After waiting nearly a decade for a new simulation skateboarding video game to arrive, loyal fans of the extreme sport have become spoiled in recent months. The truth is, it seems like every few weeks a new skateboarding video game is released or announced — and I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m beyond excited to be able to write a Skater XL review — heck, I would be stoked to write a review for almost any skateboarding game at this point.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to play a few of these new games. I previewed Session two separate times, explored SkateBird, and played my fair share of Skater XL on the PC — albeit Chase previewed that one. Some might consider me a skateboarding connoisseur. All three games have a unique style and personality. But the one that stuck out most from a simulation standpoint was and continues to be Skater XL.
Here is my console review of Easy Day Studios’ skateboarding simulation, Skater XL.
Skater XL Review: What I Like
A Real-Life Representation Of The Sport
As a former skateboarder, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued by most skate video games. But there are only a few that hold a special place in my heart the way EA’s Skate franchise has, which is probably more about realism than anything else.
Yes, we all love to string together a 19-trick combo and pull off technical tricks like a 1080, followed by a 720 flip while grinding a telephone pole. But let’s face it, that’s not what skateboarding is all about. And that’s what makes Skater XL so unique. This isn’t about building a career with a create a player, doing an ollie over bums or trying to collect letters. It’s honestly about the art and evolution of the sport.
So, as we slowly witness the evolution of skateboarding video games, two things have improved with its progress.
- Games have become more realistic.
- The controls and physics continue to get more intricate and lifelike.
When I first started playing Skater XL, it took me back to my teenage years when I was trying to learn how to kickflip in my neighbor’s yard. As you can expect, becoming an efficient skateboarder takes endless hours of practice. Thankfully, it will only take a couple of playthroughs to get Skater’s unique control system down. And when you do, you can see why the game is getting rave reviews from the masses.
Unlike other skateboarding games, Skater XL uses the left and right analog sticks to mimic your character’s feet. So, if you’re skating regular and want to kickflip, you would need to push down on the right analog while flicking the left analog towards 11 o’clock. The left and right triggers control your skater’s movements, while R1 controls air grabs.
Becoming familiar with the controls, trick list and understanding how to do things from different stances (fakie, nollie, regular, goofy) can be challenging. But let me reiterate, if you get through the learning curve, it will feel more rewarding than ever landing your kickflip backside tailslide down a handrail.
The game’s physics engine also brings a new feel to skateboarding video games. Skaters feel more weighted and pulling off tricks like frontside flips or 360s on flat terrain can be challenging.
Characters, Skate Spots And So Much More
If you’re determined to play as your favorite pro skateboarder, there’s a good chance you’ll come away disappointed. After all, there are only four professional skaters to choose from: Tiago Lemos, Brandon Westgate, Evan Smith and Tom Asta. These names won’t mean much to the casual fan, but skateboarders all over the world know who talented these guys are. The real question, however, is does it really matter? Part of the lore of playing video games is creating your own unique skater, and Skater XL has options to choose from.
Users can customize many things, including accessories, T-shirts, pants, shoes and your skateboard — down to the wheels and trucks. Again, there’s not a significant number of options. But there’s enough variety to make everyone happy.
Many of the skate spots in the game are based on a real-world locations and are well crafted. Many are littered with iconic skate spots that will resonate with most skaters. My favorite place to skate is Easy Day High School. Not only does it take me back to my skateboarding days, but to the days of THPS2 and the infamous Leap of Faith. Other levels include Downtown LA, California Skatepark and West L.A courthouse.
Each level is unique and has endless possibilities to pull off sick tricks and lines. Easy Day also released three community maps (Hudland, Streets and Grant Skate Park). And like every skateboarding game that has come before it, there’s a massive mega ramp for skaters to take flight on like Buzz Lightyear. There’s a place for everyone to skate.
The soundtrack is unique, too, and features several bands you may have heard of — including my all-time favorite Modest Mouse.
Kick, Push, Kick
I wish Skater XL was around 10 years ago. I don’t skateboard now, but on rainy days or at times when I was unable to go outside and skateboard, this would’ve been the game for me. It gives users a realistic representation of what a day in the life of a skateboarder is all about. And at the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for from a video game. Once you get the extensive control scheme down and learn how to do the endless tricks, you can just cruise around and enjoy the game.
Skater XL Review: What I Don’t Like
Additions To The Sequel?
The first thing Easy Day has to figure out is what is the overall concept of Skater XL will be over the long haul. I enjoy playing it because it truly is limitless. But I think the franchise could benefit significantly from a career or story mode. All you currently get is a laundry list of tricks to achieve at specific locations. Now, don’t get me wrong, these are actually fun and give users some type of objective. But they feel more like a tutorial than anything else. Overall, I’d like to see more options to keep gamers wanting to play more.
As for customization, more is always the answer. I enjoy the customization system in Skater XL, but it is limited by the number of styles and equipment. Part of this is probably because they are limited in what brands can be added to the game. But yes, it would be nice to have more clothing options, and since it is a skateboarding game, the ability to choose between more trucks, decks, wheels, etc.
This also brings me to my next point.
To Mod Or Not To Mod, That Is The Question
I’m not a PC gamer by any stretch of the imagination. But when I have an opportunity to use my PC and benefit from the endless mod possibilities, I do. Skater XL runs fine on PS4, but what makes the game so unique is the modding community. Unfortunately, there is no way to customize maps, players, clothing, etc. on PS4 or Xbox One. This isn’t necessarily a crushing loss on every level, but I would probably be more inclined to buy the game on PC than I would console.
In short, I hope Easy Day continues to add creations from the modding community into current-gen systems.
Skater XL Review: Bottom Line
There’s a lot to like about Skater XL’s console debut. And while the game is not perfect and won’t benefit from PC’s ever-evolving mods, the future of skateboarding video games is bright. No, Easy Day Studios’ skateboarding simulation might never be as big as EA’s Skate series, but that’s okay.
Skater XL can make you want to shatter your board at times, or hurl it down a flight of steps. But once you learn the advanced control scheme and begin creating your unique lines, the skateboard experience becomes so rewarding.
We may be unsure about what the future holds for skateboarding video games, but I think I can say with the utmost confidence that Skater XL is here to stay.