The best part about skate. is the controls. I had heard a few skaters featured in the game praise it for being "more like actual skating" which I thought was just a way of saying "they paid me to say that", but it's true. I skated for most of my teens and I'm impressed with how innovative the controls are. I can't believe nobody had thought of that before.
People had been saying for years that Tony Hawk was getting long in the tooth and I kept expecting them to innovate the brand and refresh it, but it just kept missing. The last version I bought was THUG, and they just seemed to be looking at the video game landscape at the time and integrating whatever was happening—in THUG's case that was Grand Theft Auto.
Tony Hawk's Project 8 (a fancy way of saying they'd made eight of them) had a pretty cool Matrix-inspired slow-motion trick feature, but I rarely used it when I was really playing. In the end all you really want to do is skate and find good lines, all the extra hoop jumping is just noise.
It's worth giving skate. a chance if you gave up on skate games and Tony Hawk.