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Archive for January, 2009

Review: skate.2 (Xbox 360)

Posted by rapaleeman on January 30, 2009

Here it is.  The biggest skateboarding game surprise has finally received a sequel.  How is it?

So I’ve had the original game since launch.  I love it.  The Flick-It control scheme, the realistic physics, the ideology behind the game, everything.  How do you improve upon perfection?  You add more shit.  You leave the perfect things alone and you fix the bugs, glitches, and little design flaws.  Unfortunately EA and Black Box only got part of the memo.

Let’s start with the bad.  The 60 frames per second that was promised functions sometimes, but stutters quite a bit.  Noticeable frame rate hits occur (especially downtown or when other skaters are online) that usually eff up your line/trick/overall flow.  With that the graphics are just weird.  They are overly bright and in certain sections of the city get really annoying (as well as the noticeable pop-in).  The city has this surreal feeling that wasn’t present in the original game.  Kinda like how Need For Speed Underground was a little off, so is this in terms of feel.  Plus there are some pretty low-resolution textures in places that should be.

Next Black Box decided to slow down the skaters and tweak the physics.  This means you need to hold a trick longer on the stick, move faster yourself, and overall change up your game.  Not a hard thing to get used to, but it seems to me they just crammed as much shit into the control scheme as they could.  I still prefer this to the archaic press “X” to kickflip, but there will hopefully be a compromise for the next game.  Pressing X or A to one-foot air tricks, is a little weird and very awkward.

Next is the Career mode.  In order to make things easier they made the film challenges mostly optional and you only really have to play the game of s.k.a.t.e. twice in the career.  First the actual career challenges.  They come in two varieties.  Easy as hell or hard as shit.  No in between.  The game of s.k.a.t.e. against Eric Koston and Mike Carroll is fucking broken and some of the other challenges require such specific timing that the control scheme is not made for that it is just unfair at times (looking at you basketball court).

To make things worse, the descriptions of the challenges and what to do next is so cryptic that I didn’t realize I had to find pools and drain them in order to continue the Thrasher magazine goals, or even understand how to get sponsors.  It just happens.  Plus some of the other challenges have you doing tricks in places that are not set up for them.  I understand the idea is make you feel like a real skater and deal with what you got, but when you have to land in a specific spot just to make an ollie and there is a ledge there, things can get really frustrating.

Finally, my last thing in this ongoing bitchfest (yes the good points are coming and there are plenty) is the city.  It is supposed to be a greatest hits of sorts from the first game, but overall it sucks.  The city feels like a corridor shooter in a city with a fake sky.  Like Doom or Duke Nukem.  There just are not a lot of open areas as before (probably to keep the frame rate up).

This leads to my first in the long list of good points, the skate parks.  Where the city itself really does suck, the skate parks are fucking amazing.  The Mega Compound has been revamped and is just perfect.  The Plan B warehouse has done some steroids and became the amazing Training Facility (with your board sponsors flags all over the place which is a nice touch).  Goofy Versus Regular (GVR) is a nice addition and sweet little area.  My new favorite is the Monster Clubhouse.  Despite the obvious branding (but their energy drinks rock so it is ok) the area is like an outdoor arena that is setup for competition (like the Dew Cup).  It has just enough crazy halfpipes added in the realism that it makes amazing.  The only place that is a letdown is the San Van Arena.  Gone is the X-Games of the past (which was awesome) and in is a weird amalgam of the mega ramp and a roller coaster.  Can’t describe it any other way.

Next is the ability to walk.  Yes it looks like shit and is a little awkward but thank you EA and Black Box.  Now I can walk up the effin stairs.  With this comes ability to use the force to retrieve the board which I am not that upset with as a lot of others are.  I think it looks cool.

Here is a good place to talk about the controls.  Once you get accustomed to the timing, the controls work quite well.  This is not a button masher or a game you can just flail away at the stick and hope for happiness.  In order to pull off good looking one foot/no foot grabs you need to plan out your runs.  Most require a combination of the right stick and shoulder buttons along with the A, X, or buttons after you have flicked the right stick to ollie.  Got that?  Check the trick book.  It is more intuitive than you may believe and you will be doing my favorite, Airwalks, in no time.  You can also hippie jump, caveman, foot plant,  no Comply, boneless, and use the grab the world button to do other tricks.

WTF?  Grab the world?  Yeah the RB button is now the grab the world button.  You can skitch cars with it, invert on QPs, and even move stuff.  Once off the board you can move realistic things (picnic tables, rails, ramps, those sorts of things) to set up new lines and even set up your own little Own the Spot challenge.  Once done you can then upload that shit online and challenge your friends.

Had enough?  Need more? Ok.

Once you finish the admittedly short and really frustrating career mode you can venture online.  The normal freeskate is back as well as online own the spots, but now you have freeskate activities.  Like Burnout Paradise (speaking of which, why the fuck are there Paradise City billboards all over this game?) you can initiate a ton of events wherever and whenever you want.  Some are easy fun, others a pain in the ass as well (having 6 people do one grind at the same time is fun.  Yeah right). 

Let us not forget the death races (which are a lot easier in the career mode this time around) or the new Hall of Meat challenges.  The HoM challenges are kinda annoying since they pop up EVERY time you bail.

Oh and the create-a-skater doesn’t suck anymore.  You can be a chick for one and the hair actually looks like hair.  Plus the hats look good (headphone options and different ways to wear them FTW) as well as the way everything just fits on the skater.  No longer do you feel like a set of clothes with a head. 

This also translates to the fact that the skater now takes battle damage as you wreck yourself on spots.  Same with the clothes and the board.  This along with the awesome new bails (which look pretty convincing for the most part) and the excellent animation system make for a pretty game to use the replay system with.

