I'm awfully afraid of reviewing this game, because, after the 6 days straight I've spent playing it, I can think of little other than phrases singing it's praise. But I'll try not to be biased.
Skate 2's starts with you, previous SOTY, being released from prison. What you did is unclear, although there joking speculation that you beat someone at a football match with Haggis (I wonder where that Scottish joke came from?). As you would expect from there on, you spend your time remembering to skateboard, and climbing your way back up the ladder, gathering sponsorships and contacts. In my opinion, the storyline is a lot better than it even needs be; I'd be happy with a map and a skateboard.
The first instance of interaction with the game comes with creating your character - a feature that was fantastic in the original skate. There is very little difference in the sequel - create a face, adjust your weight, choose hair color, then move on hastily to skateboard. Although the create-a-character feature still isn't fantastic and your skater can tend to look a bit... otherworldly, it's there. It's good (or should I say, adequate), and quick. The next step is choosing your clothes and gear, of which there is a lot of choice. There's obviously a lot of brand influence here, but all legitimate skateboarding brands and neither company is favored - the choice is completely yours (although I have to say, the game really wants you to wear a 59/50... very few other styles of hats even exist in the store).
I've said before, I would have been perfectly happy paying £40 for a whole new San Vanelona, a new map to play around on. And with the few changes EA have made to the gameplay, that's almost exactly what skate 2 is. So after saying that and receiving it, am I happy? Absolutely. The story dictates that San Van fell victim to major land-changes while you were tucked away in jail, so there are still a fair few spots recognizable, but the city has been re-laid and it really does just feel so much better. You can still cruise through Old Town, warp to the DC Mega ramp or bomb the hills of the Rez, but the entire place is remodeled and really works nicely.
The overall feel of the game is still fantastic, flickit feels beautiful and there are a few new tricks such as no-complies and hippie jumps that have been incorporated quite nicely. Obviously a huge feature implemented is being able to get off your board - this, I'm afraid, is not the game's strongest point. By pressing Y you jump off your board, giving you the ability to run up stairs, move objects to skate and so on. But this feels awfully clunky, requiring both sticks to move around properly, being very sluggish to turn, and you're even unable to walk backwards in the slightest. Although I can appreciate walking up stairs, I feel the game could completely do without this feature. Objects you move are likely to be pushed around by pedestrians/security guards, and it forces you all too often to use your feet instead of your wheels. A severe disappointment in an otherwise brilliant game.
Achievements... Well, those of you that played the first skate will know that a full thousand in the game took less than a week's play and was never especially tasking. In this game they've stepped it up slightly, but not to a point where you're unable to achieve 100%, not by any means. You're looking at about 900/1000 by simply playing through, no especially hard achievements, and then the last 100 is just slightly time-consuming, with online freeskate activities and Legend rank being the hardest. Absolutely a game to 100%, just perhaps with a little longer than the first.
Overall, skate 2 is an improvement on it's predecessor, with a fantastic map, a few new tricks and some really great challenges. The graphics aren't quite as enhanced as I was expecting, and getting off your board is a severe pain - though it doesn't hinder gameplay if you avoid it, leading me to give this game a solid 5 stars.