Developer / Publisher – DEFICIT Games / Perp Games
Price – US $34.99 / CAN 44.99 / EU €34.99 / UK £29.99
Release Date – August 4th, 2023
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Standing
Store Links – PlayStation, Steam
Reviewed on – PSVR 2
So here’s a little backstory regarding my skateboarding history…I have none. Sure, I dabbled back in my youth like every young lad does, but I was terrible, so I moved on quite quickly to other ventures. Now in regard to my gaming history, Tony Hawks 1 & 2 were my jam with the third instalment keeping me entertained and the 4th losing me all together. Despite my losing interest in the franchise, the nostalgia remains high with those games so getting a (sort of) VR version of Pro Skater had me a little excited. There’s no story or campaign to fret about, just grab your skateboard and get moving!
Opening with a tutorial that teaches you the very basics of movement, which is a mix of hand gestures, button and trigger presses. Once you have mastered those controls, which admittedly took me some time, your ready to tackle the main stages or take on The Academy which teaches you the various tricks needed to get the points that unlock everything in the game. Most of the stages are locked until you conquer some of the challenges and modes in the previous stage and given the requirements to get those high scores, I recommend tackling both the basic and medium Academy challenges to pump up your trick repertoire and unlock stuff quickly, not to mention that the extra practice will really help hone those maneuverability skills.
You may be asking how a skateboarding game works in VR and I got to say, it’s works fairly well considering you don’t have any virtual legs. You can choose to stand goofy or normal (left or right foot 1st) and with your dominant hand, you simply pump like you cross country skiing to pick up speed. To ollie, just press and release ‘X’ with the rest of the buttons, in combination with hand movements, allowing you to grab, flip and twist your board to perform a variety of fancy moves. It’s a good system, though admittedly, it’s one I’m still struggling with as I write this as there is just a lot to remember and I found myself returning to the academy quite often to remind myself how to perform a specific trick. Unfortunately, with hand movements required for more complicated actions, I found they didn’t always register accurately causing some unfortunate wipe outs and reduced scores. I don’t think the controls are broken and I can definitely see my skills improving as I get used to each trick, I just think the need to get as many tricks in here in combination with gesture and button presses makes for a game that will take some time to master and I expect many to probably tap out before they get all the gold medals available.
Due to the control scheme in here, I found my 1st hour in the game to be quite frustrating as it took me that long before everything started to click though once it did, I began to have fun and enjoyed just how well crafted this can be. It’s not perfect by any stretch and pales in direct comparison to THPS thanks to the smaller stages that don’t allow for full free roaming due to their linear and restricted size. The stages are straight and narrow, and your board will only turn so much so you can’t ever turn around which makes sense as the level obstacles are clearly designed for you to only be going in one direction. There are multiple paths to choose with some going up or down so exploration is key in finding the best spots to chain together the most tricks. So while each stage does sort of feel the same as the last on the first go, once I learned each stages unique layout, I appreciated just how different that actually are. Some may have more rails or more jumps or even some crazier sections which is good as you’ll be forced to play through them A LOT.
The name of the game here is repetition and with 8 stages currently available (3 more are slated for future release) there isn’t a ton of content in here. I think this is what will test players the most as even though there 5 different modes for each stage, they kind of all turn into the same thing. You can do the ‘Street Challenge’ which requires you to get the highest score you can without bailing too many times, spot challenge which picks specific parts of the map for you to perform your best trick on, Best Trick tasks you making your best trick out of 5 trick attempts, Sudden Death kills that run if you wipeout or you can free roam any stage without the pressure of scoring. Seeing as how I was always trying to get the best score every time I played, it made some of these modes sort of redundant but at the same time, the more I played the better I got, I just wish there was more to do be it finding collectibles or hidden areas or something beyond just skating the same courses again and again and again. As you complete tasks, you’ll accrue experience that lets you purchase different skins and trucks for your board allowing for some personalization for your ride and motivation to keep playing should you want those top tier unlockables.
VR Skater looks alright with each of the stages carrying with them unique themes and flare from a typical suburban neighbourhood, school, construction zone, business area, docks, subway, industrial and construction zones. They all look just fine with some dynamic lighting help add to the visual flare though I found them to look and feel barren with nary a soul to be around save for yourself. There are also some flatter textures used and harder edges which make some objects look a little unnatural but outside of those shortcomings is a game that looks decent with a variety of objects available to jump on, over or slide upon. The verticality in some of the levels is appreciated, especially in the construction zone, with the game overall looking sharp and getting the job done, but not really impressing me in any way. Pop-in also shows up often, especially as each stage loads in, which is disappointing considering the scope of the game and the power of the PS5 and I can’t help but feel like more could be done to optimize VR skater to the Sony console. Still, what’s here never offends and considering the single developer behind this, it’s easy to forgive many of the game’s shortcomings in favor of the fun.
Soundtracks have always been pivotal to sports games with VR skater delivering a solid alternative soundtrack though one that I wish had at least double the 8 tracks that it currently has. I enjoyed every song available but listening to the same few songs for hours on end is madness and given the lack of spatial audio in here, not that it would even be utilized anyways, I ended up turning the music off and wearing an ear bud in one ear just so I wasn’t skating in silence. Otherwise, sound effects are on point whether you are grinding on steel or wood or whatever as are the impact sound of your board just rolling along, landing…or crashing making for a simple, but complete audio package.
As far as haptics go, as far as I can tell, neither the sense controllers nor headset rumble features are used which I guess makes sense given that your hands aren’t actually interacting with anything, but I would have appreciated a little headset shake whenever I took a tumble.
As a total package, VR Skater gets way more right that wrong and once I began to get somewhat comfortable with the control scheme, landing and chaining together tricks did I really start to enjoy the game. I think fans of past non-VR skateboarding games will get a lot of joy out of this as well, especially if you enjoy getting top scores and climbing leaderboards, an option that is coming soon but is not available at launch. However, if you are like me, I think fatigue will rear its ugly head sooner than later as my drive to dive back in and do better is starting to wane. After playing for 4 hours, I’ve seen everything VR skater has to offer me at this point and while I still have a lot of challenges to conquer, I’ve gotten everything I needed from this game though I expect more than a few people to clock in many more hours than myself which should hopefully offset that rather high asking price.
Perp Games provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!