Reviewed: November 5, 2010
Released: October 24, 2010
Shaun White is trying to spin some of that Olympic Gold into a marketing machine by attaching his name to Ubisoft’s latest game endeavor, and you might be surprised that he is trading in the white powder for four wheels and some asphalt. In the absence of a Tony Hawk game that doesn’t require you to stand on a board to play it, Shaun White Skateboarding goes old school with classic controls and an open-world environment that lends itself to discovery and creativity in one of the more original skateboarding titles I’ve played since Project 8 or Wasteland.|
Shaun’s influence is more behind-the-scenes for this title, appearing on the cover and in a brief opening cutscene where an imprisoned White encourages your character to “fight the establishment”. I’m sure he had some help in designing and naming the tricks, but I can’t help but feel his presence is more for marketing purposes than actual game design.
Shaun White Skateboarding puts you in an oppressive overcast world that is ruled by The Ministry; a world where emotions and fun are suppressed to the point where even the world has become visually depressed. It is your job to skate around town performing a wide variety of tricks and combo off various objects, achieving critical scores and restoring color to the dismal gray pallets of the game. Even tricks as simple as an Ollie or a grind will get you a burst of color that radiates from your board. Sure, it lacks any sense of reality, but it is a pretty cool effect, an awesome concept, and a much better reason to play a skateboarding game than to merely pull of stunts for some arbitrary score.
The story moves along as you reach certain milestones and interact with a diverse cast of characters who offer everything from tutorial advice to actual missions and quests. In addition to painting the world back to life through skillful skating you also get to rebuild parts of it by shaping. You’ll come across invisible verts or green rails that twist through the streets and by performing tricks off these objects you will restore them to visible reality to be used in future combos to achieve a high Flow score and greater paint outbursts.
Controls are easy enough, perhaps too easy for anyone coming from the school of Hawk. With questionable physics and imprecise controls, it is all too easy to do surprisingly well in this game with little or no skill, which makes it fun for beginners and casual boarders, but true tricksters will easily dismiss this game and move on to something else.
Multiplayer support for up to 8 skaters in a variety of modes offers a bit of a diversion from the story mode but with no true score tracking or leaderboards, it’s hard to care about doing well when you can brag or compete.
The presentation is decent enough with above-average graphics and nice use of gray to color transitions. The visuals are stylized to merge real world designs with fantasy elements. Animations are quite good and I loved the special effects like a dead tree bursting into colorful life. Cutscenes use in-game graphics for seamless transition to gameplay, and the framerate is consistently smooth, even in rapid fly-bys of the levels.
The audio is also quite good with great musical choices and some intentionally amusing voice acting that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Other than that you get the sounds of wheels on pavement or a board grinding on a rail. Pretty standard stuff.
You can work through the story mode in 8-10 hours depending on how much of a perfectionist and achievement hunter you are. The multiplayer modes might offer a bit of extended gameplay but there weren’t that many people playing during my post-launch review period. Perhaps that will change if more people get this game during or after the holiday or when the price drops.
I certainly enjoyed several elements of Shaun White Skateboarding but I never felt the challenge or sense of accomplishment that I get with a Tony Hawk game. I loved the art design and effects and the audio, but serious skaters probably need to skip this one and casual gamers can probably afford to wait for a price drop. Shaun should probably stick to the snow for future games.