The skateboarding genre exploded in popularity when the first Tony Hawk video game came out way back in 1999. After that, we received a ton of other Tony Hawk games which were released annually by Activision.
As we headed into the new millennium, the Tony Hawk franchise started to die out and EA’s Skate series started to overtake it in popularity. Sadly though, Skate 3 was the last game of the series released in 2010.
Even though the PS4 and Xbox One generation has seen a ton of great games from many different genres, the one thing those two consoles have lacked is great skateboarding games. The only skateboarding game that has been released was the awful Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 from 2015.
Well, 2020 seems to be the year that the skateboarding genre has been revived. Before the release of Activision’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 in September, we now see the release of Skater XL from developer Easy Day Studios.
Whereas Tony Hawk focuses more on fun arcade-style of skateboarding, Skater XL is a full-on simulation. It features a very steep learning curve and is way harder to play than even EA’s Skate series. It is also a very serious game because it doesn’t feature any humorous side missions or anything like that.
Unlike the Skate series though, Skater XL is not an open-world video game. Easy Day Studios has made five different stages that cater to many different environments. The five developers made stages include the Easy Day High School, The Big Ramp, Downtown Los Angeles, California Skatepark, and West L.A. Courthouse.
My favorite map in the entire game is probably The Big Ramp because you can do many risky vert style tricks. The other stages focus more on street skating which is the bread and butter of the entire game.
While some of the stages are large and exciting to skate through, I found the California Skatepark and West L.A. Courthouse levels to be very small and not enjoyable. These stages lack any cool places for you to skate on and felt very boring compared to the other locations in the game.
If you get bored of the five developer stages, you can also skate on three maps designed by the Skater XL community. Although the community maps are small, they’re still fun to skate on. That said, the console versions of the game don’t allow its users to create their own maps. Map creation is only available via mods in the PC version.
Another disappointing thing about Skater XL is the lack of skaters in the game. The game only features four pro skaters that include Evan Smith, Tom Asta, Brandon Westgate, and Tiago Lemos. There are two default male and female characters you can be too. The options to create people are fairly limited, but you can change their clothes and board at least.
A lack of content is a theme here because the game only includes two game modes. One is a free skate mode that allows you to skate around the levels as long as you like. The second game mode is ‘Challenges’. In ‘Challenges’, you need to complete the objectives that are given to you and it feels like an extensive tutorial mode.
‘Challenges’ is where you will spend the most time in the game because completing all of the objectives is going to take you a long time. You have to complete flip tricks, grinds, grabs, and a ton more. This is not an easy game for you to pick up and play because you need to practice a lot in order to become good.
There is no story mode or other side missions in this game like you would see in Tony Hawk or Skate. You cannot even compete in competitions against other skaters. The levels also feel bland and boring because there are no other skaters or pedestrians around to populate the areas.
Another thing that will disappoint many gamers is the lack of any multiplayer modes whatsoever. You cannot compete against friends both offline or online as the single-player ‘Challenges’ is the only main mode of the entire game!
The only thing this game excels in is probably the skating itself. Sure this game has a very steep learning curve, but it’s arguably the most realistic skateboarding game I have ever played. The left stick controls your left foot and the right stick controls the right foot.
The controls are quite similar to the Skate games, although the in-game physics is like a simulation. You need to position the board precisely if you want to do grinds and vert tricks in the game. This is not a game that you can master in minutes, because this game forces you to practice for hours before you can get good.
That being said, I still think this game caters to street skating more than it does vert skating. In my opinion, vert skating feels way too hard and it’s going to take you a long time in order to get used to it. Grinds are also something that takes a lot of patience before you can pull them off smoothly.
It wouldn’t be a skateboarding game without music and I must say the indie rock soundtrack in Skater XL is pretty good! It’s one of the best-licensed soundtracks I have heard in quite a long time. However, the game doesn’t have any rap or hip-hop songs like Tony Hawk, plus the soundtrack is kind of short. Due to the short length, you’ll be hearing the same songs over and over again if you play for several hours.
Visually, Skater XL surprisingly features some good graphics. Aside from a few blurry looking textures, the majority of the game looks pretty decent while I was playing the game on PS4 Pro. The game looks far better than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5!
Skater XL Review – Verdict
As a whole, Skater XL does feature good gameplay but it will take you a long time in order to get good at it. If you are a casual gamer, you’ll struggle to play the game. The main thing holding the game down is a lack of content available at launch. If you’re interested in the game, it’s best to wait until it’s on sale before you buy it.