Review of Skate 3 — You wanna go skateboards?

When EA decided to start the Skate series and go head-to-head with Activision’s Tony Hawk franchise, that was a big deal.  The latter had long been the king of virtual skateboarding, but it was beginning to go downhill in the late 2000’s, and something else eventually had to drop into the halfpipe and issue a challenge.  Thanks to a more realistic resemblance of the sport and a unique “flick-it” control scheme, Skate was quickly lauded by critics and skaters around the globe, proving that you don’t need Tony Hawk on the cover in order for your skateboarding game to be popular.  With that being said, it’s been over nine years since the third installment in the series, so let’s hit the park and reminisce about the virtual skating masterpiece that is Skate 3.

Pretending I’m a superman

The story takes place in the fictional skate haven of Port Carverton.  After a stunt on live TV goes horribly wrong, your filmer convinces you to start your own board company.  From there, you recruit a team of rookie skaters and complete a wide variety of challenges, including things like trick competitions, races, following other skaters, filming/photoshoots, Hall of Meat, Domination, Own The Spot/Lot, 1-Up, and S-K-A-T-E.  Your ultimate goals are to impress the pros, earn as many fans as possible, and sell a million skateboards.  Best of all, your path to becoming Port Carverton’s top skater is entirely up to you.

The control scheme is business as usual if you’re familiar with the previous two games.  Your right stick is used for ollies, nollies, manuals, flip tricks, and tweaks.  The left stick is used for steering, spins, and reverts.  The left and right triggers are used for grabs, each corresponding to whichever hand you want to grab the board with, and also for frontflips and backflips.  The face buttons are used for pushing, getting off your board, briefly taking your feet off the board during a grab, and lying down on your back while your board is moving.  The right bumper is used for lip tricks and darkslides/dark catches.  When you get off your board, you can perform hilarious aerial stunts and bails, and also grab hold of different objects to use for your trick lines.  This game does everything in its power to be both easy to learn and challenging to master, just like a certain other skateboarding franchise.

‘Cause I’m TNT

If you’re tired of skating solo, you and up to five friends can team up to complete goals, go head-to-head, or just explore Port Carverton.  You can even share your photos and videos around the online service, as well as create your own skateparks for anyone to visit.  The sky’s the limit in terms of the amount of freedom you have in this virtual skateboarding experience.

Unless you’re playing this on the Xbox One X, the framerate won’t always be consistent and the graphics can have a case of pop-in somewhat often, but the team at Black Box did a fine job creating a massive skating playground with many places to roam around in.  I personally like the audio better than the visuals, as all of the pro skaters lent good voice-acting to their virtual counterparts.  You also get a decent soundtrack that features popular artists like Neil Diamond, Beastie Boys, Jeezy, Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., and Agent Orange.

I don’t think contrast is a sin

Like many other people on social media, I have long been begging EA to make a sequel to what I consider to be the best skateboarding game on the market.  But for the time being, Skate 3 will always be a very prominent title in my gaming repertoire.  Whether you’re a longtime skater or sports-game junkie, you’ll definitely want to tighten up your trucks and take this game for a spin.


Review of Daytona USA — Stock car racing discovers kansei dorifuto

It’s not like this needs to be said, but I’ll start this review by saying it — If you asked a big number of people what their favorite arcade-cabinet racing game is, a very common answer would be the game that picked up where Sega’s own Virtua Racer left off; The one that was less about open-wheel cars and more about infectious music that was almost impossible not to sing. Take American stock car racing, give it an emphasis on drifting (And thus make driving on ovals similar to driving on the Toge mountain passes), and you’ve got the one and only Daytona USA — A 1994 arcade racer that was released on the XBLA and PlayStation Store eight years ago, bringing with it a new coat of HD paint.

The race begins from a rolling start

Being a game designed for the arcades, Daytona USA is meant to be a pick-up-and-play racer that tries to be fun to play even if it looks light on content. You won’t find a lot of depth in the appropriately-titled Arcade Mode; you simply select one of the three tracks (an oval, a road course, and a street circuit), choose your transmission, set the length and difficulty of the race, and you’re clear to start your engine. Your task is to go from the back of the pack to the top 3, which requires you to be adept at slipstreaming, drifting, and (If you turn tire-wear on) pit-stop strategy. And of course, since this is an arcade racer, you must record some fast laps to keep the obligatory timer from expiring.

The racing controls are not only very tight and responsive like they were all the way back in 1994, and can be tailored to your liking with a very helpful options menu. Plus, you have the option to hook up a racing wheel and crank up the force feedback, which really captures the feeling of the arcade cabinets of old.

A whole pit crew of new features

Being a console port with a $10 price tag, it would be a sin (And potentially pandemonium) if Daytona USA didn’t come with some new features under the hood, and the engine revs up loudly in that area; Survival Mode is similar to an endless-runner game and challenges you to pass as many cars and log in as much distance as possible before the clock runs out, which can be a very useful tool if your racing skills need a new…Car setup, so to speak. There is also a set of 30 challenges to complete, ranging from things like passing a set number of cars to reaching a target speed. If you feel like exercising your vocal chords or just being an all-around goofball with your fellow stock-car fans, there’s even a karaoke mode where you do as many laps as you want while singing along to the game’s catchy music; In fact, you can choose between the arcade machine’s soundtrack or an arranged soundtrack composed for this HD port.

