The other modes offer a range of knockout competitions (the lowest-scoring skater in each round is eliminated) and HORSE-style one-on-one matches in which you try to outdo another skater with complex tricks. A GTAIV-style mobile phone allows you to call up your peers for impromptu face-offs (as well as to dial in some back up when you need someone to fend off the mall security while you work a high-risk location) and so there's plenty to be getting on with at any given moment.
The trick roster has increased from the first game introducing hand and footplants but, as before, the problem is that many of the different moves are similar in execution, requiring only subtle differences in right analogue stick input to execute, for example, an FS Pop Shuvit or a Varial Heelflip. This only becomes a problem in those challenges that require you to perform a specific irksome move to progress, although mercifully these instances are far fewer than they were in the previous game. Nevertheless, by the time you reach the pro challenges things start to become technical, charging you with, for example, landing three different fliptricks over the same set of stairs. Once you've landed one you have to jump off your board and run back up the stairs to attempt the next, all against a strict time limit. The chances to make a mistake here are many, especially as you're hurrying as well as concentrating on moving your fingers in subtle distinction.
As before, you can pause the game at any point and create short edits from your instant replay footage to upload to your online profile. The editing tools included with the package are basic, and the decision to make advanced camera controls and filters etc. a downloadable extra (for 600 MSP) is a contentious one. But pull off a line or a trick with elegance, no matter how humble, and even the most cynical UGC detractor will pause the game, and upload the footage to their profile. Good-looking success is hard-won in this game and so there's good reason to want to share it.
The game's weaknesses are mostly well-hidden. Like its forebear, the polish rather than the underlying quality carries the visuals. Textures are poor and objects lack detail, shortcomings that are easy to forgive thanks to the stylised camera angles, filters, and motion graphics that firework across the screen, distracting you from what's otherwise a pedestrian-looking game. While the chance to hop off your deck at any point and go by foot is welcome when you need to walk up some stairs or climb up onto a structure, it's also unwieldy and awkward, to the extent that it's always a relief to get back on the board.
The game tightrope-walks between an arcade feel and realism. When skating around town, picking simple lines and executing modest but competent tricks with style and grace the game's at its understated best. But as things progress, and you gain access to terrifying, giant ramps and begin to execute Tony Hawk's-style multiple Christ Air forward flips it begins to deviate from its core value of physical realism. As if to exemplify this tension, any videos you upload must be categorised into 'Arcade' or 'Realistic' categories.
At its best Skate 2 calls to mind the finest freeform moments of Mirror's Edge, plotting lines through dense urban environments, grinding along benches, weaving in and out of pedestrians and traffic in one long, glorious, uninterrupted flow. Thanks to the sober realism of the physics this kind of combo'ing is more satisfying than it ever was in a Tony Hawks game, even if it's ten times more hard-won and less impressive to a casual observer. Often you will finish a challenge only to freeskate around distracted for twenty minutes before remembering to move onto the next. But for the vast majority of players there will be a challenge hurdle at some point that is just too high to overcome. It's no accident: the game has been designed that way. It's testament to the strength of the surrounding package that Skate 2 continues to be compelling place to inhabit even after its primary purpose is gone and all that's left is the playground.
8 / 10