Warning: Session is a hard game and will test your patience. These are not my words; it’s the words of the developer, Creā-ture Studios themselves, injected verbatim into each of the Session’s trick list menus. That’s a belated caveat for the supposedly confused folks sifting through the menus for advice on how to actually do something in this devilishly difficult skateboarding sim. Featuring a two-stick control system that challenges generations of muscle memory, Session is a complex but very down-to-earth street skating sim that can be beautifully authentic when executed well. Despite the fact that it’s only just emerged from several years of early access, it doesn’t seem quite ready for release just yet: physics errors, shonky trick detection, and unfriendly mission design are regular frustrations.
Since its debut demo in late 2017, Session has previously been viewed by some as the spiritual successor to EA’s Skate series. To be honest, it’s not really a big comparison. Session’s stick-based trick controls might sound similar to Skate’s on paper, but the reality is that Session’s two-stick system is far more complicated. In fact, the single-stick skate-like “Legacy” control session introduced in their Early Access build in 2020 was actually complete AWAY in version 1.0. Adaptation to Session’s two stick controls is now mandatory.
Bust A Move
Just like 2020’s competing skateboarding sim, Skater XL, each thumbstick in Session represents a skater’s corresponding foot, and performing flip tricks and grinds requires precise tweaking of each stick, as if trying to safe crack. Rotary controls are mapped to the triggers, a mind-melting obstacle that took hours for me to overcome after decades of being a left-stick task – and the fact that turning has only been compounded is still mapped to the left stick in session…if the skater is out The whiteboard. Unfortunately, there are no grip controls, but even without them, I’ve regularly turned my hands into pretzels to pull off tricks.
That in itself is not a bad thing; it’s just very challenging. However, steep as the learning curve is here, the complexity may seem too much to some. I’m not confident that many non-skaters or casual skateboard fans would be able to break through that initial barrier, although Session doesn’t necessarily do itself any favors in that regard. There’s actually a fairly long list of smart gameplay tuning options that can make things noticeably more manageable, but the initial tutorial doesn’t really point that out. Most helpful to me was the option to change the stick mapping from left foot/right foot to front foot/back foot – purists may scoff at this concession, but any controls reversed in Switch riding were absolutely my cook Brain. But there are many, many more – pop height, grind orientation, hell, even gravity can be adjusted. None of this really makes Session an arcade skating game, but it can make it a little friendlier.
That means it is very rewarding – in its own austere way. I’ve once again fallen into the loop of an unforgiving street skating sim (sadly there’s no real vert skating or grabs) simply because I love nondescript stairs, ramps and rails and bust tricks (and probably digital bones) to look for ) for no particular reason until I get bored and move somewhere else.
It should also be said that the list of other places to move around is impressively long, with dozens of authentic city maps and spots of various sizes spread across three cities: New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia. With time of day effects and lots of dirty, grainy detail, the maps look superb – especially at night when lit by the bright pursuit camera lamp. However, they are a bit static and lifeless. For example, stacks of lightweight boxes and wheeled shopping carts are rooted to the ground and entirely non-interactive, and there are no moving vehicles despite being in the heart of three of America’s busiest cities. Even while NPC pedestrians can activated – an “experimental” option that Creā-ture partially buried in an unfinished features menu – there are no NPC skaters to add a bit of atmosphere.
Creā-ture has put a lot of work into Session’s playback editor and it can produce really great clips. There’s an impressive range of camera types and filters available for creating some really cool skate videos using Session’s tools, although there’s really no effort in teaching you how to use them.
Session Skate Sim Screens (Nacon Connect 2022)
Unlike Skater XL, Session features a true career mode, with tasks assigned by visiting pro skaters across the maps. Despite the fact that most of the fun I got from Sessions Skateboard Sandbox was just scrolling through the maps and having my own fun there is Something needs to be said about conquering some obvious objectives, especially since there is no multiplayer. However, these goals are not always particularly well explained and instructions cannot be repeated if you miss something. This makes for some really annoying moments when you miss a tip or forget it after returning later, as the mission log text doesn’t explain any additional criteria. It also has an annoying habit of sometimes not acknowledging the tricks we’re asked to perform, even when it seems like we’ve pulled them off. An early prompt for the manual via a pad refused despite multiple attempts to detect the required manual. It adds a second layer of trial and error to an experience that is fully built on trial and error and it is not welcome. Turning on trick names is a little help (Session has trick names disabled by default), but it doesn’t solve everything.
This is actually part of a whole layer of weird bugs that undermine Session as a whole, from sudden and inexplicable balls on flat surfaces to ugly board clipping and jerky navigation on foot (especially when going up and down stairs) to seriously weird ones moments of spaghettitification of limbs. like your skater about to be sucked through a black hole. This is a real shame given the level of attention to detail found elsewhere. For example, I really love how the boards themselves slowly accumulate realistic wear and tear when we pound them with grinds, and the sound design is really excellent. There’s a wealth of subtly different audio cues for every situation, and everything from the hiss of free-spinning wheels to the clink of steel on steel sounds just right. The soundtrack is a bit downtempo and dreary though; Creā-ture pitched Session as a homage to the golden era of ’90s skateboarding, but there’s nothing about the handful of 21st-century chill-hop that makes it sound like it.
https://www.ign.com/articles/session-skate-sim-review Session: Skate Sim Review – IGN