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Session: Skate Sim Review


I love skateboarding. Growing up in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, it was difficult to avoid skateboarding. From the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon to the Tony Hawk games, and later Jackass, the sport was everywhere. Gangs of young kids would skate well past bedtime, dragged in one by one by annoyed parents out in their slippers.

Yeah, skateboarding was life, and as I got older and moved into my teenage years, when MTV introduced the world to Johnny Knoxville and his band of misfits, it reignited the spark. The local skate park in town was where like-minded individuals gathered to watch that one guy who could kickflip, while the rest of us hung around taking turns to listen to Limp Bizkit on a portable CD player, “borrowed” from someone’s older sibling.

Tony Hawk really had the skateboarding genre on lock, with its easy to learn moveset and absolutely classic soundtrack. No game even came close to knocking the Birdman off the top spot. Enter Skate. EA’s contender to the throne came at skateboarding fans with a different angle – realism.

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Skate made the Tony Hawk’s games feel a whole ton more arcade-like than ever before and later games from Tony Hawk even attempted to emulate the feel of Skate. But those times have all long passed now; skateboarding is no longer as entrenched in pop culture as it was back then and skateboarding games are not a particularly regular occurrence in the yearly gaming release schedule.

Session: Skate Sim from Crea-ture Studios, comes to us after quite some time in Game Preview and it takes aim at Skate’s crown as the skateboarding sim champion. Right off the bat, drop into Session and you’ll need time, effort and patience to pull off even the most simple tricks. Think the first time you played Skate after Tony Hawk’s, but triple that learning curve.

Each analogue stick is assigned to a foot and requires almost real life accuracy to properly pull offs and land tricks. Your speed is assigned to X and A, each again corresponding to one foot or the other. LT and RT are the buttons to turn the board and skater while on the move. If this sounds like a strange setup to you, then let me tell you that even after many hours of practice, I still automatically went to use the left stick to turn; all thanks to muscle memory.

When the controls click (and this may well be after many hours of play), Session becomes a serene experience. Lines begin to flow and each trick and move you successfully land feels earned. Tony Hawk and Skate will wish they had their control scheme provide this much satisfaction. At least, when it is all going well. I sadly feel not enough players are going to stick with it to appreciate what the developers are trying to achieve with this control scheme.

Several times my skater crumpled unceremoniously into a lifeless bundle as I would time and time again misplace a foot during an ollie. The ragdoll physics kind of ruins the illusion of realism that Session provides on a smooth run. Similarly, when you are on foot the movement off board is, well, not great; animations are janky and sadly feel unpolished and stiff. An unfinished game feeling seeps through when you play Session at length which is a shame to see in something that can mostly feel like a real underground skate video when everything aligns correctly.

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That being said, Session: Skate Sim is the real deal. Made by a team who clearly have a love for the sport and lifestyle, the underground rebel attitude of the skate scene is felt in every twist, turn, manual and bail out. But, the bailouts often feel unfair. I’ll accept that ramming into a bench at full speed should eject me from my board but now and then, while barely moving, lightly tapping a wall or scraping a curb will activate the game’s love for over the top ragdoll collapses.

Occasional janky animations aside, Session has a real cool grit aesthetic to its presentation. Choosing to have a camera positioned at the skater’s legs and board really gives a greater feeling of control and involvement. The whole thing feels like an underground bootleg skate trick video, which brings an authentic and non-corporate vibe to the experience.

However, for as much as I’ve wanted to love Session: Skate Sim, a game that could well have been the new king of skateboarding games, what we have instead is a full priced title that still very much feels like an early build of something that has more to come. While this may be the case, and with further patches and tweaks the game could be good, it has still been released as a full game and not a beta.

There are customisation options and several maps included (New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco) to try out, each with different quests given to you by real life skateboarders. And this should be a highlight. Sadly a lot of these missions and customisation options for your character are quite soulless and come across as placeholders for something better that hasn’t been added in yet.

One feature that should have been a stand out is the video mode, giving you the chance to make your own home movie styled skate videos, even with the chance to apply a 90’s filter to bring that authentic look. Again these do not feel like finished features and remind me of a boundary break style YouTube video, as the camera slips out of the environment and into objects constantly. It’s a real shame as video creating and photo taking in a game like this would be an excellent feature had it felt like it was finished.

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When Session clicks, it feels great. But unfortunately at this stage the game still feels like it is in development and features are still being tested out, even though we are now at full release. The controls are extremely tricky to get to grips with, and while the goal was clearly to emulate the real feel of skateboarding, the barrier for entry may be too high for some.

I would love to tell you that we have a new skateboarding champion on our hands in Session: Skate Sim, however Tony Hawk’s and Skate have had the market covered for years and bringing out a game that isn’t anywhere near as accessible for beginners and casual players instantly puts Session into a niche category.

For skateboarding fans who have actually skated, Session: Skate Sim will be great – when it is complete. For casual fans looking for instant fun, they may want to think twice about jumping on board. 

Session: Skate Sim is on the Xbox Store

Alister Kennedy
Alister Kennedy
A gaming writer for TheXboxHub, Ali loves the finer things in life, like Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Gaming since the '80s on multiple platforms. Podcast host and video editor.
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