If you’re like me and you absolutely adore racing against seven other drivers on an eight-unit machine in the arcades (Particularly at the local Dave & Buster’s), you’ll probably be itching for some eight-player online racing; Luckily for us, Sega grants your wish. You can join public matchmaking lobbies or set up a lobby of your own; When you do the latter, you have full control over the track, race length, and game type. You can even decide if you want AI cars to be on the track with you and your fellow drivers, even if the race has only eight drivers on the leaderboard.

The checkered flag is out

Sega has long been well-versed in arcade racing, and the HD version of Daytona USA is a strong reminder of that. It may not have the depth of modern racing series like Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport, but the fast-paced racing action more than makes up for it. If you have 10 bucks to spare and need a classic arcade racer in your garage, you might want to give Daytona USA a test drive. No need to insert any quarters, just climb into that cockpit!

Review of Burnout: Revenge – Take a look around at all the lights and sounds

Few gaming genres get my adrenaline pumping as much as arcade racers.  For the majority of my life, I’ve been throwing Koopa Shells in Mario Kart and evading cavalries of police officers in Need for Speed, but another racing series that I absolutely adore completing laps in is Burnout, a cult-classic arcade racing series that is known for its combination of 200+-MPH racing and over-the-top car combat.  If Burnout 3: Takedown broke ground, Burnout: Revenge demolished it, taking the merger of wreaking havoc on every one of your fellow cars (Competitor or otherwise) and zipping through the streets at heart-pounding speeds, and metaphorically injecting it with a dangerously high dose of sugar and caffeine.

Revenge over justice

Let’s start by going over the new mechanics, because Revenge has several of those, one of the biggest being something called Traffic Checking.  If you’re tired of having to dodge traffic, you’ll be pleased to know that Revenge changes that up by allowing you to ram traffic from behind and possibly cause an opponent to be taken down.  The only catch is that the car you are ramming must not be too big compared to the one you’re driving.  There’s an event type dedicated to Traffic Checking called Traffic Attack, where you must check as many cars as you can before the timer runs out.

Aside from Traffic Takedowns, there are two other new ways to wreck your opponents; To go with the addition of huge jumps, you can now land on the roof of a competitor, which is called a Vertical Takedown.  Your opponents can do the same to you however, so you have to watch your back at all times.  Remember Crashbreakers from the Crash Mode? That can now be used in races as well.  When you crash, you can detonate your car near opponents to make them crash as well, which will fill up your boost meter.  You have to use it wisely though, because using Crashbreaker depletes said meter.

Eliminators return from the previous Burnout titles, but have been given a tweak — Instead of the last-place car being eliminated every lap, the last-place car is eliminated every 30 seconds.  This shortens the race’s length, thus giving you less time to fight through the pack and dodge every Takedown attempt that comes your way.  The other mode that Revenge changes up is the Crash Mode, doing away with the pickup items and focusing entirely on how many cars you damage.  And this time, Crashbreakers are set to be triggered when your boost meter reaches 100%, at which point you must mash the B button before the timer expires.  If you manage to mash said button to the point of fully filling said meter, your explosion reach its maximum radius.  And of course, the goal is to cause as many dollars of damage as possible.

A playground of automotive anarchy

13 tracks in the USA, Europe, and Far East make up Revenge‘s World Tour, which is a bit different compared to the one seen in Takedown.  Instead of going just for medals, you also must earn as many stars as possible, the number you earn per event varying on the tricks you pull off and what your finishing position is.  It may seem like a grind, but it gives you the urge to complete every goal, find the Signature Takedowns, and unlock every reward there is to offer.  Two things that make these new tracks different from the Burnout games of old is that they now have new huge jumps and shortcuts, allowing racers to constantly experiment with their racing lines.

Online multiplayer supports up to six players, but if you can’t access the servers, there’s always local multiplayer.  Split-screen racing supports two players at 30 frames per second, and up to five of your friends can join you for some Crash Mode madness, which makes Revenge a very nice party game.

Speaking of frames per second, I should mention that for a 2006 Xbox 360 game, the graphics are absolutely stellar.  There can be a bit of slow-mo when cars are exploding all over the place, but the sense of speed at 60 FPS will get your adrenaline pumping.

No arcade racing game would be complete without a stellar soundtrack, and Revenge delivers in spades.  EA’s fictional radio station CrashFM provides you with 41 licensed tracks, coming from well-known acts like Yellowcard, All-American Rejects, Unwritten Law, MxPx, Avenged Sevenfold, Pennywise, Fall Out Boy, Thrice, Junkie XL, Andy Hunter, Goldfinger, The Starting Line, and OK Go, as well as numerous up-and-coming artists.  I don’t really care for the electronic remixes of “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” by the Doors and “An Honest Mistake” by the Bravery, but they’ll appeal to at least someone.  If you need pulse-pounding music to help pump you up, Revenge has you covered.  Crank up your HD audio system and feel free to sing along.

Highway to Hell? More like highway to revenge

Like a muscle car with a potent power plant, Burnout: Revenge was a fantastic treat out of EA’s garage, and is still an absolute jam all these years later.  If arcade racers are your cups of tea, strap into Revenge‘s cockpit and take it for a spin.  And no, I will not judge you for crashing into enemy cars while singing “Lights And Sounds” by Yellowcard, because why wouldn’t you do such a thing?