(EA for Xbox 360)
By Mike Delano
The laid-back, bro-dude culture that surrounds skateboarding just feels at home on the West Coast, close cousin as it is with the surfer/hippie/follow-where-the-road-leads-you attitude that emanates from the Pacific. Skate 2 just wouldn’t feel at home in the imposingly gray and vertical layout of Manhattan or Chicago, so its creators wisely created the California-inspired fictional city of New San Vanelona for the game. The landscape encourages an easygoing pace: You’ll have the most fun as you guide your skater aimlessly about, taking in the sights and bumping into worthwhile challenges like photo ops in front of a faux Hollywood sign or cruising neighborhoods for abandoned swimming pools to skate in. The impressively streamlined controls (nearly all of the important stuff only requires flicking the right analog stick) are easy to learn but often frustrating to master. Thankfully, the wide-open city is full of challenges tailored for different skill levels and abilities, so it’s unlikely that your failure to complete a particularly inane trick string will prevent you from progress. The stuffed, polished career mode that is the game’s centerpiece is also expanded upon by your ability to move objects to create your own trick playgrounds and compete alongside or against other players in a variety of worthwhile online events. Skate 2 is pretty much the definitive take on the house that Tony Hawk built 10 years ago.