Last week, Erik Henriksen brought you a review of Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, asserting that the only thing the game managed to prove is that the Tony Hawk skateboarding series is on its last legs. And what happens when a game becomes old and feeble, children? That's right: It's run down by a cheetah and devoured under the setting African sun. Metaphorically.
For the purposes of this metaphor, our cheetah is EA's brand-new skating series, Skate. Like the majestic cheetah, Skate is streamlined in every way that the new Tony Hawk is bloated. While Proving Ground has you launching into the same physics-defying tricks it's trademarked over the last eight years, Skate gives you a realistic set of moves and human limitations. And while you won't see Bam Margera asking you to pee on his friends, you do come across professional skaters with quests for you. In a Hawk game, quests would serve as a way to earn arbitrary points—but in Skate, impressing the pros will net you new clothes, new boards, company sponsorship, and a highlight reel you can show to unimpressed members of the opposite sex.
That aside, the biggest difference between the two titles lies purely in their presentation. The Hawk games have always been the gaming equivalent of Jackass, even before the inclusion of its stars: Everything is loud and constantly in your face. By comparison, Skate is extremely laidback. There's a lot of fun to be had by just rolling around, grinding curbs, and listening to the greatest alt-rock and hiphop soundtrack ever applied to a videogame. Even Skate's inventive new control scheme reflects this: Tony Hawk games are an arcade-y series of button-mashing, but Skate is controlled almost entirely through subtle flicks of the control sticks. Like skateboarding in the world of flesh and bone, it isn't all rote memorization; instead, the gameplay is something you just feel. And to EA's credit, Skate feels much better than any skateboarding game that's come before.