With Skater XL launching in Early Access last December, and the Skate series long gone at this point, Session is one of the few remaining names yet to properly show its face in the genre, which of course leads to inevitable comparisons with EA's franchise, which we'll get out of the way early on. Yes, it shares certain similarities with EA's franchise that fans still yearn for, but as with SkaterXL, there are key differences here, as we've seen when trying it out in its new Early Access phase.
The key thing to remember is that the right stick controls the right leg, and vice versa for the left leg, which - as you might have guessed - means the right stick doesn't control all of the movements. Instead, it's a combination of both sticks to produce ollies, manuals, tricks, and more, which of course takes some time to get used to if your muscle memory is wired differently.
That said, it makes a lot of sense, especially when compared to real life. In the same way, R2 and L2 (we were playing using a DualShock 4 on PC) shift your weight to the left and right respectively, which is certainly a change of pace. It all makes sense, but that doesn't make it easier to get to grips with, and trying to get the basics nailed down will certainly take some time for most players.
After a while though you'll find yourself getting into the rhythm of things and remembering how to turn, jump, and do tricks, all of which is helped by a tutorial to get you into the mindset that Session is going for. After that, it's a case of experimenting in the sandbox, and consulting a tricks list to try and improve.
Already there's an engaging experience in this Early Access demo. There's a New York sandbox to explore, albeit with areas that are locked off, and the inclusion of session markers (points you can teleport to) allow you to try a variety of spots again and again for the sweetest of tricks, or that perfect grind. It's a fun world to explore, and recreates the urban vibe nicely, providing plenty of banks and ledges to make use of.
There are also a few other details in there to get the community interested, like customisation features. We assume this will be deepened as time goes by, but there are already a variety of clothing options and board adjustments you can make, and a sturdy replay editor makes capturing your highlights even easier, allowing you to take shots, rewind, fast forward, and move the camera after the fact.
That said, there's one thing that stood out like a sore thumb, and that's the fact that grinds are exceptionally hard at times. It's punishing, and even when we're sure we've lined it up right we still eat dirt more often than not, so be prepared to make a lot of mistakes while getting used to these controls, which could do with a lot more explaining when it comes to grinds.
This is once again all in the name of realism, but there is an assisted mode to help you out in this area. This sacrifices that realism to help grinds land a bit easier, so we'd advise trying this out as well if you're struggling, although don't expect it so automatically drag your board to rails and ledges in mid-air - you still have to be deadly accurate.
On top of that there are other experimental features you can enable, like grabs, as crea-ture Studios works to add content to the game, and for now we're pretty happy with what this early version of the game shows. It's a proof of concept for sure, illustrating the emphasis on realism and street skating, but it's fun to play already and shows a lot of potential. It just depends how crea-ture can layer on the content from here on in.