For that you get 90 seconds total.  Infinite clips that add up to 90 seconds.  Replay options are stinted (Filmer Pack is available, I got it and will touch on it next week afte rI mess with it over the weekend)  but for the most part editing is easy and checking out replays of your conquests and failures is a definite win.

So what is the final verdict.  Well if you read the cons they were all pretty big.  With that said the good definitely outweighs the bad here.  I am more pissed off that the little bugs were not fixed than I am about anything else, but since the skate parks are so great and the new tricks are actually awesome (though not necessary) I gotta give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Not to mention my new obsession in the replay mechanic and I can see myself playing this game until skate.3 comes out.  So while this may be just skate. 1.5, it is a definite must buy for any skate fan.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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Quick update

Posted by rapaleeman on January 16, 2009

So I’ve been stuck in this really stupid class for the last week.  Sorry for the lack of updates.  I know I have made a few of you guys sad pandas because of it. 

I am working on getting my band up and running again too so there are some things happening.

I’ll get back after the holiday and the end of the US as we know it (Inauguration).

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skate. 2 be upon us

Posted by rapaleeman on January 9, 2009

So I got home and fired up the demo.  Hot damn it is pretty beast, my impressions below.

First off, for a demo, the create-a-skater is fan-fucking-tastic.  The face is limited, but everything else is amazing.  The hats look great.  The clothes actually fit right.  The model of the character is good, and the clothing has a hell of a lot more variety than before.  Thank you BlackBox.

After the initial little video of your CAS guy which looks just like the opening CG from Tony Hawk’s Project 8 (yeah I know, weird) you have to do a little mission to get to Slappy’s.  Once there the game opens up and as you complete objectives you get some more time.  Not much though since after completing everything the most I have ever had was like 9 minutes and some change.

Now, before I touch on graphics lets talk the skating and walking.  Yes there is walking now and while I really appreciate the details of walking up and down stairs (it looks completely convincing) the guy (or girl) moves like a damn tank.  Like almost as bad as the first Resident Evil game.  I’m glad it is there, but it kinda stinks.  A minor gripe that makes moving the objects (which works suprisingly well) a pain at times.

So this is a skating game.  How be the skating?  Great as expected.  The game is a little off timing wise, but that is due to the 60 frames-per-second and the slight tweaks in the physics.  The character moves faster in the tricks, yet it seems slower (weird, but that is how I describe it so whatever).  The animations are all top notch and the stupid bail animations are gone.  The new ones look convincing enough (the hall of meat logo at the bottom is a little much after every bail though) and actually make the game that much more realistic.

The control scheme for the most part has not changed, however, using the A/X buttons in conjunctions with the right stick and the grabs is a little awkward at first, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work.  Very intuitive.  I have been doing my favorite trick, the Airwalk, with complete consistency.   They seem kinda sketchy on paper, but they work.  The bonelesses are cool little tricks for a ton of style, and so are the no complys but those are a bitch to pull off.  Look cool but timing is hard.

The lip tricks that are new are simple to pull off and work as advertised.  Same with the Judo plant that, while a little tricky to time is really cool and definately a great addition.  Plus you can grab while you are grinding.  Nice.

Overall control-wise, the game is perfect really.  Everything feels the way it should.  The harder tricks in reality are hard here as well.  Plus I like how it sorta mimics how you do it reality.  Good touches and with the super smooth frame rate, it looks amazing in motion.

Now the graphics, besides the kick ass character models, are really good as well.  The overall look of the game is a little flashier than I expected, but it looks good.  Everything really pops and really impress me.  The cuts and marks on your arms and clothing is amazing and very realistic. The details like  that are all over the place.

The pros look pretty good.  I can definately pick them out.  Especially Koston who looked like he was popping out of a Berrics video.  Same with Reda who, despite the weird chin (he is a little chub chub) looks great too.

Overall, the game seems to be winner.  It will no doubt sell, but I am glad that things were addressed and fixed.  I am still a little worried about the story which kinda seems lame, but as long as it keeps the same laid back attitude (not sure about that) then the game will be Winner in my book. 

The game is great in the main place that matters though, control.  Still spot on and any fan of the series, despite having to relearn some timing, will have a blast.  My only complaints above are very minor and really about non-skating things that have very little impact over the entire game.

It seems weird that the game isn’t perfect, but doubling the bag of tricks, fixing the CAS, and creating a sequel to one of my favorite games of 2007 is no easy task.  BlackBox did it however and again, despite the little issues this game is a must purchase.

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Random: 1/07/09

Posted by rapaleeman on January 7, 2009

Morning one and all.  First post of 2009.  Guess that means I have to start adding the year to the titles of my randoms.

This has been a really slow start to the new year to be honest.

Really want to see some movies.  I guess I’ll have to get off my ass and see The Spirit, Bolt, Yes Man, and maybe even Gran Torino.  They all look reasonably good.

The skate 2 demo drops tomorrow.  Can’t wait.  I’ll post some impressions maybe Friday.

Carnation Instant Breakfast is awesome.  Tastes yummy and gets me going.

I bought some new movies yesterday.  Rightous Kill, Babylon A.D., and Bangkock Dangerous.  I love Nick Cage so I bought his shitty movie.  Leave me alone.  As for the other 2, Deniro/Pacino is a must buy and I actually liked Babylon A.D. with the Vin.

All 6 seasons of 24 are on sale at Target for like 18 bucks a pop.  Buy them all.  I bought the Special Edition re-release of the first season for 17.99.  Worth every penny.  The first season when released on DVD looked like shit.  About time they did it justice.

Well, I don’t have much else today.  Just a quick check-in. 

Hit you later.

Peace.

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