Xbox Xbox 360

Skate Was The Beginning Of An Entire Movement

Courtesy of Electronic Arts


Developer: EA Black Box
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: September 14, 2007
Available as: Digital and Physical

Skateboarding Is An Awesome Sport

During the late 90s and into the 2000s, skateboarding was one of the most exciting transitions from "real-life" to "video games" ever. While many had released games in the past, it wasn't until Neversoft's Tony Hawk Pro Skater series that catapulted the sport into the mainstream. I honestly believe that were it not for the groundbreaking success of the series, the culture and its borders would not have been as intense. There have been fans of the series who picked up a board, invested themselves in its history, and so much more thanks to THPS.

Needless to say, there have been many imitators and very few were able to take on the king, much less decapitate its head. This would all change in 2007 when EA Black Box would dedicate their time to developing Skate. Of the many in-house studios Electronic Arts had, Black Box was their most prolific. Having come off a very successful Need For Speed run, including the Underground titles, Most Wanted, and Carbon, skateboarding was their next crusade.

Skate - Played On Xbox Series X

At The Time, Skate Was The Most Realistic Game Of Its Kind

It would have been easier to follow the leader, mimicking the control scheme of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and similar skating games. Black Box decided to invent their own system known as "Flick It." Using the right analog stick to control the skater's flip controls, something as simple as popping an Ollie felt rewarding. Each leg was assigned to a button, with X and A being the left and right leg respectively. The left stick controlled the skater's body, turning left and right as well as power sliding and reverting. Every control could be paired with each other to create interesting lines.

Skate was a game that encouraged discovery and rewarded creativity, much like real-life skateboarding. This translates well with the game's plot, or rather, its lack of a coordinated plot. You're a skater who, in the middle of their line, runs right into a bus. As the doctors perform surgery on you, in the form of a character creator, you achieve a complete recovery. Time to be the best skater in San Van I guess.


Skate Is Your Story, Whatever That May Be

One of the most interesting things about the game was its sense of immersion. Following the player at all times is a cameraman, Redda, who is always close by. He serves as the game's narrator, instructor, guide, mouthpiece, and all of the above. In short, he does not shut up at all. You're doing great? He'll let you know. Did you bomb a run? You'll definitely hear from him. It became such an issue that in its sequels they limited his vocal tracks. His own annoyance became a plot point, but you won't find a more faithful cameraman.

This leads to an interesting camera angle that shakes as a real camera would. As the player increases in speed, the camera will struggle to keep up. There are times when this camera immersion is broken, but it was a cool idea at the time. Thankfully the later games improve the camera by a lot. The camera, controls, and aesthetic give Skate a rugged "street" appeal over the glitzy glam that THPS was going for. Ironically, it was more Underground than Tony Hawk's Underground.


The "Souls" Game Of Skating, Even Though It Dates It By Two Years

I remember the discussions on the GameFAQs message boards with many saying this game sucked. The controls were "too hard" and it would "never dethrone Tony Hawk." I wish I could still find the forum threads, but looking back at them, it made sense. This was a huge risk that EA was banking on, back when taking such risks was a thing. This was the same company that made an impressive parkour game in Mirror's Edge. The same company that thought combining rappers and wrestlers was a great idea in Def Jam Vendetta.

Over a decade later and the Skate community remains strong, thanks to the YouTube era. Content creators and their love for Skate 3 began an entire neo-skater movement. This was enough to give us a new Tony Hawk Pro Skater years after THPS 5 almost killed the series. Indie games like Skater XL and Session were born from the ashes of Skate and its phoenix decided to take flight. In 2020, EA announced a new game in the series. While the news is scarce, there's a promise that the devs are "hard at work."


Whatever may come from this, replaying Skate brought me to an innocent time. During bad days at high school, I'd come home and spend a few hours having a skating session. It'd be enough to get my mind off of things, much as it has 15 years later. I can't believe this game is 15 years old. I'm old. But this game is eternal and a much-needed detox from SpongeBob's silly game.

Skate is available on the Xbox 360. It's available on the Xbox One and Series X/S via Game Pass.

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