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Game review 11 October 2022, 22:05

Session Skate Sim Review: Grinding Out

If you are looking for an authentic skateboarding simulator, Session: Skate Sim is your game. Just don’t expect it to hold your hand or to go easy on you because it sure won’t.

The review is based on the PS5 version. It's also relevant to PC, XSX, XONE, PS4 version(s).

Riding a skateboard can be hard if you’ve never done it before. There is a lot of balance that is required once you are on it, and you need to be aware of what your legs and feet are doing so you don’t fall on your face. Games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater made it look easy and gave us the chance to pull of awesome tricks and moves to feel like an athlete without much pressure.

The reality, however, is that skateboarding requires lots of practice and patience, and you won’t always pull off the trick you want unless you spend a lot of time making mistakes until you perfect it. A game like Session: Skate Sim, shows us how difficult skating can be as it provides a realistic approach to street skating by amping up the difficulty by making you perfect its controls in addition to just learning the tricks. The result is an simulator that is sure to test your patience, but will give you a realistic albeit imperfect experience for those dedicated enough to master it.

Sharp Learning Curve

PROS:
  1. Authentic skateboarding tricks and movements;
  2. Detailed parks and locations.
CONS:
  1. Steep learning curve that will turn off new players;
  2. No direction in what to do next;
  3. Questionable presentation options.

To reiterate: Session is a difficult game. And it’s not difficult because it has crazy missions or challenges for you to complete (even though it does). No, it has a sharp learning curve due in part to its control layout which will take you hours if not days for your brain to get used to. Your left and right joystick control the feet of your skater, and depending on your stance and direction on the board, these controls can switch at a moment’s notice. Once you are on a board making some distance, you will need to use your shoulder buttons to maneuver left or right. The kicker? When you get off your skateboard, all that is thrown out the window for conventional controls that have you using the left joystick to move around.

These controls are sure to leave your brain in a blur and your fingers in knots as you figure out what joystick does what and when to slowly tilt something to get the effect you want. It’s not what most of us are used to, but because it is simulator, I’m not surprised that simple movement is such a complicated ordeal. Just look at the intricate Bus Simulator game or even the goofy Surgeon Simulator and you will realize we often take familiar control schemes for granted.

And here’s the thing. When you finally manage to figure out your controls and get that ollie off a ledge just right, Session feels amazing and very rewarding. You could compare mastering its controls to the training athletes go through to when practicing a new move. It’s arduous and frustrating, but once you pull of that move, all that trouble feels totally worth it. Those who have never skated before will enjoy pulling off everything from nose manuals to quick spins and pros will have fun pulling off some insane moves and comparing them to doing them in real life.

No Hand-Holding

While Session does start off with a tutorial, don’t expect it to hold your hand as this mode doesn’t go into everything you wish the game did. There are plenty of options and tweaks you can make to your controls to make it a little more bearable such as letting the game worry about grind inputs or board catches, but the tutorial never goes into these assisted options. It’s up to you to figure out what works for you meaning beginners will feel lost and overwhelmed.

Following this shaky introduction, the game lets you start off on a career mode that introduces you to some notable skaters in your rise to fame. It’s a very loose mode and even the writing could use some work, but this mode really just exists to give players (especially those new to skateboarding) some structure since you will be asked to perform tricks to complete each mission. This gets you money you can spend on new gear that is purely just cosmetic.

VERDICT:

If you are new to skateboarding, chances are Session: Skate Sim will frustrate you more than impress you, but if you live for the board, it will provide you with an unrivaled simulator worth playing.

The downside to this career mode is that—like the rest of the game—it’s also quite punishing. Its main issue is that once you speak to a skater who tells you what you need to do, they will never repeat what they just said so you always have to remember what your next move needs to be. Sure, you get an indicator as to what kind of move you need to do, but if you need to see it in action, you may have to check online or elsewhere as the game doesn’t help. And, if you decide to finish it later and explore another location, you won’t get any indicator as to where to go in case you forget.

Mixed Presentation

If you just want to skate, Session offers you a plethora of locations across New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco spread out among authentically designed maps that capture the essence of famous sights, parks, and landmarks. Little details like graffiti to even the number of steps down a flight of stairs have been recreated to make players feel like they are there—great for pros who want to practice tricks on some of their favorite parks. Various locations also have daily and historical challenges that will test your ability to pull off the same tricks made by other notable skaters—that is, if you can find them or search online as the game won’t tell you about them either.

While it’s great to sightsee and admire all the detail in each city, here is where Session also starts to lose its authenticity and starts to feel relatively empty. Locations, while massive, don’t feature any pedestrians or even cars so you are basically skating around a ghost town devoid of life. Sure, you can turn on pedestrians via experimental settings, but here is where it gets weird. Running into them on your board makes you collapse like ragdolls as you would skating into a wall or messing up a trick, but getting off your board and running into them makes them get all get wobbly instead. It’s also annoying skating into a shopping cart or a street cone and falling on your face after realizing they are bolted to the ground.

Session also has underwhelming character models, and even the clothes and skateboards you can purchase with your hard earned money are nothing to write home about. What’s more, its soundtrack is very boring featuring lo-fi, reggae, and some rock songs that feel more like filler music than anything else. Do yourself a favor and turn the music off and play the tunes you want to listen to.

Final Thoughts

With a sprawling sandbox mode, various experimental settings you can tweak, and even an impressive replay mode that lets you play back your tricks frame by frame, Session is a pro skater’s dream come true. This begs the question: who is this game geared towards? Are pro skaters playing Session to plan out their tricks, practice some advanced moves on their favorite parks, and then recreating them in real life? If so, the game gives them plenty of tools to do just that and then some.

Newbies on the other hand who have never skated will feel completely overwhelmed by not just the control scheme, but also learning how it’s like to think like a skater and remembering where to place your foot, how much weight to put on the board, and when to balance yourself when in the air. The results can be messy and frustrating if you have never skated before so it’s hard to tell how much enjoyment anyone but a pro skater will get from this game.

Session Skate Sim Review: Grinding Out - picture #5

Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.

Not to mention, the game isn’t very user friendly as it fails to track your missions, doesn’t tell you what trick you are doing (unless you turn this setting on), and never really gives you guidance on what to do forcing you to look elsewhere for guidance. If you are new to skateboarding, chances are Session: Skate Sim will frustrate you more than impress you, but if you live for the board, it will provide you with an unrivaled simulator worth playing.

Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo grew up playing video games and finally started writing about them on a blog after college. He soon began to write for small gaming websites as a hobby and then as a freelance writer for sites like 1UP, GamesRadar, MacLife, and TechRadar. Giancarlo also was an editor for Blast Magazine, an online gaming magazine based in Boston where he covered various video game topics from the city's indie scene to E3 and PAX. Now he writes reviews and occasional previews for Gamepressure covering a broad range of genres from puzzle games to JRPGs to open-world adventures. His favorite series include Pokémon, Assassin's Creed, and The Legend of Zelda, but he also has a soft spot for fighting and music games like Super Smash Bros and Rock Band. When not playing Overwatch after a long day at work, he enjoys spending time working out, meal prepping, and discovering new international films and TV shows.

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