Shaun White Skateboarding
Posted 2 years ago By - Mark Melnychuk
Skateboarding is easily one of the most oversaturated genres in video games. So, if someone is planning on making a brand new franchise, they’d better do their best to make it stand out from the crowd. Shaun White Skateboarding’s stab at breaking away from the norm is certainly daring. Its abstract world-shaping mechanics are unique, but sadly their implementation keeps everything feeling pretty average.
The selling point of Shaun White Skateboarding is the player’s ability to manipulate the environment around them. Special rails or vert ramps, covered with a glowing green aura, can be bent and stretched so users can craft their own concrete utopias.
And they’ll have their work cut out for them. The fictional world of Shaun White is based in a dystopian city called New Harmony. In this Orwellian state all emotions and general fun are outlawed, including skateboarding. Players take control of an anonymous freedom fighter who joins forces with a rebel group trying rise up against their oppressors, The Ministry.
It’s hard to take any of the plot seriously though because it’s presented so poorly. In fact, the entire backdrop of Shaun White feels like a rushed explanation by designers, who tried to quickly justify the player’s ability to bend reality. The nameless main character has the power to use Flow to shape their environment and break others free from the mind control techniques of The Ministry. This strange power is never explained, and we would have preferred it if the developers just didn’t bother with trying to rationalize their abstract skating concept at all.
Each environment the player enters will be covered in drab shades of gray, the inhabitants milling about like a bunch of zombies. It’s up to them to build their Flow meter and create new objects to pull tricks off of such as ramps and rails. The shaping comes into play when skaters must navigate their way to higher areas of a level to take out Ministry security cameras or microphones spewing propaganda.
Looking at the world change on the fly, from a colorless frozen hell to a vibrant community, is definitely impressive. Trees pop out of the ground and people morph into fun-loving bohemians every time your skateboard hits the ground after completing a trick.
Seeing this transformation is fun for a while, but it doesn’t last. The problem is the game seems to quickly repeat the same old objectives of destroying Ministry landmarks. There are some highlights though. The gameplay shifts into a platforming mindset when riding morphing rails, shaping them correctly to make it to the next area. These sections, one of which involves fleeing a Ministry helicopter while skating across skyscraper rooftops, are a joy to pull off.
Even after years of skating games, there seems to be little consensus on what makes the ideal control scheme. Is it better to use the face buttons to pull off tricks or go with analog sticks? Or should one just toss players their own plastic board? Well, on second thought, perhaps that last option has already been ruled out.
Shaun White allows control with the analog sticks or face buttons, at least that’s what we think. Neither of those options ever felt like the “right” way to play. Using the right stick to pop ollies was more responsive, but flicking it in certain directions didn’t always provide the kick flip we desired.
One gameplay system in Shaun White that’s a complete failure is the waypoint option. Players can drop a waypoint and then teleport back to it. It sounds like a good way to restart a botched run, but using the tool erases all the flow that’s been built up. Since flow has to be accumulated to get anything done, there’s no real reason to use waypoints.
Multiplayer incorporates shaping mechanics in modes where players can create objects and also try to spoil the work of their opponents by rebuilding their creations. In the end, all modes basically come down to vying for the highest score. Thanks to the restrictions on shaping by putting time limits on the power, the wild antics of the campaign feel neutered for the sake of multiplayer balance.
Besides the pretty shifting environments, Shaun White isn’t the best looking game on the market. Some of its low-rez textures can be forgiven because of the stylized themes. What can’t be pardoned is the terrible voice acting. Every character in the game is an irritating over-the-top persona, be it the spaced out stoner or the Latino with a spicy attitude.
When it comes to in-game advertising, there’s a fine line between ads which are appropriate to a game’s world and ones that seem to be thrown in for the quick buck, regardless of what it has to do with the subject matter. Shaun White grinds right across this line and bails hard. Although it presents a story promoting liberation from government oppression, Shaun White is an advertising drone.
Breaking free from the tyrannical forces of The Ministry apparently includes the freedom to eat at Wendy’s, which pop up everywhere when freeing the city. One part of the game even has you reviving a Stride Gum skate park, and doing so yields a “Ridiculously Long Lasting” achievement. In-game advertising like this would always be offensive, but in a game like Shaun White it’s quite hypocritical.
Ubisoft deserves credit for its effort to create a different skating experience. Bending rails and ramps in succession feels like being on a morphing rollercoaster ride, and the shifting cityscape is a treat for the eyes. Unfortunately the rest of the game plays it safe with missions and features one could find in any other skating title. For a game that prides itself on being all about inspiration and creativity, Shaun White Skateboarding still manages to be unremarkable.
+ The fluid transformation of the city is a sight to behold
+ White’s hair is just as glorious as it is in real life
- In-game ads are offensively abundant
- Soundtrack repeats same songs constantly
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Release Date : Q4 2010
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : Ubisoft
Category : Sports
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