We all want Skate 4. Even those who claim they don’t want Skate 4 know deep down that they do, in fact, want Skate 4. But EA is EA and do EA things, so much so that you wonder how bastardised by modern AAA “conventions” an eventual Skate sequel would be. Along comes Session from crea-ture, yet another example that if you don’t provide for a desperate audience, someone else will step in.
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Yooka-Laylee and Two Point Hospital, Session has earned itself plenty of attention by appearing to be a spiritual successor of sorts to Skate. The now defunct EA Black Box wanted to make a more serious alternative to the drastically waning Tony Hawk franchise, and while the trilogy had its moments of levity, it was a skateboarding game for skaters, or those simply interested in the scene. From its Early Access impressions, Session isn’t as close to Skate as you might first have thought — this is a straight, hardcore skateboarding game.
The game warns you of this pretty early, its trick list mentioning that you should really stick with it if the experience doesn’t immediately click. This tip is wholly accurate: I didn’t gel with Session at all to begin with, its odd controls and tiny margins for error making it feel more like a ragdoll simulator. I stuck with it for a few hours, though, and I can now pull off tricks that were way beyond me and feel great the entire time.
Bizarrely, the left and right triggers (Session can’t be played on a mouse and keyboard on PC) of the controllers handle movement while X and A accelerates. The acclimation period for this is a little rough, especially when you can just nudge an object in Session’s impressively large playground and go flying off your board. Double tapping either trigger will revert your board, which just opens a whole new can of worms — every trick you learned has just been flipped around.
The sticks control tricks: holding down a direction on one stick, you can then flick in a direction on the other. More complex tricks require you to follow a pattern with your initial stick input and then a specific direction on the opposite stick. Chuck the aforementioned stick reversal into the mix and you have a recipe for eating the curb pretty quickly. Luckily, Session takes you back to just before where you bailed, at which point you can either skate away or hop off your board to line yourself up for another try. For the dedicated, you can even set markers to return to give a run another shot.
There’s a lot to take in and skate on in Session’s world, though I will be damned if I know how to take advantage of most of it. The game demands a lot of precision of you, particularly when it comes to grinding. I really struggle with successfully grinding anything without immediately faceplanting, so there’s clearly some practice needed. Though I have some of the fundamentals down, I get the impression that Session is a game that will constantly be teaching you things.
For an Early Access game, the amount of content in Session isn’t too thin, but it’s clear that crea-ture wanted to get the meat out before they focused on the filling. Your character model, for instance, looks a bit like a haunted mannequin, and there’s currently no way of customising them apart from their clothes. Your board, meanwhile, can be customised, though the options are somewhat limited. You can return to your apartment to relax and unwind by watching back some of your replays. I’ve not used the tool much, but it’s clearly going to get some mileage from creators. There are also challenges that you complete for money, yet there’s nothing to really spend money on just yet so it’s not particularly worth your time.
Visually, Session is surprisingly shiny, its inner city playground being full of detail and life — odd considering how empty of people it is. Leaping over an obnoxious amount of steps leading up to a massive building is always a brilliant feeling, as is successfully weaving between a bunch of cars or down a narrow path. In terms of the soundtrack, well, let’s just say that Goldfinger and Papa Roach have nothing to worry about. The abundance of UK rap is a little overwhelming, and none of it sticks in the mind.
What Session represents right now is a really solid foundation for a future skateboarding great. The skateboarding itself is fun and rewarding, though there isn’t too much to do beyond practising so you may end up somewhat bored before long if you “buy in” at this stage of the game’s life. A lot of the pieces are already in place, it’s just up to crea-ture to ensure that the rest follow.
A Steam key was provided by PR for the purposes of this preview.
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