Skate. PS3 / Xbox 360

Skate. PS3 / Xbox 360
Most every sport has its Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, an athlete so overpowering everyone else is satisfied fighting for second best. Tony Hawk has been that man in both the real and virtual skateboard arenas. But after countless videogames (including the recent Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground), an upstart contender has finally applied grip tape and dropped into the half-pipe. Deciding that Hawk’s arcade-style games had become too cartoonish, Skate take a revolutionarily organic simulator route that dials down the tricks and ups the authenticity (even the camera is placed back and to the left as if another skater was behind you filming). Yes, the graphics go for a photorealistic effect, but where it truly takes flight is by changing the controls from random button-mashing to a "flickit” system where you use the analog stick to ollie and the triggers for hand grabs. The game’s physics take care of the rest. Career mode takes you from street punk to Thrasher mag cover star and X-Games competitor, but it’s just as enjoyable zooming around in "free skate.” I mostly tended to hangout in Danny Way's skate park (he’s one of many pixilated pro skaters) but there’s an entire city to explore with hills to bomb down, rails to grind on and pools to ride. One of the coolest new features is a recording system that captures each and every trick or bail and lets you edit and upload your best and/or worst clips, where they’re subsequently voted on by other players. There may not be as many oh-wow airs, and the learning curve is pretty steep, but when you do pull off rad tricks it’s much more gratifying. It’s simply the most realistic skating experience you can have without skinning your knees. (EA Black Box/Electronic Arts)