Back in 2001, Bob Burnquist was on top of
the world. He just won the X Games with an incredible run. He was in second place, and
it was the last run of the event. He messed up a trick a little bit in the beginning and
landed sketchy, and he just went for it and did crazy stuff back to back to back. It was
one of the greatest moments in skateboard history. Take a minute to watch it if you
haven’t seen it. So after Tony Hawk retired from the X Games,
Bob Burnquist became the face of it. And in 2001, he literally became the face of the
X Games with ESPN X Games Skateboarding. He dropped out of Tony Hawk 3 to be in this game,
in fact. So I saw this at the game store, and I didn’t
remember ever seeing it before. It’s a forgotten game, it’s heavily sponsored. Is there any
chance that it’s good? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Being an X Games licensed game, of course
you get to play the X Games. There are two options, park and vert. There’s no best trick,
no doubles, and no real street category. Let’s try vert. It’s easily the more enjoyable
of the modes, which is a tragedy that we’ll get to later. It starts off looking really good. The presentation
is good, and the supers all look nice. This comes from the partnership with ESPN and X
Games, but ultimately isn’t all that important; we need to see how it plays. For the most
part, I was impressed. The controls are awkward and unresponsive a lot of the time, but you
can get into a rhythm and flow through a decent run. There’s an interesting special meter
in the game where it saves up. You can either use special tricks as they become available,
or you can wait and do a super trick and drain the whole meter. All in all, the system works.
There’s a risk and reward aspect to the specials, because you have to keep an eye on the timer
and see if you can afford to wait. That said, it’s really easy. This is the first
thing I did in this game, even before the tutorial. I got a gold medal in 2 tries. So
although this part of the game is good, it doesn’t last. The next section is park mode. This is where
the game starts to take a turn. The first thing I noticed is that there’s only one park
available, and you never unlock any more. Since they had the X Games license, it would
have been really cool if they did some of the parks from the past, and let you recreate
competitions from different years. This would have been cool with vert, but different channels,
roll-ins, and extensions don’t make a huge difference in a video game. For street though?
Anything would have been better than this. The level is really cramped, which wouldn’t
be a huge problem if the controls worked. It’s so hard to get your skater to go where
you want. You have to push to control your speed, but it’s really hard to slow down and
turn accurately. You can powerslide to a dead stop, but that wastes too much time. Prepare
to run into a bunch of stuff. Since it’s really hard to actually land stuff
you want to land, you might think that you should skate some transition. It’s a good
way to rack up some points, but unfortunately, you’re being scored on using the whole park.
This mode is honestly really difficult. While I finished vert in 10 minutes, it took me
almost an hour to put together a couple of decent park runs to get the gold. Hey man, we’re about to release Tony Hawk’s
Pro Skater 3! You can compete in competitions in cool skateparks all over the world! Ugh. Yeah, I know. But we’re just getting
started here. The next mode is called arcade mode. Have
you ever played an arcade game? You try to get a high score. Maybe there’s a time limit?
You know, maybe something exactly like the competitions we just did? Well you’re in for
a surprise. The arcade mode is actually the career mode in the game. There is a lot of this awkward wording that
makes the game difficult to play. “Fve-zero grind!” The next major one is in the challenges,
or, excuse me “licenses” from the first level, which is “make 6 combos”. If you
speak English at all, your first thought will be that you have to land, or “make” 6
different combos. But no matter how many I did, it wasn’t working. For some reason, it
wasn’t counting my combos. Well it turns out, what you’re actually supposed to do is land
a combo with 6 tricks in it. And you do the exact same thing in the next
level. Then 8 for the next couple levels. Then 10, and 12. This game is extremely uncreative
with the challenges. You collect a thing, find an X Games emblem, get a score, get checkpoints,
and do combos. Every time. And the combos get extremely difficult because manuals don’t
work, and your balance stat never increases. But wait! You can solve balance problems with
one weird trick! Take those new smooth bearings and chuck them!
