Shaun White Skateboarding review
There is more to skateboarding than tricks. It's about freedom, moving the way you choose to move, and viewing the city as a playground rather than a grid of utilitarian constructions. Shaun White Skateboarding pushes that idea to literal extremes. As the overseers of New Harmony, The Ministry has declared that emotion and self-expression are threats to the common good, and Shaun White, public enemy number one.
White's skateboard sets you free, and with it, you begin transforming New Harmony and its citezenry. With every trick, waves of color ripple through the grey cement, revealing vibrant grafitti beneath and morphing the dull landscape into a skater's paradise. It's ironic, although not wholly unexpected given our star's history in the sport, that Shaun White's newest game bears little resemblance to actual skateboarding, and is more akin to snowboarding on concrete.
Colors shooting out through the ground and innocuous blocks morphing into ramps are only the beginning. As your character grows in power, so does his ability to shape parts of the world. At first, you can do little more than ride up a translucent vert that unfurls beneath your wheels. In later stages, you will be able to grind rails and bend them completely to your will as you maneuver through the city's skyline. Obviously, realism is not Shaun White's goal here.
Tricks are performed with the right analog stick, much like EA's Skate, but without the same level of technical proficiency. Every move is based on a back-and-forth movement (e.g. left-right). More difficult tricks, such as impossibles and double kickflips, are performed using the same back-and-forth movements while holding a shoulder button. Vert tricks are performed in the same manner, and are all pre-canned combinations. One trick is a varial heelflip judo. But, what if you don't want the varial, or want to do a shove-it judo? Sorry, but only pre-made moves are allowed.
The Tony Hawk series (pre-Ride) had been able to get away with similarly pre-canned moves, but performing them still requires timing and skill. In Shaun White Skateboarding, it doesn't matter if you pull out a single kickflip or a double, since the game will automatically boost you a little bit higher to make sure that you land the trick. Even if you lack the time to pull of a complicated vert manuever, the game lands you in a knee-slide and calls it a trick. It's so forgiving that there is rarely a reason for not busting out the harder tricks, even repeatedly since point values remain static, whether it's your fifth or fiftieth hardflip in a row.
Shaun White Skateboarding doesn't want you to fail. Not every skateboarding game has to be as challenging as Skate 2 or the previous generation of Tony Hawk titles, but I do believe that rewards are always best when rightfully earned. Since it rarely matters what trick is performed, a fact exemplified by an auto-trick button (seriously), there is no drive to improve. Like the citizens of New Harmony, completely devoid of purpose and passion, I rolled around in a near-constant state of emotional vacancy, unmindful of which tricks popped out and riding whatever rails the game pulled me toward.
There are brief moments of genuine excitement, including a cross-city chase sequence involving skyscrapers, monorails, and an attack helicopter. More scenes like that might have turned Shaun White Skateboarding into something truly unique. Instead, it's stuck in a no-man's land. It isn't meant for kids, as evidenced by the Teen rating and sexual humor, and any teenager raised on Tony Hawk and Skate will surely scoff at the over-simplified mechanics.
Shaun White Skateboarding has the star-power, the kicking soundtrack, and the colorful world of grafitti-covered ramps, but nothing close to the attitude of real skateboarding. It's more interested in letting players fly through the air on magical rails than experience the joy of finally nailing a tough gap. There is potential here, but only if Shaun White Skateboarding can take off the safety pads and let players work for their rewards.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]