Playing Session reminds me that I’m useless at skateboarding.
Many, many years ago when I was younger, thinner and a whole lot fitter, I decided I was going to learn how to skateboard. The notion didn’t last long. After coming off my board more times than I care to remember, I threw in the towel. I decided I’d stick to playing Tony Hawk on the PlayStation. It was a good decision.
Skateboarding games have seemingly fallen out of favour since then. Either that, or there’s a huge gap in the market just waiting for someone to fill it. With Session, crea-ture Studios Inc. is hoping for the latter. But fans of the Tony Hawk series might want to think twice before jumping in. Session is a serious skateboarding sim that requires hard work, skill and dedication, much like skateboarding in real life. It doesn’t provide instant gratification.
Let loose in an authentic recreation of New York, you’re given a quick tutorial to get you going and then you’re left to your own devices. But Session‘s unique controls mean that even beyond the tutorial you’re still learning.
Playable only with a controller, various movements and limbs are attached to buttons, analogue sticks and triggers. Using an Xbox One controller, the X and A buttons push with your left and right foot respectively, while the left and right analogue sticks determine how each foot manipulates your skateboard. Ergo, to perform a kickflip in a standard stance, you need to move the right analogue stick down and then flick the left analogue stick to the left.
Things get more complicated when you decide you want to turn left or right: to do that, you need to use the left and right triggers. Honestly, everything takes a while to get used to, but once you’ve grasped the basics you’ll be happy with the progression you’ve already made. Like skateboarding in real life, it’s all a matter of trying new things, getting back up if you fall down, and not getting disheartened.
Initially you’re likely to just explore your surroundings, performing basic jumps, kickflips and grinds. Once you’ve mastered those you might start trying to learn some of Session‘s more advanced tricks (although you can’t perform any grabs at the moment – they’re coming later). And when you feel like you’re ready to show off, you can replay and even record your runs.
For those who like direction, daily and weekly challenges are available, and there are also historical challenges to discover, but that’s about it. I’ll reiterate: Session isn’t an arcade experience with an exciting campaign full of hi-jinks and ludicrous scenarios; it’s a serious skateboarding sim meant to provide an accurate depiction of the sport. If you’re expecting to be able to jump into it and perform a 720º spin within minutes you’ll be highly disappointed.
On the back of that, Session has a big question mark over it for me. With it so doggedly pursuing authenticity and realism, why would someone who wants to play the game not just go out and actually learn how to skateboard? It’s probably just as demanding. Perhaps my own skateboarding experiences are the answer: because it hurts. Ultimately though, I can’t help but feel that those seeking to play a skateboarding game would prefer something more exciting and gratifying.
But let’s not write Session off before it’s even finished. Currently in early access, Session isn’t content or even feature complete; who knows what will be added or changed in the coming months. All I know is that if you pick it up today you’ll find that it’s perfectly playable and presents plenty of skateboarding opportunities for its humble asking price. But it’s not Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater or Skate; it’s not going to make you feel like a skateboarding prodigy within minutes. Some people will like that, many others will loathe it.
Session is currently available on PC via Steam Early Access.