There's been a growing hunger for skateboarding games over the past several years. It might have been obvious based on our excitement for the upcoming Tony Hawk remasters or through our multiple "Where was Skate 4?" articles posted after different events. While the world waits for those franchises to return, the indie gaming space has been looking to fill the skateboarding void with Easy Day Studios' Skater XL helping lead a new generation. Is Skater XL more Tony Hawk? Is it more Skate? Sadly, after spending ample time with the game, I'm really sad to say, it's not really much of anything right now, because this package feels severely lacking.
Skater XL doesn't waste much time throwing players into the action. It offers a quick, bare bones tutorial that essentially only covers basic skating moves and trusts players to go from there. On the one hand, there's something refreshing about that. What Easy Day pushes above all else is a love of skating culture and part of that culture is learning as one goes along. This doesn't have the arcade-style feel of Tony Hawk or the flick-centric controls of Skate, but rather presents something in-between. This control style is much more reliant on physics, tying each foot to an analog stick.
To put it bluntly, you're not going to be performing big-time tricks out of the gate. But the learning curve is a reasonable one, starting players out with performing kick flips, ollies, and 180s to start before going on to the advanced stuff. The problem is, there isn't much of a tutorial system beyond the basics. There's only a Challenge system, which tasks you to perform more advanced tricks and only goes as far as showing you how a ghost player performs them. Becoming a good Skater XL player takes a lot of time and patience, though it gives you a good foundation by showing you what to do with the analog sticks.
Speaking of patience, Skater XL's realism goes beyond what you can do with a skateboard. You'll bail at practically the slightest touch and it can be tough to slam on the brakes. You're going to fall a lot, but at the very least, Easy Day institutes a friendly respawn system that allows players to drop pins wherever they'd like to respawn on the map.
Just hanging out
If you spend ample time working out Skater XL's control style, you're going to want a forum to show off. You'll want a multiplayer system or some sort of single-player story. After you've completed the game's various Challenges and become a good in-game skater, what's next? The answer? Congratulations, that's the game.
I'm not kidding. There's almost nothing to do beyond the Challenges other than mosey around Skater XL's different stages and find different places to perform your tricks. That's it. There's no multiplayer, there's no solo campaign, there's no additional Challenge system or any incentive to keep going. Once you've mastered the Challenges, you're pretty much done. There's nothing left to do but go on to another map and listen to the same songs from the soundtrack again and again. It doesn't help that there are only four pro skateboarders and limited customization options, either.
This is one of those things that Easy Day will likely address in future updates, but the problem with that is, this is not an Early Access title anymore. This is 1.0 and it feels like an incomplete package. A strong control scheme and a love for skating culture only gets a game like this so far. There needs to be more to this.
Skater XL came in with lofty ambitions. That's evidenced by the unique control scheme and the amount of tricks that a player can perform, provided that they're willing to put the work in. It's also clear that Easy Day Studios loves and appreciates this hobby's rich culture, creating faithful renditions of areas like Downtown LA and the West L.A. Courthouse.
The problem is that while the game's ambitions are "XL," there's nothing "XL" about the full package. It feels like there are critical features missing, like the ability to play with friends or the ability to do anything with your skills beyond just perform them for yourself over and over. It's a slog once you've mastered these tricks and there's nothing left to do. It's even worse if you don't have the patience to learn, because at that point, there's literally nothing this game has to offer you. And given that the PS4 version of the game had performance hitches at various points, I can envision people's patience wearing thin quickly.
Easy Day makes a valiant effort with Skater XL, but this game isn't a pro skater just yet.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 code provided by the developer. Skater XL is available now on Steam, the PlayStation Store, and Microsoft Store for $39.99. It is also coming soon to the Nintendo eShop. The game is rated E.
- Unique physics-based trick system that's easy to grasp
- Stages are designed based on real-world locations important to skating culture
- Missing features like multiplayer and online play
- No tutorials for more advanced tricks
- Once you complete Challenges, there's practically nothing left
- Limited customization options
- Frequent performance hitches
- Repetitive soundtrack