Dig around in your dirty broken skateboard parts box and pick the rustiest, grossest
bearings you can find. Pop in in and you won’t believe what happens next. The worse your bearings are, the better your
balance is. This drives me crazy. If they wanted to be able to customize your stats,
they could have used board size and shape, wheel size, wheel hardness, riser pads maybe.
Literally anything other than bearing speed would have been okay. And you know what? There
are pro skaters in the game. They probably came into the office to have pictures taken
for their character models and stuff. Couldn’t they have taken 5 minutes and asked some of
these guys if the game makes any sense? Anyway, back to the arcade mode. It’s awkward
and slow, and it sometimes blocks off major parts of a level in a weird way. The museum
is a good example. It’s got an incredibly precise grind that’s almost impossible when
fighting with the camera. But you miss out on half the level if you don’t do it. The
ruins level is very linear, and you have to go all the way back around if you miss a jump. Compare this to the Tony Hawk games. You can
pretty much go anywhere you want. There are different ways to get places, and secret areas
are actually bonuses, not just parts of the level that are annoying to get to. Hey dude, I see you skating a cruise ship!
Wanna try mine out? [sigh] Yeah, I would, but I have to polish
off this turd first. So thankfully, the game is mercifully short.
Only 6 levels- Los Angeles– We have Los Angeles too! You can trigger an
earthquake if you grind the right rails, and you have to do a varial kickflip over- Yeah, ok, I know. So, Los Angeles, a museum,
a cruise ship, New York, and some ruins. When you finish them all, you unlock “a mode
with cartoon-like characters”, and “another mode.” This is just another example of the
awkward vagueness X Games suffers from. Disaster slide! What’s the cartoon mode? Is it a re-skin of
the game with a different renderer that adds cel shading and more vibrant colors? Nope.
Just big head mode. As for “another mode,” I spent a while
looking around to find where this actually was. As is turns out, it’s just added challenges
to the original levels. The checkpoints and collectibles are moved, and the score and
combo challenges are harder. They didn’t even flip the stage or open up new areas or anything.
It’s just the same exact level to suffer through again. At this point, I just quit. I’m not putting
myself through that again. The game has no redeeming qualities. Like the balancing for
example. If you’re doing a grind, you might start to lose balance and then even back out,
but there’s no meter, there’s no way to do it on purpose I don’t think. And the manuals
are even worse. You just do a manual perfectly for a little while, then you fall off. There’s
no indication why. Now if this game was super realistic and it was a sim, I could understand
it being difficult, but in one level you kill mummies and you find an alien space ship.
Come on. Now let’s just take a minute to appreciate
the announcer: Absolutely amazing! Oh! Three tricks in a row? Whoa! Mute pincer. That’s impossible! Oh my gosh! That was nice! Oh my gosh! That was sick! Ow, that hurt. Grab tack knee. Lookin’ clean! I guess “appreciate” is the wrong word.
Of course, using the wrong word is exactly what this game does best. So, does ESPN X Games skateboarding have any
redeeming qualities? For the game itself? No. It’s garbage. But, the pseudo-sequel Evolution
Skateboarding, is actually not bad. I mean, it is a B-List skateboarding game, but they
fixed a lot of the control issues and they added some flavor to the game. Like, there
are boss fights in it. There’s a giant semi truck on the loose and you have to do grinds
on it in order to stop it. Or you have to free captives from a weird Castlvania dungeon.
It’s pretty interesting. I’ll probably take a closer look at it later. But Bob Burnquist does not return for this
game. He saw how the last one turned out, and he jumped ship back to the Tony Hawk series.
A good move for him, and probably a good move for you too. If you’re like me and you’ve
played every skateboarding game and you’re just dying to try a few more, maybe it’s worth
a couple of dollars, but probably not. Well that’s all for this time. What game should
I cover next? Let me know in the comments.