Skate Spiritual Successor Session Makes Me Want to Jump Back on a Skateboard Again
Farewell, my good friend Skate. Hello, Crea-ture Studios' awesome skateboarding sim Session, one of the most satisfying games I have played in 2019.
In my adolescence, getting good grades was the least of my worries. Only two things mattered: music and skateboarding. Both of which somewhat go hand in hand. Both can be described as ways to express yourself in ways only possible through those means. If you have been or ever been into playing music or skating, it is less of an activity and more of an extension of yourself.
That being said, there is downtime which is where video games came in. Games like EA’s Skate allowed me and my group of friends to continue expressing ourselves through skating in a virtual skatopia (not a reference to the actual Skatopia at all) after hours of roaming around town.
However, as time goes on, the more I actually cared about what happened to my body. After a bad sprain, I feared jumping back on a skateboard again in the same capacity I used to. I was still skating around with my friends but I wasn’t taking as many risks as I used to, thus ending my skateboarding career. This made Skate doubly important for me since I could take those risk within the risk-free environment of San Vanelona. That is, until 2010, when Skate 3 was released, marking the beginning of the end for EA Black Box’s beloved simulation-esque franchise.
For nearly 10 years, a good proper skateboarding game has not surfaced. I say “good” because there was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, but let’s pretend that game doesn’t exist. Around 2017, a lot of rumor and speculation suggested that a Skate 4 could be on the horizon. As 2017 and 2018 went, dreams were crushed with no sign of its existence. However, Crea-ture Studios had a nice little surprise for us during the Xbox 2018 E3 Showcase by announcing Session, a skateboarding sim that can be perceived as a spiritual successor to Skate and will be coming to consoles.
Of course, I had my doubts. I had played the “Prison Demo” that was available on the Session Kickstarter and it wasn’t that great. It was more of a proof of concept rather than a demo, but it definitely showed potential. Taking Skate‘s “flick it” controls to another level with each analog stick controlling a foot, Session was aiming to be an actual skateboarding sim rather than the slightly exaggerated realistic stylings of Skate. After a bit of a delay, Session is finally available through Steam Early Access, and I can confidently say that Crea-ture Studios has managed to recreate the spirit of skateboarding in a video game like never before.
As mentioned, Session steers more into the simulation realm of gameplay. It utilizes a “flick it” styled control system, similar to Skate, but with each analog stick controlling a foot; the right stick is your right foot and the left stick is your left foot. If you are skating regular, the right stick is the back foot by the tail, and the left stick is the foot closest to the nose. In order to do tricks, you need to move the sticks in the direction your feet would relatively move on a real board. For example, to perform an ollie, you move the stick controlling your back foot down to set up; when you are ready to ollie, you move the stick controlling your front foot up as you let go of the stick controlling your back foot.
This trick system gets more complicated as you learn harder tricks like an inward heelflip or a 360 flip. For these tricks, you need to sweep your back foot to the left or the right depending on the trick you are executing, as well as move your front foot in the direction you want to flip the board. It is legitimately challenging to perform these tricks consistently even just on flat ground. That doesn’t mean it is flawed by any means. In fact, it makes it feel more real. Do you know how hard it is to do a varial kickflip down a 10 stair? It’s not as simple flicking a stick in a single direction and landing the board flat. There are so many moving parts to doing any given trick, and Session perfectly exemplifies that with its unique control system.
There are some imperfections with Session‘s control scheme, namely in performing spins. When you are on an actual skateboard and want to perform a 180 spin, you sort of wind your body so you can spin your board and your body while you perform any given trick. Session attempts to recreate that by using the triggers as your means to steer and set up for a spin. While it does take time to get used to, steering actually does feel pretty good with the triggers. However, whenever I set up for a frontside or backside spin, I always overspin slightly, cursed to never land a clean spinning trick. I found it hard to land a simple 180 cleanly. I’ve found more success landing a 360 cleanly which shouldn’t be the case since that should be more difficult.
Having a wholly unique control system that works is great and all, but if the environment isn’t asking to be skated on, then you might as well throw the game in the trash. Luckily, Crea-ture Studios has produced an awesome level with numerous spots and lines to keep you busy for hours. I’m not exaggerating. I stayed at this spot in an industrial zone for an hour and a half trying to perform the feeble grind you see above. In just about every corner of the map, I found myself finding a new spot or line to tackle it was almost overwhelming. If this is just a taste of what to expect, I am really excited to see what Crea-ture Studios comes up with when the game fully releases.
I will say the map does have a lot of clutter. By that, this city has a lot of construction happening and there are things that can get in the way of you performing a clean line. There are ways to move some of that clutter with its building tool. When in building mode, you can move some of the more intrusive hazards like guard rails and ramps that may be in your way. You can also place ramps, boards, or rails anywhere in the world to turn any location on the map into a great spot. You can also spawn lights when it gets dark out (yes, there is a day and night cycle in the game and it’s awesome). Controls for building mode are a bit finicky and sensitive, but with a bit of patience, you can create some killer spots.
A big part of skateboarding is not only executing tricks but recording proof that you actually did the trick. Session does have a video editing feature that does allow you to capture any line or trick you’d like so you can silence your doubters. Admittedly, I haven’t spent too much time trying the in-game editing features as most of my time has been trying to perfect my tricks. That being said, there are already videos online that are great examples of what can be created with the video editing in-game. All of the shots in this article were used with the replay feature which has a free camera mode that gives you the freedom to take shots from just about every angle.
Session is the best representation of skateboarding I have ever played in a video game. Sure, I don’t have a board at the bottom of my feet, but the continuous loop of trial and error to perform any of the many tricks in a satisfiable fashion has never been done better. It sounds tedious, and in some ways it is, but it is so gratifying when a line comes together perfectly. I have not been this happy and excited for a skateboarding game in years. Heck, it made me want to grab my board and ride around for the first time in probably five years. Skate 4 may be dead, but we have something potentially better with Session.