It’s an ambitious move to take on competitors in a well-established genre, more so when big-hitters like Skate 3 excel in their presentation and suite of features. Last year Tony Hawk Ride attempted to bring something new to the action-sports table by drastically changing the nature of play, and failed miserably. Will Ubisoft Montreal have any luck pushing the boundaries in their newest title?

The Ministry Says: “Conformity, it’s great! It’s safe!”

The stage is set with Shaun White’s detainment. As the leader of “the Rising” – a group of rebels attempting to counteract the damage done by the Ministry – White has been public enemy number one for some time. The news of his capture would please citizens of New Harmony as it scrolls along the news tickers – if “emotion” was still a word in their vocabulary. But it isn’t. The Ministry has made sure of that.

White himself doesn’t seem concerned with his capture. Instead, he seems interested in you, the one tasked with taking his personal effects and locking them away. White seems to know more than you do, and upon touching his prized skateboard, something inside you awakens. A disembodied voice instructs you to escape the facility. Jumping down a conveniently-placed maintenance shaft, you do just that, and enter New Harmony with fresh eyes.

The Ministry Says: “Don’t push yourself! Be average!”

Before the Ministry took over New Harmony, skateboarding was the lifeblood of the city. Now everything is boring, lifeless, and safe. Stepping into a subway, you are greeted by the body that belongs to the distinguished voice that lead you here. A white-haired gentleman named Jonah introduces himself, and makes obvious that he has a firm grasp of the situation. Obviously more than you do, anyway. He believes that you are the one that will inspire creativity and reinvigorate New Harmony. Starting now.

The transformation begins instantly. Jonah instructs you to perform simple tricks within the subway station bring it back to life. A few ollies and a short grind along a bench do the job, turning the enclosed space from desaturated and dim to an interior washed in color and urban art. Moving to an adjacent room, Jonah now shows you how to influence the world on a bigger scale, introducing the concept of flow. Flow is a measure of success in the game, and the currency in which you influence the world around you. By skating a large rail and performing some simple street tricks, we built up enough flow to cause a ramp to burst from the surface of the street. The ramp then allowed us to reach a brainwashed denizen of New Harmony, and with our flow meter maxed out, another trick woke him from his stupor. Time for bigger and better things, says Jonah.