Session: Skate Sim has been in development by Montreal-based independent developer Crea-ture Studios since 2017. The small nine-person team have just pushed their game out of Early Access with the launch of the official version 1.0 of Session.
The game, considered by some as the spiritual successor to the Skate series, is now available for Windows PC (Steam and Epic), PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, and Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
What makes Session very different from previous skateboarding games is its attempt at realistically simulating the art of skateboarding in a virtual world. There's very little of the "arcadeishness" of other titles in the niche. No HUD, no pinball-worthy points scores flashing across the screen, no racking up XP and career points either. And no easy mode controls. (More on that in a moment.)
In fact, Session is devoid of much more than the skater, their board, and the street environment in which play sessions take place. That perhaps is currently the biggest niggle with the game - the world is too empty. There's no big city ambiance, no pedestrians to nip and cut through, no moving traffic to avoid.
(To be fair, pedestrian traffic can be activated in the game, but it is marked as an Experimental feature, and seems to cause a fair amount of stuttering and game slow down for people at the moment.)
The lone player-controlled skater also highlights another potential turn-off for some: this is a single player only experience. At least currently. There has been talk in the past of adding multiplayer options, but this hasn't happened in any form for this initial launch.
As I mentioned earlier, another thing that many skate gamers are going to have to get used to with Session is its unique control scheme. Firstly, it's a controller only game. Things will not work well for keyboard (and mouse) warriors here at all. The reason for the controller is that each of the sticks represents one of your feet. Players will need to learn how to control them and transfer weight, just like on a real skateboard.
As Andrew Webster writes in his review of the game for Verge:
This also means that Session is definitely an acquired taste. It has difficulty settings, but no matter which setting you choose, it’s still a challenge. One of the pause menus even displays a warning: “Session is a hard game and will test your patience. Be advised.”
Much like real skateboarding, though, if you stick with it, that patience will be rewarded. And if not? Well, there are lots of other great skating games for other tastes. Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to leap down this staircase for the dozenth time. I’ll land it eventually.
The physics have been developed with a focus on realism, smoothness and immersion. Just like in real life for a new skateboarder, the first hours can seem challenging, but once you have mastered the technique, you will feel the unrivalled thrill of pulling off your very first kickflip!
Session: Skate Sim also includes full options customization, so you can enjoy the perfect experience tailored to you. A tutorial / single-player mini-campaign provides enough detail to get you started, and you can choose from four difficulty levels. That said, some players report not seeing much of a difference in difficulty at any level. At least not until they've mastered controlling the board and moving through the world comfortably.
Inspired by the golden age of street skating – the 1990s – Session: Skate Sim lets you experience true skateboarding and its culture: no scoring system; just you, your spot and your imagination. There are no judges to tell you that your noseslide or varial heelflip are perfect for this spot. And because certain locations are iconic, the developers have added several of them to the game for you to skate in and express your creativity, including Black Hubbas and Brooklyn Banks in New York City, FDR Park in Philadelphia, Pier 7 and China Banks in San Francisco, and a number of others. Players who opt for the Supporter Pack add-on also get access to Péitruss Skatepark in Luxembourg, Europe's largest dedicated skatepark.
Skating and pulling off the best lines in the best spots is one thing, but if no one is there to see it did it really happen? In keeping with the 90s aesthetic, in Session you can film your moves with a traditional 1990s video camera filter or fisheye lens, and you can use the (pretty advanced for an in-game tool) video editor to create your clips and share them. You can play with multiple options, including changing the field of view, time of day, filters, and a number of different camera views (tripod, orbit, etc.).
Session: Skate Sim also offers the chance to go from skater to filmmaker: pull off your moves then go into film mode to experience the action from the point of view of your camera operator and create the best clip.
There's also an extensive customisation system for your skater and skateboard. By completing challenges, you earn money to spend in skate shops. You can find nearly 200 items (hoodies, shoes, caps, T-shirts, trousers, etc.) from top skate culture brands, such as Fallen, Zero, GrindKing, Thankyou, HIJINX Net, Antilanta, Roger Skate CO, No-Comply, iDabble, and others.
You can also customise your skateboard with over 250 parts, such as wheels, trucks and many other components from famous brands like No-Comply, Grind King, Thankyou and many others. In addition to the design aspect, the components (trucks, riser pads, wheels) impact the way you skate. Finding the right combination of board components to suit your style and ability level is part of the challenge of the simulation.
PlayStation: Standard @ R1 069
Xbox: Standard @ R839 / Deluxe @ R1 009
Windows PC: Standard @ R299 / Supporter Edition @ R446
(20% / 28% launch discount until 29 September)