Skateboarding games from the past aren’t necessarily accurate depictions of actual skateboarding. Tony Hawk Pro Skater is arguably the most popular skating game, and your mission is to hit multiple tricks as quickly as possible. Going up a ramp and hitting 6 tricks is not necessarily realistic. Things got better with the Skate franchise, although there were elements that still felt like an arcade game. As I spent time in Skater XL, I realized that it represents what I believe is accurate skateboarding.
One of my favorite aspects is the freedom to go and do whatever you want on the majority of maps. And to me, that is a huge part of skateboarding. For example, on the majority of the maps, there are multiple areas where you can potentially do tricks. It freedom to choose is a really nice touch that makes Skater XL feel like a true sim. You aren’t confined and you are on a time limit to gain as many points as possible. You can take your time and find the area that works best for the types of tricks you want to perform.
In fact, I would often just skate and explore the map while listening to the awesome soundtrack. I didn’t feel rushed as I looked for my perfect spot. Exploring the map gives a certain sense of leisure and relaxation that I truly appreciated. If I want frantic arcade skateboarding, then I’ll switch to Tony Hawk Pro Skater. For Skater XL, it feels like you are rewarded for taking your time and trying a variety of tricks at your speed.
Speaking of tricks, they are definitely a challenge. Skater XL relies on using the left and right analog sticks to perform your tricks. Now, this is something that takes some getting used to. You basically need to retrain yourself to use the triggers to move left and right instead of the sticks. But once you are able to master the controls, then the moves come a little easier.
I say a little easier because there are a lot of tricks that range from easy ollies to more difficult flips and manuals. At any time, you can pause and look at the tricks list to remind yourself of how to pull off the moves. That being said, my biggest was pulling off multiple tricks in a row. And I think that is an appropriate challenge to have considering the desire of the development team to create a realistic skating simulator. You need to plan out which tricks to do and plan where you will pull of the moves. The challenge motivates you to keep trying and trying.
To help out the players, Skater XL features a really nice indication system to give you an idea on how to pull off tricks. The outline of your controller in the bottom left corner shows you exactly how you are inputting the commands. The sticks are color coordinated and match the stick to either your left or right shoe. For us visual learners, this is are really nice way to ease us into the difficulty of the game and help improve our abilities.
And yet, despite the challenge and big maps, Skater XL feels a bit bare bones. The maps are wonderful, but there are only a handful of them. There are a select number of songs in the soundtrack and customization options for your skater are not as robust as what you would find in other games. I was also hit with some glitches while playing.
I might be wrong (and please correct me in the comments), but Skater XL still feels like an early access/game preview title. There is a ton of potential in it’s current state, but needs some additional content to really flush out the game. The core gameplay is incredible, but is it enough to keep players coming back? I would love to see a future roadmap for additional content. If players know that more content is coming, then I truly believe Skater XL will live up to the potential and be a standout skating simulator for years to come.
Skater XL is available now on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, and will eventually launch on the Nintendo Switch at a later date. If you have tried the game, let us know your thoughts on it in the comments below!
Note: GameOctane received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
Check us out at Opencritic!
Nice, open maps
A little lacking in content
Some technical glitches