previews\ May 25, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Shaun White Skateboarding Preview


Shaun White Skateboarding is not a true skateboarding game. It is not a competitor to the Skate or Tony Hawk franchises. Sure, it has a piece of wood with four wheels that flips around and slides across rails, but above all, Shaun White Skateboarding is a fantasy about flowing through the urban landscape in smooth, endless lines.

Shaun White Skateboarding rejects the traditional styles of controls, from the precise contortions of analog sticks in Skate, to the button combinations of Tony Hawk. Complicated tricks like impossibles, laser flips, blunt slides, and benihanas are pre-assigned to directions of the analog stick. Push in the appropriate direction, and Shaun White automatically does the trick for instant gratification.

Grinds are similarly simplified, and although you still have to maintain your balance, they are extremely forgiving. I know that you diehard Skate-fans are already rolling your eyes, so you might want to look away for a moment. Shaun White Skateboarding features an alternative trick-system - the equivalent to an easy-button. Press it next to a ramp, rail, or ledge, and White automatically ollies into the air and performs whatever sweet trick is appropriate for the spot. As I said, this is not a skateboarding game.

Flow is more than a term for deftly linking tricks into lines. It is the currency of the game, used to purchase new tricks, unlock new areas, and transform the world beneath your wheels. The stage I witnessed, midway through the game, was tiny, less than a block long, colorless, with barely a single object to skate. That changed in a matter of seconds before my eyes.

In this story-driven game, White lives in a world run by The Ministry. It’s a fascist regime that believes life should be safe and devoid of expression, so no tagging, fluorescent shirts, wild furry conventions, and certainly no skateboarding. White and his board will show the world what it’s missing.

With the first grind, a wave of color shoots through the ground and into bystanders, and the small rail bursts out, tripling in length. The pavement rises, forming a kicker over a taxi, and a small rectangle of concrete rises into a massive ledge. Fellow skaters take to their boards and join the revolution as citizens cheer. The city comes alive with every trick.

You can push the limits of the transformations even further by keeping your Flow-meter high, which allows you to Shape the environment on the fly. I watched as White sped toward a green patch of cement. Without pause, the patch rose up to launch White over a massive gap. He returned to the same patch, but this time, it shifted downward to reveal a hidden subway tunnel.

Shaping on rails is mind-bending. Instead of grinding off the edge, a green tube of light keeps the board suspended until the Flow runs out. The tube caters to White’s will, moving forward to connect with another rail, veering to the side to grind a nearby sculpture, and pitching skyward toward the rooftops.

In the tradition of SSX, Shaun White Skateboarding is not concerned with providing a simulation as it shatters the boundaries of gravity and reality. Shaun White Skateboarding will launch on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC later this year, with an unrevealed Wii-port to follow.

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