Skateboarding games have seen a solid resurgence over the past few years thanks to quality releases such as OlliOli and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2news that didn’t quite hit the mark as Skatebird and Skater XLand even upcoming titles like EA’s Skate reboot. And now Session: Skate Sim leaving early access during this skating revival and coming out on consoles and PC. Most of the recent skateboarding success stories have been through more arcade-style releases – skaters in OlliOli World make ridiculous combinations that could never be done in real life – then Session finds its niche by offering the most realistic skateboarding game to date, which is as compelling as it is humbling.
While Skate has historically been the benchmark for simulation-style releases, Session feels much more grounded. You can still do ridiculous combos and stunts Skateit just required a lot more skill in execution than in a game like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Going in the other direction, Session has a sense of realism that’s much more in line with what you’ll see if you visit your local skate park. If you’re really dedicated and have a natural knack for it, you might be able to rock out as the best in the world at the game, but otherwise you’ll just have to think of a cool line and fail it 20 times and finally doing it in a way that was probably not as cool as you had dreamed.
But sometimes the dominoes fall in just the right way, where the combination of tricks comes together perfectly and it looks amazing, and it’s those rare but special moments that make Session worth playing. Executing combos like this and falling into a flow state is a key aspect of skateboarding and gaming Session is no different. It’s just that the game requires more players and makes them work a little harder for it.
At first glance, Session looks like it might play like that Skate as both use the real analog stick to maneuver the board around for tricks instead of button presses. However, it differs in that it uses both analog sticks for tricks, with the left and right sticks controlling the skater’s corresponding feet. Even just doing an ollie will require some coordination as the directions you need to tip the sticks in will vary depending on your actual skating stance. By controlling both feet and determining the pitch via trigger presses, there is a great degree of nuance in all aspects of skating.
This incredible shade is both Session‘s greatest triumph and why it won’t appeal to many players. A simple combination that would take a minute to learn Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater can take dozens if not hundreds of tries Session; a fulfilling journey for some and a grueling journey for others. This isn’t a game about looking great without putting in the work first, and sometimes that great moment never comes and players have to decide to try something else. This kind of mastery isn’t entirely new to the genre, but it’s rare for simpler maneuvers to be so difficult to pull off. It’s really like picking up a board and learning to skate, as you won’t be able to do the amazing tricks and lines that you see in skate videos for a long time.
While there are some simplistic missions, tutorials, and challenges to check out, they’re rarely captivating. This is partly due to the absence of a scoring system, which reduces challenges to things like manual 3,000 meters within a week or hitting a specific trick in a cool place. Instead, Session is mainly about just skating around its three locations: New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Some iconic locations have been recreated so you can skate FDR Park in Philly or the Brooklyn banks, which is pretty cool. But this lack of structure means it’s a bit aimless and almost completely up to the player’s own will to get better at the game and judge their own progress, as it’s not like there’s a satisfying career mode like in Tony Hawk or a gold medal to strive for like in the X-Games.
Although there is no scoring system in place for the tricks, you are still able to record your dope sequences with an in-game video and photo editor. Session obviously takes a lot from the 90s skating heyday and there are filters that allow you to recreate the look of old skating videos. Being able to easily share your best lines online or on social media should help bigger skate fans stick with the game, which is important due to the loose structure. But while the editing package provides Session players a bit more to understand, it’s still not a substitute for a more comprehensive campaign or a more objective system. The light frame combined with a certain amount of junk like getting stuck on ledges or the in-game geometry makes the game feel like it hasn’t shaken its early access roots despite its 1.0 launch.
Session: Skate Sim lives up to its name as it is surely the most realistic skateboarding game ever made. However, realistic skateboarding doesn’t always translate to a fun time in the virtual space. Getting good at the game will take a lot of time, which ironically could also be spent skating (although you’ll get far less beat up this way), so that may be a turn-off for some. Having said that, those who stick with it Session will be rewarded with a game that encourages aspiring skaters to appreciate its dedication to the smaller things and makes nailing a cool streak feel like a real accomplishment rather than a simple button press.
Like ComingSoon’s audit policy explains, a score of 7.5 corresponds to “Good”. A successful piece of entertainment worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.