Skater Nation is Gameloft's upcoming open-world skateboarding game which really puts the other skateboarding titles available on the platform to shame when it comes to overall depth and complexity. Obviously inspired by the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series of games, Skater Nation runs inside of a game engine that was described as a "sibling" to the one used in Gangstar to have a completely open city with multiple environments with absolutely no loading time as you travel from place to place.
The city consists of ten highly skater-friendly locales that range from indoor factories to an outdoor skate park, and even a street that was inspired by Lombard Street in San Francisco. (Although notably absent was the half mile line of cars waiting to drive down the street.) Featuring two main game modes, you can either freely skate around the city, or choose one of 6 initially available skaters and progress through a career mode where you will complete a series of 36 challenges, and unlock both equipment upgrades and 2 additional skaters.
Unlockable equipment includes 10 skateboard decks, 10 trucks, and 10 wheel sets. Each of these skateboard components increase your skater's statistics to allow you to jump higher, skate faster, and otherwise increase your performance. The missions the various characters in the game will give you to complete are straight out of the Tony Hawk games and consist of doing tricks on specific obstacles, scoring a certain amount within a time limit, racing from checkpoint to checkpoint, and others.
The game is controlled using a virtual joystick and two buttons which handle all the different moves your skater is capable of. While the library of tricks you can do is nowhere near as vast as modern console skateboarding games, all the main grind types and board flips are in place. Skater Nation has a combo system that will be familiar to anyone who has played a skateboarding game before, with strings of tricks that can be tied together with manuals for massive point totals.
While the game itself was cool enough, what really blew me away was the replay editor. Much like Skate, you will be able to rewind the last 3-4 minutes of gameplay to save replays of cool tricks, jumps, or combos you were able to pull off. These replays can then be uploaded to YouTube, and Gameloft even has plans to implement a website to tie together all of these YouTube videos with features such as the ability to vote on your favorites.
Skater Nation had great graphics, and was running at a high framerate on the iPhone 3GS test units. Like all Gameloft games, they are designed to be playable across the entire iPhone and iPod Touch product line. In my brief time with the game, the only thing I saw that I was disappointed by was the lack of any kind of ragdoll system for when you fall off your skateboard.
When you wipe out, the screen simply fades and you're back on your skateboard-- Unlike most other skateboarding games that include brutal ragdoll powered wipe-outs. Regardless, I had a great time playing Skater Nation, and look forward to its release. According to Gameloft, they will be submitting the game very soon and expect it to be released by the holiday season.