It has been a very long time since someone has done something to reinvent the wheel with the skateboarding video-game genre. The genre has always been fun to dive into and just enjoy skating, but games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and the Skate series always had a more arcade style to them—never truly feeling like real skateboarding. Enter Skater XL: an innovative new entry into the hallowed halls of skateboarding video games, which comes about as close to skateboarding simulation as can be.
Part of what made the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series so addictive were its simple controls and how easy it was to pull of insane tricks. Skater XL takes the opposite approach: attempting to simulate skateboarding rather than simply have you tap a button to do a trick. Skater XL implements an innovative Independent Foot Control system which allows you to manipulate and control each foot of your skater with the analogue sticks. This admittedly comes with a steep learning curve at the start, but once you come to understand the concept behind it—and it becomes simple reflex—you’ll find hitting tricks to be far more rewarding than other skateboarding games.
While Skater XL does have a steep learning curve at the onset, there are a plethora of challenges to complete on each map—which will be sure to help you progress and learn the system of the game. However, once you have completed all of the challenges, you’ll find that Skater XL is unfortunately somewhat lacking in terms of content. The gameplay itself is fantastic and complex; however, there is not much to do in the game outside of the challenges and just free skating. There is also a very limited number of maps available. If you are playing on the PC, there is a modding community which has expanded upon the content of the game, but for the purpose of this review that community content was not considered—as that additional community content is not part of the paid experience and simply not accessible on consoles.
The game features a detailed customisation system for character and skateboard creation, even featuring many real life skate brands such as Santa Cruz, Lakai, Vans, and Element. However, I found it disappointing, to say the least, that if you chose a female character the clothing options are significantly less than a male character. I’m not sure why this is the case, but it is somewhat frustrating that female players can’t access the same deep catalogue of items as male players.
Outside of its gameplay and customisation, the game also features a fantastic soundtrack—-a hallmark of all great skateboarding games. The soundtrack features artists such as The Silversun Pickups, Modest Mouse, Interpol, and Animal Collective, just to name a few. It really completes the package for Skater XL, providing a fitting backing track for your skating action.
All in all, Skater XL is an innovative new look at the skateboarding video-game genre. However, the game is seriously lacking in content: as far as maps and general things to do in the game. Gamers may quickly find they have exhausted the possibilities of Skater XL in a few hours, making it a hard sell at full retail price. This one may be best to wait for until it goes on sale; then give the game a go. That said, Skater XL does the skateboarding simulation thing quite well; it just doesn’t manage to capture the same addictive arcade style quality of those that came before it.