Review – Skater XL
Originally announced and released a while ago, as a spiritual successor to the then-dead skateboarding genre, most notably EA’s Skate series, Skater XL is one of the main releases I missed out on last year. It’s quite weird to tackle it right now, as the skateboarding gaming landscape has vastly changed over the past few months. Skate is coming back, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 was released to critical and commercial acclaim, leaving this once promising community-driven indie left aside. I still wanted to give it a go, however, so let’s see if I was wrong to leave this one unattended for so long.
Unlike Tony Hawk‘s ludicrous approach, Skater XL isn’t about completing objectives or performing nonsensical tricks. This is a pure skateboarding sandbox, giving players access to gigantic urban environments based on real life locales around Los Angeles. It prioritizes realism over escapism, relying on a physics-based trick system: each control stick controls each of your feet individually, with tricks being performing by pushing them in different ways and timeframes. If you want to grind, for instance, you need to properly jump near a rail, spin the skateboard while airborne in order to properly land on that surface, and then control your feet individually to properly maintain your balance.
As you can already imagine, performing tricks isn’t easy. You’re not going to do the 900 in here. It took me a long time to land a 360 kickflip, and I eventually ended up giving up on trying to perform hella gnarly grabs on the game’s sole half pipe level. It’s not a control scheme that will be for everyone. The game teaches you the basics, such as turning, jumping, spinning and doing kickflips, but the rest is up to you. The idea is interesting: use the world as your playground, figure tricks out, use the (occasionally glitchy) physics in your favor. Sadly, Skater XL isn’t very good, even though it’s full of good intentions.
The main issue with the game isn’t even its ugly visuals or its unfitting soundtrack (Interpol in a skateboarding game? Really?). Its main issue is simple: there’s nothing to do in here. There are no objectives, for instance. Tricks don’t give you points, there are no leaderboards. There are only half a dozen levels to choose from, completely devoid of characters to interact with or even other human assets scattered around just to make you feel less like you’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. The game oozes a very heavy “early access” vibe, even after so many months.
Skater XL had one trick up its sleeve: mod support. The developers were hoping that the game would amass a dedicated community that would eventually create new levels for players to enjoy. Sadly, the idea failed miserably. I’m playing the game nearly half a year after its release, and I found four levels available in its mod page. Four. This is crazy.
As a comparison, if I go right now to the mod page in the PS5 version of Planet Coaster (aka, the least recommended way to play Planet Coaster), I’ll find at least two dozen new rides, maps and decorative assets built from the ground up, including some Star Wars ones. Skater XL did not manage to attract a community, so the game will most certainly be forever devoid of content, especially after the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, and a few months away from the release of yet another promising Skate spiritual successor, Sessions.
Skater XL is a game full of good intentions, but not only is it completely devoid of content, but it’s also devoid of a community that was supposed to come up with new levels and assets for other players to enjoy. Sadly, I see no reason for people to give this game a shot nowadays. The Tony Hawk franchise is back, Skate is going to be revived by EA, and even the upcoming Sessions feels more polished and content-heavy than this nearly six month old title. Tough luck, it happens. At least you’re not as bad as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5.
It runs at a very stable 60fps at all times, but Skater XL still looks pretty ugly, like a below average PS3 game at best.
The game’s control scheme is its main selling point. It prioritizes realism, meaning that performing tricks can be quite frustrating at times. Sadly, the game features some physics issues, so your character will constantly fall even when he wasn’t supposed to.
While Skater XL‘s licensed soundtrack isn’t bad per se, bands like Interpol and Band of Horses aren’t exactly the best fit for a skateboarding game. Where are the punk bangers?
Fun Factor: 5.5
The core concept is interesting, but Skater XL is devoid of objectives and overall content. There’s not a lot to do in here, its control scheme isn’t for everyone, and even though it features mod support, it doesn’t feature a big community to provide the game with the extra content it desperately needs.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Skater XL is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Skater XL was provided by the publisher.