Skate 4 Needs To Make Its Open-World Feel Alive

It’s no secret that we have been asking for a new entry to EA’s Skate series for over a decade, and in 2020 we finally got confirmation that it was in the works. Now, a few years on, we’re hoping that the big reveal is right around the corner, and everyone has their wants and expectations going in. The world itself could do with a big overhaul compared to the older games, and that’s the top of my personal wishlist of changes for this series.

There’s no doubt that the skateboarding will be great – it’s been excellent in each prior entry, so that’s going to be the easy bit. What will be more difficult is making the game feel like it can fit in with every other modern open-world game, and last for years to come. Skate 2 featured one big open-world, and Skate 3 had multiple maps to explore, but in both games, everything felt a little… dull. Games have moved on a lot since Skate 3, and the new game needs to make sure it keeps up with fan expectations.

In the arduous wait for Skate 4, other teams have tackled the medium to try to fill that space. Session and Skater XL are two notable games that continue to evolve and try their hand at the genre. However, even though they have both added so much over a few years and put their own spin on the skateboarding genre, they have both fallen into the same trap – the skating is great, but the worlds are so bland. Maybe this will change over time, and skating is the priority in a skateboarding game, but Skate 4 needs to make sure it avoids this pitfall altogether.

EA’s new entry in the Skate series promises a large open-world to explore and skate freely. This sounds exciting, but it really needs to step it up from Skate 3 – you’d hope this would be a given after a decade, but the concern is rightly placed. We don’t want the same three NPCs walking around areas of the map soullessly, while blacked-out-windowed cars mow you down without a second thought before driving off again on their infinite loop. We need a world that feels alive, with people going about their day naturally and fluently.

There are many ways to make sure this is the case. NPCs can be unique, undertaking various activities around the world, as they react to the skaters and each other in realistic and believable ways. We should also have the option of more interaction with the world itself, including conversations with skaters and NPCs, and the introduction of stores to visit across the map. It’s worth noting that Session does feature stores to buy boards and gear, but these are currently in their most basic form, offering nothing more than a generic menu to purchase items – Skate 4 could have stores that let you interact with the vendors, browse the stock across the shop, and feel like they change over time. There is certainly room for improvement.

Lots of these little things are what we expect out of open-world games nowadays, but the points need to be reiterated for a series returning after a 12+ year hiatus. We want a world we can head out into, and explore the creative possibilities of skating in each area. The fun of skateboarding in real life is using what’s in the environment as your obstacles and overcoming them. Skate 2 and 3 always felt like everything was placed and built to be skated, so a new game should let the players figure out what can be skated and develop an eye for creating a new spot, rather than just having a convenient rail and ramp sitting on the sidewalk.

The open-world could even be taken a step further and include player housing, in different areas of the world and purchasable as you make a bigger name for yourself in your career. This isn’t as far-fetched as you might think either, as many games give you an accessible house as part of a story mode, so placing that into Skate will only make it feel that much more dynamic of an experience. You could decorate it with your awards or use it as a place to store all your different decks, but whatever you use it for, a house of your own would be a surefire way to make you feel like you actually live in the game’s world. Either way, I could make a whole wishlist of specific things for the game that we might not get, but the world the game offers just needs to feel like there is something to it, beyond skateboarding.

The truth is, even if the world and NPCs of Skate 4 still feel underwhelming, akin to the original games, we’re still going to play the hell out of it – let’s be honest. However, with so many fans waiting this many years, there would still be a tinge of disappointment that it’s not as good as we wanted it to be. Skate 4 has the potential to dominate the genre and become one of the biggest games of the year when it launches, and while we almost definitely know the skating itself will be fantastic, we have to hope it will take the time and make the most of the details too.

It’s wonderful to see that the game is going in such a community-focused direction; having multiplayer interactions and indefinite maps and parks made by players will increase the longevity of the game immensely. However, we still need that core map to feel like it’s a real place, and that we are heading out into a living city to see what we can skate – not just a pointless world that feels like everything is built perfectly for skateboarding, and skateboarding only.

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