SkaterXL is here to kick off the resurgence of the skating game genre. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 are getting remade, Session has made waves, and Skate 4 has been announced, so there’s no shortage of skating games for fans to get excited for. For now SkaterXL is kicking things off with a focus on accurate physics and realism that make landing a kick flip feel like landing a 900 in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
SkaterXL features a new set of mechanics that has each joystick on the controller controlling each foot. The shoulder buttons lean your body in either direction so if you want to turn then the shoulder buttons are your friend. The controller is essentially your body and therefore, getting used to the controls can be very difficult at first. I kind of had to take everything I knew about skating games, throw it out the window, and just learn to play this game. Luckily, SkaterXL has a plethora of challenges for you to tackle, after which you will have a good grip of how the systems work.
Unfortunately, this is where the bulk of the content stops with SkaterXL. There is no story mode and no real sense of progression in the game what so ever. Those looking for something content rich, with a story and a wide variety of skaters, levels, and customization options should look elsewhere. There’s a ton of fun to be had here but it’s more of a skating sandbox and I’m personally ok with that, but I also understand that others may not be.
There are currently five maps and three community made maps at launch and most of them are fleshed out with plenty to do. Easy Day High school is my favorite, and it just has so many spots to skate and have fun. It does need to be mentioned that the maps seem lifeless at times. There are no moving cars, no people walking around, and nothing in the maps at all except you and your skateboard. There is a Downtown LA map that is just empty which seemed quite out of place in all honesty, but with the focus being skating and not getting off your board and interacting with others it’s understandable but it’s something that felt a little off to me.
SkaterXL prides itself on being the most realistic skating sim in existence and that’s seriously something the developers at Easy Day Studios should be applauded for. After I played the game for the first time, I called it the Gran Turismo of Skating games and I meant that. SkaterXL gives so much control and the physics are so on point that no kick flip looks the same, no grab feels familiar and each grind feels like an extreme accomplishment.
There’s no way to get off the board and run around which I found discouraging, but there is a Waypoint Map Marker that lets you place a spot on any map to place your skater at any time so it’s easy to get to where you want to go. There’s actually a long list of things that I would like to see SkaterXL do, that would heavily improve my experience with the game while also providing an appeal to a wider audience. This does seem like a game that will get heavy support from community mods as we have seen already while the game has been in early access.
Mods for SkaterXL exist for the PC version that really take this game to the next level and can make for a much more enjoyable experience. Features like a custom map editor, multiplayer integration and more character customization all make the game feel all the more fleshed out. Unfortunately those of us paying full retail price for the console version of the game don’t have access to those mods and are left with a game that feels quite bare at the moment.
Hopefully Easy Day Studios can build upon the incredible foundation that is SkaterXL and take what the community has done with mods and update the game as it builds in popularity. I am personally a huge fan of the game and there’s just something to be said about putting on some music, picking a spot to skate and just trying to land the perfect line of tricks in gradual succession. Despite its shortcomings, SkaterXL is rewarding in a way that no other skating game has been yet and I’m looking forward to playing more.