Session: Skate Sim is an unfinished masterpiece

Five years after the initial Kickstarter demo and three years in Early Access, Session: Skate Sim has been officially released. With the announcement of creā-ture Studios for version 1.0, new looks are directed at the game. It doesn’t quite feel like it’s ready for prime time, however, with a litany of bugs and the removal of longstanding features, but it’s still the ultimate representation of skateboarding in video game form.

Starting with a compelling foundation

Before we dive into whether Session: Skate Sim 1.0 will be delivered as a title update, its uncompromising vision cannot be underestimated. Billed as a skateboarding simulator, virtually every gameplay element affects the player’s connection to the board and the environment. Everything from deck size and shape to wheel size has an impact on the end-user experience.

Coupled with a full-featured stats menu and dozens of other customizable gameplay options, Session: Skate Sim offers an unprecedented level of customization. This makes it possible for almost any gamer to find settings that click with them, much like every true skater has their own preferences. This extensive customization is the perfect marriage for Session: Skate Sim’s commitment to realism.

Related: How to change your stats in Session: Skate Sim

As a simple example, grinds are entirely physics based. While different grinds require specific inputs, you’re not guaranteed to land them unless you’re perfectly aligned. You could jump off on impact without proper handling. Alternatively, it’s possible to land a grind and slide off because you didn’t pinch the wheels tight enough or landed too close to the edge of the nose or tail.

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The True Stance Controls are the biggest innovation that introduced the dual stick control scheme to the genre before Skater XL came on the scene. These real level controls force you to think ahead at all times. Your mind is constantly being exercised, which prevents you from ever going into autopilot mode. This constant level of engagement keeps you invested even as you execute basic tricks and lines. More so than any other game in any other genre, you can feel your growth as a gamer over time.

This just touches the surface of what makes Session: Skate Sim such a worthwhile game. It was true for most of the Early Access period, it’s still true in 1.0, and it will continue to be true in future title updates. As long as the core game remains intact, Session: Skate Sim will remain at the top of its class.

Where Session: Skate Sim 1.0 succeeds

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The official launch has seen a number of drastic additions. The revised Powerslides now allow you to transfer your body weight and open up a number of possibilities. This includes new powerslide options and smoother transitions between positions when combined with body rotations.

Related: How power slides work in Session: Skate Sim

More importantly, this bodyweight transfer mechanic is tied to the new lip tricks. While difficult to pull off at first, once figured out, they are among the most satisfying tricks in the entire game.

Even though Session: Skate Sim didn’t introduce any new maps, the simple addition of lip tricks makes so many of the existing spots more skateable. Places like LES Coleman, Creā-ture Park, FDR, and the mini-ramp in the experimental Brooklyn Banks scenario suddenly feel like entirely new places.

Luckily, Session: Skate Sim 1.0 also adds San Francisco with 10 main areas. Similar to the other cities, a large part of San Francisco is connected with some areas that require a separate load. San Francisco itself is huge, with some of the most exciting options, especially with the updated mechanics. In fact, the amount of interesting locations and obstacles makes San Francisco borderline, which bodes well for the game’s longevity.

Board clipping is also largely eliminated thanks to a new automatic detection system that sees the skater’s feet go out of the way if they are positioned in a way that would clip the current trick. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a big step forward that makes filming clips a lot more manageable.

Speaking of movies, the replay editor has been given a slight makeover. It’s something the casual Early Access player hasn’t noticed, but Creā-ture’s dedication to skate culture remains admirable. The replay editor now has time of day keyframes that allow you to adjust the time within a replay without affecting the time of day during gameplay. These keyframes even make time-lapse recordings possible. Along with the 80+ camera filters, filming is the best ever in Session: Skate Sim.

The extensive slam-and-bail system as well as the retooled audio design give Session: Skate Sim an additional layer of immersion. While some of the bails are a bit over the top, for the most part they activate under believable circumstances, such as: B. if you slide off a board if both feet do not land properly.

Where Session: Skate Sim 1.0 fails

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Despite all the improvements, there are still many steps back with this new version of the game. For starters, the experimental setting for physical skater animations – introduced in the last Early Access build – is now borderline broken.

This feature overlays physics-based motion over the pre-built skater animations and exhibits behaviors not present in the last Early Access build. When pushed, the arms cut through the body and contort in a way they never did before. Additionally, regularly turning on the setting at the most random of times results in unnaturally exaggerated butt-jiggling – sometimes even while idling.

Lip tricks are another point of contention. While they are incredibly satisfying and open so many doors, they are also prone to inconsistent behavior. This is because lip tricks are buried in the experimental menu. This doesn’t fit right because of the marketing cycle. Lip tricks were one of the main advertised features of version 1.0 of Session.

Since this is a game that keeps updating over time, there’s nothing wrong with having and continuing to have experimental settings. It just feels disingenuous when one of the main features of the official launch is a highly experimental environment.

Progression is another important issue. Designed with free speech in mind, this aspect of Session feels slightly out of reach, leaving most clothing and board options lagging behind Career Mode progression. Do you love doing 180s? Do you prefer single tricks or unbroken lines? Nothing prevents you from playing the way you want… except for the story mode. If you choose to use the game’s shop, you’ll waste hours being told what to do before you can access most of the stuff within. The entire progression system is at odds with the vision of Session: Skate Sim.

Several other subjects are worth addressing. The official launch version removed the two most interesting radio stations, leaving existing users with a more limited choice of music genres. It’s also unfortunate that the grips were removed, even though they rarely looked presentable. The developers were transparent about the removal before launch, but the argument doesn’t work. Primos are an experimental setting that looks broken half the time and yet is still in there, making grabbing feel like an unnecessary step backwards.

Final Thoughts

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The official version 1.0 includes many notable additions that radically change the game. At the same time, it was not yet ready to launch. Certain features and tricks such as the physical skater animation and Impossibles were paused in the transition from Early Access to 1.0. It also stands out that lip tricks are not a fully polished feature in this build of the game. Also, as a longtime Early Access player, I don’t like the removal of radio stations, tokens, grabs, and even the dread hairstyle.

Despite these limitations, Session: Skate Sim is an undeniably contagious game. It will go down in history along with the conception of the Tony Hawk and Skate franchises as one of the seminal achievements of the genre. Does it feel like a finished 1.0 product? no Is it still the ultimate expression of skateboarding in digital form? Absolutely. Session: Skate Sim is an unfinished masterpiece

Curtis Crabtree

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