Who here remembers Skate? You know, EA’s skateboarding game that initially launched in 2007 with sequels in 2009 and 2010? Ah, yes now you remember that franchise. It’s easy to forget about it since EA themselves haven’t announced anything new in regards to Skate in years at this point. Might I direct your attention to Session then?
Session can easily be mistaken for Skate, but even with its similarities, it’s not Skate. During my time with Session, I can say this game takes the more realistic approach Skate originally had (its sequels delved into the wacky and over-the-top) that caused me to struggle to figure out the controls. Once you do, you’ll find a game that’s punching above its own weight and is a game to look out for.
In Session, which is currently in Early Access preview, you play as a created skater. I wish I could go on with the story, but there currently isn’t much of one outside of the basic tutorial. It’s a shame because the writing had some genuinely funny moments. During this tutorial, you’ll learn how to push your board across the blacktop, how to do moves such as Ollie or Kickflip, and of course, how to grind a rail. It’s then up to you on what you want to do with that knowledge.
Here’s the thing about Session though, it’s tough. The game touts how movement and tricks are based on real-life skateboard techniques. For instance, to push you press A or X (I was playing with an Xbox One Controller). Each button uses a different leg on your character. Then to Ollie, you have to pull the right stick back to crouch, but instead of pushing back up on the stick (which is how Skate controlled), you must push the left stick forward to thrust your board in the air. How do you turn, you might ask? By using the Left and Right Triggers. Double press on the triggers, and you’ll switch to Sketchy, which also happens to reverse the movements on the sticks. It can all get confusing to handle.
But once you nail the controls, Session is incredible. Nailing a kickflip feels tactile. Hitting that grind brings a sense of accomplishment. I became addicted to skating. In fact, it reminds me a lot of what true skateboarders do, practice until they get it perfect. It helps that you can place a session marker (think like a quick travel/save point to a specific spot) and load it back up at any time.
Skating through the world, I’d see a bench, some stairs, and another railing. I began formulating what type of line I could create and nail. Ollie onto the bench into a manual, kickflip off it over the stairs and grind to the finish. It’d be awesome, I thought to myself. And it was, once I was able to get a handle of the controls.
I didn’t just fight with the controls, though. During the earliest portion of my playtime, I ran into major problems with performance. My laptop isn’t breaking any records, but I do run a Core i7-8750 2.20Ghz, 16gb RAM, with an NVIDIA GTX 1070 with Max-Q graphics card and still had issues related to crashing and my character falling outside the level on multiple occasions. When contacting Crea-ture Studios, the developers of Session, they did walk me through a fix that involved “focusing” on the application in Windows 10 that seemed to fix most of my issues, but it’s something I want to point out to potential buyers of Session.
Additionally, Session is pretty bare bones. Again, you’ll be introduced through a quick story-based tutorial and then given free reigns to skate around. In the menus, you’ll find a spot for challenges such as “flip out of a manual” that pays you money. At this time, it doesn’t seem like money does much, but you’d have to imagine it’ll do more once Session is out of Early Access. More direction is always appreciated, especially since you’ll always have the open world to skate around. There’s also a test feature option that currently only includes grabs. It’ll be interesting to follow up with Session in a few months to see how it’s grown and expanded.
I’ve definitely enjoyed my two hours with Session thus far, aside from the performance issues. The controls have taken me a bit to wrap my head (and hands) around, but I appreciate that Crea-ture Studios have leaned so far into the high technique needed to master the game, though I fear that may turn away potential fans looking for a slightly more arcade experience. For now, EA seems content without a skateboarding game, and now it’s time for talented indie developers to grab the board and skate themselves to the top.
Brandon is a Journalism student at the University of Nevada, Reno. He loves all games, but don’t get him started on Kingdom Hearts. He wishes every console had a handle like the GameCube.