Xbox 360/PS3/Wii/PC; £49.99; cert 12+; Ubisoft
Shaun White’s is a skateboarding game with a nice twist: it’s set in a dystopian future-world. The drab cityscapes you inhabit (which actually look rather like Düsseldorf) are controlled by a sinister cabal known as The Ministry; conformity is all and skateboarding is the ultimate in anti-authoritarian defiance.
Shaun White himself is behind bars, so there’s only one way to stick it to the neo-fascistic new world order – do tricks and jumps to sully the chilling grey cityscape with anarchic colour and free the minds of the people. Led initially by a guru who is basically Rufus from Bill & Ted, you are required to master a series of rails, tricks and flips as you turn the city into your own private skate park. You are also introduced to “Streets,” which are bullet-time gravity-ignoring routes up to higher levels, while rails form undulating roller coaster rides into the sky.
As you skate from one section of the city to another, mastering tricks and completing skating-related challenges, suit-wearing squares who shout “cut it out and get with the program” are transformed into positive slogan-shouting skateboarding enthusiasts, which is replacing one form of conformity for another, really. Amusingly, “freeing” the landscape from totalitarian bleakness involves not only making funky colour and graffiti appear but also billboards for real life fast food franchises and high-end sunglass brands.
Rolling around making the world free for consumerism to a soundtrack of gently rebellious guitar-rock is a pleasant enough concept. But the game has a few flaws which prevent it from reaching anywhere near bodacious levels of excellence.
Firstly, the control system doesn’t allow for enough freedom and complexity. Using just a single button and the analogue stick to execute most tricks, random button bashing and stick waggling is often requisite. Forming the ramps in the sky takes a little bit more skill, but not enough to be particularly satisfying. As you move through the game, you are also expected to complete platform-style tasks, such as smashing billboards, and this requires far too much simply marching from A, to B, to C. Ironically, the game doesn’t offer much freedom – fighting tyranny was never supposed to be a chore.
Furthermore, when you crash you smash into pixels, rather than leaving the landscape satisfyingly smeared with blood, as in Tony Hawk. While this adds to the Matrix-style atmosphere, half the fun of skating games is putting your character through a whole world of pain. You also don’t actually get to play as Shaun White, for the most part, which may be an issue for adoring fans of the Flying Tomato.
Overall, this game has a nice central premise let down by execution. For die hard fans – either of skateboarding or Orwellian nightmares – only.
• Game reviewed on Xbox 360