Session: Skate Sim review – Grind pays off with 2022 update

An image of Session Skateboarding SimCrea-Ture Studios, Illogika

Session has been out for a while, but after a slew of updates the game just keeps growing. Is it worth playing in 2022?

The skateboarding genre had disappeared into the ether for the best part of a decade, but Crea-ture Studios’ Session has strived to restore it to its former glory since arriving on Steam Early Access and Xbox Game Preview in  September 2019 and June 2020 respectively.

Session’s initial launch didn’t manage to inspire a lot of confidence in casual and hardcore skateboarding fans alike, but the spiritual successor to EA’s Skate franchise has continued to refine its experience into a surprisingly nuanced take on the beloved sport.

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Session: Skate Sim – Key details

  • Price: $19.99 / £16.74
  • Developer: Crea-ture Studios, Illogika
  • Release date: September 17 2019, June 17 2020
  • Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC

Session: Skate Sim trailer


Going back to basics

Session has come a long way since its Kickstarter origins. Gone is the ambiguous location of an unnamed jail. Now, players are greeted with an expansive recreation of New York and Philadelphia’s premier skate spots. You’ve likely seen some of them pop up in other games, such as the Brooklyn Banks that have appeared in Tony Hawk’s Underground. No matter which spot you decide to tear it up in, Session makes it clear that this is back to basics experience.

An introductory tutorial greets players and reduces the game’s seemingly daunting difficulty from the get-go. Crea-ture are committed to making this an experience that anyone can pick up, whether they’ve got ten minutes or an hour to spend on Session’s mechanics.

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Rather than spam numerous sporadic inputs, Session is all about precision and picking your opportunities to trick wisely. Sure, you can certainly attempt to smash out triple kickflips on flatland, but you’ll likely eat the pavement as a result.

Each stick on the controller represents your left and right foot, combining them to replicate the motions of actual foot placement on a skateboard. Pull the left stick down to prime your left foot, flick up with the right stick to pop, and presto, you can ollie my friend. There is a learning curve to Session’s often strict timing, but it never feels unfair or as if the player is facing necessarily hurdles.

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Session is informed by a multitude of variable factors that include wheel grip, board length, speed, weight, and terrain (among others). Session is physics-based, making it feel more like a sim than similar titles.

An image of Session Skate SimCrea-Ture Studios, Illogika
Session’s focus on realism sets itself apart from rival games.

Manuals and reverts feel slick as you weave through the city streets while pulling off lines of tricks has an element of reward for your persistence. Chaining together shove-its into manuals to keep your momentum going is always thrilling.

You’re free to traverse (on your board or on foot) Session’s impressive array of locations at will, but there is a traditional linear mission path to follow if you wish to. Mission’s will grant you the opportunity to unlock gear and cosmetics from some of the world’s leading skate brands.

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Session’s tangible aesthetic and world design are refreshing to see; whereas Skater XL feels empty and lifeless, there is a pulse that beats through Session’s plethora of locations. Built from scratch in Unreal Engine 4, Session’s visual polish has improved vastly since my initial experience with it back in 2020. The excellent sound design ebbs and flows with vibrations and texture, as you transition from smooth pavements to rough asphalt, moving over metal floor grids along the way.

Each area feels worn in and shows signs of a bustling pedestrian culture stomping through the streets, going about their everyday errands. The day and night cycle is a neat touch too, taking the game’s stride for realism that extra bit further.

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Skate your way

Crea-ture Studios have been working on Session for a few years now, with 2022 acting as the game’s final year of production. Before it drops on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, a fresh update has been implemented into the game that adds a considerable amount of customization. In its early days, Session felt rigid and unresponsive.

Now, players can alter virtually every aspect of the core game experience, right down to your wheel bite. For most players entering the world of Session for the first time, the revised difficulty options and refinements are a highly appealing feature for those phased by the game’s realism.

If you’re after something more akin to EA’s acclaimed Skate franchise, then you’re all set to go, because there is a ‘Legacy’ feature that transforms the controls into the classic Skate format. You can also tweak numerous aspects such as gravity, pop height, rotation speed, flip trick settings, and more. Skate set the gold standard for pseudo-realistic/arcade-style skating games and its clear that Crea-ture acknowledges that heritage — and the desire for more.

Session allows the player complete freedom to tweak the game to their needs and enjoyment. Here you can always skate your way.

An image of Session Skate SimCrea-Ture Studios, Illogika
Session’s completely overhauled customization is extremely welcome.

Tightening the trucks

As aforementioned, Session hasn’t completed its full development cycle just yet. There are still areas of the game that require some more polish. The addition of a ‘Performance’ mode is great for players looking for a targeted 60FPS, but this can drop the more you tweak with the game’s settings.

For the reward of freedom with the overhauled customization, it feels like a slight comprise for smooth performance should you dig deeper into the various menu options. Transitions between animations are better overall, but the move from mounting and dismounting your skateboard is still visually unappealing and jarring.

8/10

Crea-ture Studios have honed Session into a real gem. The continuous improvements are impressive, the developers have remained transparent with their passionate audience since 2019, and it shows in the game’s evolution. Session is alive with the ideas and constructive criticism of actual skaters, whether they’re learning the ropes or seasoned half-pipe veterans.

The game’s early hours will likely cause some frustration as you get to grip with its rejuvenated approach to the genre. Like anything that is worth doing, Session rewards your patience and grinding with satisfying gameplay inside a rich re-creation of iconic skate spots.

Session has a way to go before you’ll feel completely like a Pro Skater, but for now, hitting the streets with some low-fi beats will do.

Reviewed on Xbox Series S