A quick back story to share. I spent the majority of my youth and young adult years skateboarding in NYC. Leaving the house with my board was instinctual, like leaving your house now with car keys. While in college, I had a part-time job at a skate shop and also chaperoned trips to local skate parks. With that said, it should come as no surprise that I was also playing skateboard video games.
From 720 in the arcades to THPS (Tony Hawk Pro Skater), Skate, and everything in between. Most of the skateboarding games of the time offered their own unique feel. THPS offered fans a fun, over the top arcade experience. Later on, Skate came along with a new gameplay experience that introduced a more precise trick mechanic while still providing the ability to pull off unimaginable combos. I feel it’s important to mention these two franchises for they are both cornerstones in the skateboard video game genre and in my opinion, Session will also be held in the same regard.
Please remember this is a preview build that I played on Xbox One so I will be not be going in-depth on would be story or map locations as these could be changed in the final build. However, I will be sharing in-depth thoughts on what makes Session a stand out in the genre.
Session is a skateboarding simulation game. The controls are displayed below:
• You use left stick for your left foot and right stick for your right foot.
• Turning is performed using the left & right triggers.
• Press (A) to push with your right foot
• Press (X) to push with your left.
• (B) is to stop
• (Y) Lets you get off your board and explore the map on foot with the board in hand
Board flip tricks are performed in the way you would go about doing them in real life. For example, hold down on the right stick to position your right foot on the back lip of the board. As you flick the stick up to Ollie and based off timing, flick the left stick left to have your left foot kick out to perform a kick-flip. Like real-life skateboarding, precision timing is absolutely key. Flicking the left stick a second short or too long will have you kissing the pavement.
The same goes for bumping into curbs, ledges, or anything in the environment regardless of speed. Session is very unforgiving in this regard. There is no denying that Session has a steep learning curve, especially if spent years playing the before mentioned skateboarding games. In fact, while in the pause menu if you click Skate guide/controls a controller map layout appears with the following statement quote:
“WARNING – SESSION is a hard game and will test your patience. Be advised”
It’s important to understand that Session is not trying to be difficult just to frustrate gamers with an unfamiliar gameplay mechanic. It’s trying and succeeding in implementing all of the real-world frustrations and elation of skateboarding. As the title states, this is all about creating your Session. You will pick a spot, plan out your tricks, and spend countless hours trying to perform your run. In my area, I spent about 30 minutes trying to Nollie into a 50-50 grind down a handrail. Was I frustrated? Absolutely, but I knew what I was doing wrong. My approach to the rail was off so I wasn’t getting into proper positioning for the Nollie.
Unlike other skateboarding games that offer a “sticky” approach which will give you the benefit of the doubt and make that last second tweak for you to land the trick, Session will provide no such hand-holding. If you are an active or retired skateboarder, you will quickly see and respect what Session is doing. The thrill of landing the previously mentioned move took me back in time to when I could actually land such a move in real life. It provided a true feeling of accomplishment. Mastering this game will take time, patience, and dedication.
Before I leave this topic I would like to mention a gameplay setting that I found in the options menu. If for any reason this new control scheme is not for you, there is an alternative control scheme called “legacy”. This scheme is very similar to Skate controls, so you will use the left stick to move, (A) to push, and the right stick to perform board flip tricks similar to Skate. However, this is where the similarities end. The precision timing and proper approach to a grind are still present but those who are more comfortable with that form of controls will feel right at home. If you haven’t noticed I’ve made no mention of “grabs”. This feature was disabled in my build and listed as an option in the “experimental” menu. The description states it’s still in early development.
The preview build I played had 4 NYC locations, some of which a real skate spots. The locations are medium-sized sandbox designs. For example, I spent the majority of my playtime at the Brooklyn banks downtown. The location looks near identical to the real-life location. At one point, I jumped off the board and went exploring the far ends of the play area. I was amazed by how far you can venture off and even more impressed to see that all of the background buildings were accurate in design and placement to their real-life counterparts. I applaud creā-ture Studios for their attention to detail. I can only assume all locations in the official release will also provide this element of real-world immersion.
There is also a “return to apartment” option. This location looks like an actual apartment and while in this location you can change your clothing, make modifications to your board such as the deck, grip tape, trucks, wheels, etc. on a workbench, change settings via a laptop on your coffee table and watch your saved replays on a TV. While skating you can pause the game and click the “replays & editors” option. From here, you can rewind, edit, and record your most recent gameplay.
Overall I’m thrilled with how Session is progressing. creā-ture Studios are definitely taking a mature approach in regards to the gameplay. It’s, for this reason, I think that the skateboard community will embrace and respect Session.
This preview was written based on a digital Xbox Game Preview copy of Session for the Xbox One provided by creā-ture Studios.