‘Session: Skate Sim’ walks a very fine line between simplistic skateboarding fun and fast-paced action.
Touted as a spiritual successor to the ‘Skate’ series, ‘Session: Skate Sim’ very much wants you to unlearn everything you ever learned from endless hours of playing ‘Tony Hawk Pro Skater’ on the PlayStation 1.
Players in search of fast-paced, arcade-style thrills will be left disappointed, and ‘Session’ wants to make it clear you play the game on its terms, not yours.
‘Session’ offers skateboarding thrills, but not in the way you’re thinking.
There is no points system and you can’t rack up gravity-defying combos while punk music plays, and instead ‘Session’ slows down the pace and puts an emphasis on making the game as close as possible to the real thing.
And for the most part, the game succeeds in its mission.
Heaven is a half pipe
‘Session’ is indebted to the skate culture that came before it, and the game assumes you already know your Jay Adams’ from your Kelvin Hoeflers.
If your knowledge of skateboarding starts and ends with the ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’ series or episodes of ‘Jackass’, the game is also welcoming to your sensibilities.
If the ‘Skate’ series was like being introduced to The Clash or The Ramones, then ‘Session’ is like being introduced to Pavement or Fugazi.
‘Session’ is the real deal in terms of presentation, with a minimalist, invisible HUD coupled with fisheye-style camera movements.
The clean aesthetic and Unreal Engine 4 graphics mean you can just focus on what matters – you and the board.
The big success of ‘Session’ is how quickly it gets you up to speed with its way of thinking.
While the game seems daunting at first, you quickly adapt to the ‘Session’ philosophy.
‘Session’ doesn’t have the same resources at its disposal like the ‘Skate’ or ‘Tony Hawk’ games, so don’t expect a licensed soundtrack from big and established artists or flashy graphics.
Indeed, there is a raw, unfinished feel to ‘Session’ that we would normally knock a game for, but in this instance, it is fitting with the skateboarding aesthetic.
There is an undeniable charm to a skateboarding-themed game where the actual skateboarding comes first.
There is an array of customization options for your skater, but simply skating around the world cannot be beat.
‘Session’ has a wonderful “pick up and play” quality to it, which is something that has been missing from gaming in recent years.
‘Session’ is the perfect game to throw on for 15 minutes when you’re waiting for dinner to cook, and is also the perfect game to while away a Saturday afternoon.
The fast loading times afforded by the current generation of consoles mean that you can switch between different parts of the map or levels in a snap, which means you’re never out of action for too long.
Grinding my gears
‘Session’ masters one of the most difficult things in gaming: it’s easy to pick up, but hard to master.
Even after a dozen or so hours of play, it feels like a major achievement to pull off a grind on a rail or chaining together 3 moves in quick succession.
‘Session’ is a warts and all depiction of skateboarding, and that means you shouldn’t expect to be zipping around like Bart Simpson.
The physics engine for ‘Session’ leaves a lot to be desired, and on more than one occasion our skater’s legs stretched out in a horrible Cronenberg-esque fashion following a collision with a pedestrian.
The game also has a weird habit of being incredibly picky about your leg movements and the momentum it produces for your skater, but considering this is a part of real-life skateboarding it’s at least on-brand.
Like ‘Skate 3’ before it, however, you quickly forgive the quirks and glitches in the physics engine because you’re having such a good time.
If we have one major hit against the game, sometimes the unfinished quality does stretch our patience a bit.
With that said, the developers have stated this is a game they plan to support long into the future, and as it stands, ‘Session’ is a worthy addition to your gaming collection.
It’s also a shame there isn’t a multiplayer component available with the game at launch, as the potential for messing around with friends is what elevated ‘Skate 3’ to legendary status among a certain vintage of gamers.
While not quite the world-beater we had it pegged as, there is a lot to like with ‘Session’, and if you enjoy the thrill of trashing around on a skateboard in either real life or video game form, this is the game for you.
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