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Shaun White Skateboarding

The following rebellion has been brought to you by Wendy's®
The skateboarding genre was the deciding factor in my initial purchase of a Playstation, breaking my cycle of staunch Nintendo-only support since the late 80s. The Tony Hawk series was the reining king for many years, slowly transforming from an over-the-top arcade style game to a system that was a lot more grounded in reality. I abandoned the series after "Tony Hawk Underground 2" where the series took a major step backward and focused less on the skating and more on absurd shenanigans. For my money though, until the "Skate” series on the PS3 and X-Box 360 hit the scene, “Thrasher: Skate and Destroy” remained one of the best games of the genre. An original PSX game, it was wholly simulation based, featured a steep learning curve, but was very satisfying. Now, it appears the return to over-the-top arcade style game play has returned in the form of “Shaun White Skateboarding” and the result is an interesting ambitious disappointment.

White is no Tony Hawk when it comes to selling power in the game world. An Olympic snowboarder, he’s also made a huge name in the skateboarding world, bringing home some gold in the X-Games. After a dismal crack at the snowboarding genre with “Shaun White Snowboarding,” White has decided to give his other sport a try. Unfortunately, from minute one, the game’s target audience is very clear: teenage boys. The game is based on the story of a nameless protagonist (which you can customize via a system that would have been limited in the days of the PS2) tasked with freeing a captured White from an evil government system called The Ministry. The Ministry strives for conformity and has outlawed skateboarding, while spreading it’s drab color palette of grays throughout the world through their system of “deinfluencers.” The game focuses on you "reinfluencing" the world through the power of skate, at its core, it’s a “stick it to the man” theme.

shaun white skateboarding halfpipe

While the idea of an oppressive government can work well in other games (Mirror’s Edge for instance handles it brilliantly), here it’s written with so much cheese in a world populated by absurd skateboarding stereotypes, that one has to wonder if the plot wasn’t crafted by a group of teenage boys who just discovered the notion of rebelling against society. I’m sure a teenage me would have been much more forgiving here, but a much older, adult me was thoroughly unimpressed and often annoyed. The biggest offense is the shameless corporate sponsorship, which only shows up as you “reinfluence” the world. The game has two lone sponsors: Wendy’s and Stride gum. It’s ultimately an ironic choice that completely undermines the message of being yourself that the game clumsily tries to hammer home.

In the game play department, things are relatively simple compared to the “Skate” series. The left stick controls movement, while the “A-button” allows you to jump. Tricks are handled using the right analog stick, but unlike “Skate” you need only to hold the stick in one direction to get a move started. The L and R triggers modify your tricks, depending on the situation. All in all it’s a basic concept in theory, but in execution, there are a lot of bugs. The biggest offender is the mapping of flips and transfers to the same button combination, the only difference is a transfer will occur towards the top of a jump in a vert ramp or half pipe. I can’t count the number of times I wanted to do a transfer, but wound up flipping in the air, forced to go back and build up speed to try again. It’s a sloppy design choice that makes a few time critical objectives in the end of the game more of a challenge than they should be. Additionally, even as I unlocked new moves to add to my repertoire, I found the ones based on diagonal stick movements didn’t always register, especially when it comes to grinds and instead defaults to grinds mapped to horizontal or vertical inputs. It doesn’t really matter though as the game gives you no real incentive, save for a single achievement, to unlock new tricks.

The core mechanic of the game has you do enough tricks to build up a flow meter, represented like a points system that reverts to zero, forcing you to always be pulling off moves. There are three tiers of flow, each allowing you to “reinfluence” specific areas. The first two levels are incredibly easy to build up and maintain, while the third takes a bit more efforts. “Reinfluencing” areas reveals new objects for you to utilize in your building of flow. Sadly though, game play glitches including random bails (which the game doesn’t bother to animate, instead if you fall too far, you explode into orbs) at the tops of vert ramps and on rails. If you bail, your flow is reset to zero; needless to say when I was working on the achievement to raise your flow to 7500 (no easy task), and one of these glitches occurred I was so infuriated I threw in the towel; why waste your time when a bug the designers didn’t catch or didn’t bother to fix could strike at any moment? Speaking of bugs, the game froze a number of times when the action would get too intense on-screen and maybe six or seven times, I was forced to restart the game because some unexplained glitch wouldn’t register the current objective complete upon completion.

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It takes around 10 hours to get through the story mode of the game and it’s an experience that gets more boring the longer the cringe worthy plot is stretched out and the repetitive tasks keep popping up. Rarely will you be asked to complete a series of tricks a la any other skateboarding game. Mostly you’ll be required to build up your flow meter to break a barrier or sent on a quest to destroy a random number of random objects, ranging from pigeons to cameras. You’ll be aided in your quest by the game’s gimmick of “shaping” which equates to grinding on neon green arrows that you can connect to any spot on the environment, provided you do so before the shaping timer runs out. Towards the end of the game you’ll be able to shape a few sections of road as well as raise and lower the environment, but shaping rails is what you’ll be doing 99% of the time. The game earns big points here, as each shaping rail has multiple paths you can take and they can be rest on the fly. It’s the most well-executed idea in the entire game and only suffers from limited usage in some areas.

Upon completion of the entirely too long game, you’ll be left with various challenges to complete if you so desire. The challenges are all geared towards those sold on the game being good to great and only reward players with XP to complete their trick books and clothing to add to their character. The outfits and board designs in the game are all generic and as bland as the environments. Unlike the Tony Hawk games, there’s no stats system, so there’s no real incentive to change your outfit or board. A multiplayer system that honestly looks more appealing than the single player game is included, but the dozen times I logged on to play a game, not a single other person was playing. I even created a basic game and sat in an open lobby for 20 minutes with not one attempt at anyone joining my game. A sad encapsulation of why this game just doesn’t cut it.


  • The game is graphically ambitious but like the core package as a whole, merely average. Character models and environments are serviceable, but incredibly bland with little in the form of lifelike animation. Your skater feels quite stiff compared even to some older skating games.

  • Slowdown occurs during some complex tricks, especially when combined with a high rate of speed and a maxed flow meter. Graphical hiccups in the form of clipping and some minor screen tearing also rear their head.

  • The big gimmick of breathing life into areas and people is rather disappointing. The end result is nothing more than a very uniform grey look changing to a very uniform colorful look with a very minor wave like effect.

shaun white skateboarding rail grind


  • The environmental sounds are incredibly repetitive and very undercooked. The sound of your board dominates more than anything else. The few lines of dialogue from environmental NPCs grate on the nerves as you’ll hear the cringe worthy dialogue over and over.

  • The actual voice cast runs the gamut from over-the-top to “phoning it in.” It doesn’t help that the lines they are given to advance the story are incredibly brain dead and heavily clichéd.

  • The game’s soundtrack appears to be where all the money was spent, featuring a wide variety of artists and bands from KISS to The Killers. The only problem is the soundtrack is often buried under the bland effects track.


"Shaun White Skateboarding" is incredibly average in everything it does. The game play strives to be innovative but is hampered by limited execution of new ideas, overly simplified controls, and enough bugs to balance out the areas where it really shines. The uninspired world design mirrors the uninspired story, that is stretched entirely too far for an arcade skateboarding game. The longer you play the game, the less fun it becomes, so much so, I found myself beginning to irrationally despise the game. It’s far from the worst skateboarding game ever made, but is no prize itself. Skateboarding fans are going to want to stick to the “Skate” series, while casual skateboarding fans might find themselves annoyed with the goofy game play. In the end, teenage boys and fans of arcade style sports games are the core demographic for the game. A good weekend rental for them and anyone else that still has any interest left. Rent It

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