The problem is that dumpsters, ramps, and grind rails that are light enough to be pulled and pushed around by a single skater are also light enough to be moved when skaters accidentally bump into them. After you take the time to perfectly align ramps and other items, it's irritating that they get moved around so easily. There's an option to reset them to their intended positions if you remembered to mark them, but an option to simply glue them in place so they don't move at all would have been welcome.