From the age of about 8 up until 13, I was utterly obsessed with skateboarding. I had the clothes, I listened to the music and I spent most of my time on a skateboard. But then, I broke my leg and I never got back into the extreme sport.
I still absolutely love skateboarding though, and in recent years the Skate series has provided me with the kick push outlet that I’ve needed. Unfortunately, EA seems to have all but given up on the series with no noticeable news since the third game in the series released in 2010. This is where Session drops into the limelight, promising players a skateboarding experience that’s as authentic as possible to the real experience.
The authenticity starts with the control system with each analogue stick controlling a foot. While skating in a regular stance, the left stick controls the left foot and the right stick controls the right foot, which is then mirrored for switch stance. These rules form the basis of the controls and everything else controls as an extension from them.
Want to pop an ollie? You’ll have to push down on the right stick to ready your right foot and then up on the left stick for a pop. The triggers control your direction, spin, and more advanced inputs on the analogue stick result in advanced flips. It’s a system which has a steep difficulty curve, but once you start to get to grips with it and understand what you’re trying to do, you can pull off some really impressive stuff.
Alongside the flip and spin system is a grinding system that reacts to the input of the analogue and the stance your skater is in. This works similarly to the system in Skate; your momentum dictates how well you grind on surfaces and how balanced your skater is. Approach a long curving rail with multiple tiers the wrong way and you’re likely to end up on your arse.
As the game heads into its first phase of public release, a Steam Early Access, this trick and board control system already shine, but everything else just feels a bit flat at the moment. The one available level feels empty and there’s a real lack of variety in the skateable objects. You can customise your skater’s clothing, their hair and their skateboards, but not the actual character themselves.
There’s no structure in the gameplay other than some weekly and daily milestones. Where Skate and Tony Hawk Pro Skater motivated you with goals outside of exploration, Session hands you the keys and tells you to get on with it. Of course, given that this is Early Access, this will grow and evolve through a slew of updates, and I really hope that a solid structure and progression can keep the experience fresh, motivating players to better get to grips with the title’s unique control system.
Player movement off the board also currently lacks polish and feels like you’re running around on ice at its worst. This also shows in bails, as I regularly found myself clipping into – and through – pieces of the environment, sometimes requiring a hard reset. This lack of polish isn’t game breaking, but it’s certainly noticeable right now.
While the lack of structure and things to do is a little disappointing, Session’s replay editor and placeable item system kept me thoroughly entertained as I combined the two to create some interesting lines and footage. You can place ramps, rails and other items in the world, giving you some extra tools to play with while creating lines, while a replay system allows you to replay the last minute or so in real-time or in slow motion. The below GIFs was created using a mix of the in-game replay editor captured through my nVidia capture software.
Watching your efforts and achievement in replay form is a nice touch, and it’s something which thematically fits in well with the sport. I would love to see it further developed in the future with the additional camera and angles more customisation.
Session in its current form is a glimpse of something special. The small amount of content on offer mixed with the instability of the game will put some off, but there’s a lot of fun and depth to be found in the fantastic trick system. I look forward to not only seeing where the development team take Session, but also what the community creates and films in the coming months.