Skater XL – A Sim for the Hardcore Only
Xbox One, PS4, PC
Skater XL, from Easy Day Studios, is a game that no matter how hard I tried I just could not enjoy. That statement is not because it is a broken game. Skater XL does exactly what it is supposed to do. It provides players complete control of the feet on a skateboard while giving them the freedom to just skate the way they want to. No timers, no objectives. Just your avatar and your board… and I think that is what turned me off it.
To me, it seems the developers behind Skater XL wanted to make a skateboarding game that is as close as a game can possibly be to the pure experience of skateboarding in the real world. In the real world, there is no score from the tricks you pull, no physics-defying jumps that would land a person in traction for months on end if they attempted it and no floating letters to collect. Skater XL dispenses with all of these notions. Yes, it is a video game, but it is one that takes time and practice to just be competent, let alone masterful. Skater XL is a game that disregards the wild and outlandish tricks in favour of what can be done in the real world. The recreation of Downtown L.A. allows players to find the iconic locations and pull off the same tricks they see the pros do, without having to worry about losing some skin if they stack it.
Unlike previous skateboarding games, Skater XL has the player in control of every aspect of doing the tricks. Both of the feet of your character are controlled by the corresponding thumbstick, allowing for fine controlled movement of the feet in order to create tricks. To do a kickflip you move the feet in the same way you would if you were trying to do one in real life. This allows for the player to be able to pull off any trick, as long as they get the foot movements right, allowing for more possible tricks than can be utilised by simple button combinations.
While there has clearly been a lot of attention to detail in getting the foot movements to work as realistically as possible, there are areas of the game that need more work. While yes, in these Covid-19 times it may be possible to find yourself skating the streets in Downtown L.A. completely alone, but this game world just feels so overwhelmingly empty. All of that space and not one person to comment on your sick trick or blast the car horn as you land a gap from the ledge above them. This could be a matter of the developers having neither the resources nor the time to implement a living game world, but it leaves the world feeling utterly lifeless. Unless you take advantage of a Multiplayer Mod on PC you will always be skating the maps alone.
The emptiness of the maps also highlights the look of the game world. Often while skating around the maps the textures just looked bland and not as detailed as you would expect from a game that is striving to be a simulation, more reminiscent of Skater XL’s skateboarding progenitors that were released on the previous console generation. The same can be said of the character models. You don’t notice it so much when you are skating, but watching the replay videos shows off just how weird the character models look.
There is also just one little quality of life issue that can hamper a person’s enjoyment of the game. Whenever you manage to bail while attempting a trick you will be respawned back to a certain point. Now, this is great if you are trying to nail a particular line and want to get back to the right spot quickly, however, when you are just free skating and looking around having to respawn all the way back at the beginning of the map is painful. Yes, you can set a new spawn point as you skate along, but the devs could also allow you to respawn right where you crashed as well. It is a minor issue, but one that can cause frustration if you forget to change the spawn point.
While the game will not win any awards for its graphics or shine, I think Skater XL will endear itself to its target audience. Those that are looking for a true skateboarding experience will enjoy the challenge of mastering the controls and pulling off smooth tricks on iconic landmarks. However, if you are the sort of person who prefers their skateboarding to be a more arcade-like experience then I think you will be struggling to get in the time and effort needed to truly master this game.
Skater XL was reviewed on the Xbox One with code kindly supplied by Five Star Games Australia