Review: Not your typical Skate or Die, McFly!
Ever since video game players have come to know of one skating title that brought massive drooling from its addictive gameplay in 1999, the game got its stardom as the killer of all else in its class. Now, the sequel to this massively played series comes back with a third hitter, and with it, brings just what the sequel needs to stay in the ball park. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is here, and it's going to seize the sales charts for the third time in a row...
The Sony PlayStation, which was the home of the very first Tony Hawk, sells its next of kin to the PlayStation 2: the new throne of the first in the series. Like the last sequel, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 takes a leap into an entirely new perspective --?one that we can enjoy to?the fullest, and never look back on. Soon enough, other hardware platforms like the Game Boy Advance and the Microsoft Xbox will see the light of day when Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 hits their lineup as well (to go along with the PlayStation 2, PlayStation One, and GameCube titles). But for now, the best (and probably only choice) for a skating frenzy is on the PlayStation 2.
The simplicity of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is that it's a skateboarding game. What's so great about the game, though, is that it's the perfect blend of famous skaters (Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Kareem Campbell, Rune Gliffberg, Eric Koston, Bucky Lasek, Rodney Mullen, Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Geoff Rowley, Ellissa Steamer, Jamie Thomas, and the newcomer from MTV's hit TV series, Jackass, and also replacing Bob Burnquist -- Bam Margera), getting high air, and moving through insane tricks like grinds, ollies, 360? turns, and much more. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 also sports an addictive mission based system called Career Mode, where in it, you have to complete certain tasks in order to finish the game (secret videotapes and characters are unlocked when the game's over and done with, each time). These tasks mostly consist of collecting the letters S, K, A, T, and E to spell S-K-A-T-E, or locating the hidden videotape throughout each level. At other times, the goals have to do with what's inside the skating playground. Say for example, in Canada, a guy's tongue is stuck to an icy pole. Your job is to find a way to get it off. Another example would be how in the Airport arena, there are crooks pick pocketing travelers, and you've got to put an end to that by finding out where they are in the level, and knocking them out, making sure they won't ever want to mess with a guy or girl with a skateboard again. These levels require that you learn the game's tricks, and figure out how to reach a certain point in the game where specific accomplishments are needed for completion before the game's 2 minute timer stops ticking.
As a matter of fact, Neversoft even revamped the entire Career Mode into something different, and overall, much more satisfying. Instead of the second game's money system; players earned money to power their character up from finishing missions, you'll instead need to complete most of the goals within each level to proceed. Because of the new mission based system, the next level won't unlock itself until you've mastered the controls of the game's standards. This offers more replay value of each level, and forces players to explore the many tricks at their disposal (what they should be doing anyway). Gaining stat icons (hidden throughout each level, you can obtain a certain number of these) is a different objective in the game. While it isn't required to collect the stats, it should be anyhow, since it's the only way you can enlarge your status points for the better (these points improve on your lip tricks, manuals, high air you're able to reach, etc.).
More importantly though, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 exceeds the boundaries of gameplay goodness, and becomes even better than its first two predecessors. There's plenty of new tricks, as well as the old ones that'll give any of the previous or new fans a chance to become one with the game. Many fans of the first two will quickly synchronize themselves to their controllers, and once again remember how to fly higher than Heaven. For the new fans of the series, the controls are a handful with so much to do, and so much to learn, that once the player finds them out, they'll sit still in bafflement as to why they couldn't do what they now can.
It's easy to say that in addition to the bountiful combo list, the gameplay is faster and smoother than ever. Grinds can become virtually flawless; knowing that just about everything you can think of can be grinded on. Stairs, rails, walls, bumps, benches, fences, signs, wires, and cars, even. Objects in the levels are fashionably setup so cleverly, that your tricks at play never need to end. It's as if the PlayStation 2 controller were designed specifically for use of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, to play it over and over, and over again... As you're thumbing inside the game, though, you'll be able to see that your character is given a "special meter". When cruising the levels, linking tricks together and so on, this bar fills up, allowing you to later pull off a move that's unique to the character. Learning the specials, and every other trick in the game adds on to the immense replay value, and the total cost comes out just to be right.
Getting into the tricks for a moment...to go along with the old ones, there's a large bevy of brand new combos to perform right from the start. With the flow and ease in completing a variety of moves, you can now perform manual stalls right in the middle of a grind, a handplant, or just as you're skating the ground below you. Playing the game can go on almost forever, because whatever trick it is that you want to do, you can do it! Ollie into a kickflip, boneless jump over a hill and complete a 540? nosegrind right back down, and finish the trick off with a crooked grind around a circular bench. When it comes to tricks, there is no set limit. The amount of tricks you're able to pull off are the ones that you can make up yourself with the unlimited power of freedom in the new Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Additionally, the last game's new manual trick; balance the board at an awkward angle without falling, Neversoft created the Revert trick; a trick that when you go up a ramp, come down again, switch the board in the opposite direction, perform a manual, and then grind will successfully become a huge string of combos, that allows you to continue to do so for even more huge points.
Guess what? Those fancy combos, grinds, flips, stalls, and the rest you'll be learning are used for none other than to play the game's features. Making a return is the Career Mode; play through all the 8 unique levels by completing certain tasks throughout, Single Session; as if you were practicing for Career Mode levels, you'll develop your everything here in the 2 minute time limit you have, Free Skate; there is no time limit set, and you can pick from any level you want (Foundry, Canada, Rio, Suburbia, Airport, Skater's Island, Los Angeles, and Tokyo) to discover the nook and crannies in between each, Multiplayer; choose between games of Horse: spell a chosen word out by challenging a friend to complete the same tricks as you can, Slap: slap an opponent the most in the given time limit before the clock runs out, and even King of the Hill; find out who can wear the level's crown the longest before it's stolen by another player. One last menu is Tutorial, where each of the game's basic tricks is explained. Here you can practice jumping gaps, grinding objects, learn lip tricks, and even get used to the new Revert trick. Also, the 900? man himself -- Tony Hawk, guides the entire training course.
Since this is the first online game for the PlayStation 2, all of the same enjoyable multiplayer games from within are used in the same way online as they are used already in two-player mode...except with up to four people at once! While Sony's online adapter (capable of both Ethernet and Narrowband abilities) is delayed until spring, there are plenty of third party modems for sale, and can just as well be used to hook up on your console. Here's a list of which adapters you'll find useful, whether you're connecting through either Ethernet or Narrowband: LinkSys EtherFast 10/100 USB Network Adapter USB100TX, D-Link DSB-650TX USB Ethernet Adapter, SMC EZNET-USB 2102 USB, SOHOware 10/100 Mbps USB Ethernet Adapter NUB100, Zoom FaxModem 56K, USB Model 2985L, USB Pocket 56K NetSurfer NMT00700, MultiTech Systems MultiModemUSB MT5634ZBA-USB, and the Actiontec Call Waiting USB Modem USB56012-01CW.
A fresh start is given to the Create-A-Skater and Park Editor menus. There's just about every feature that could be possibly added from the human thought of within the Create-A-Skater menu. Tattoos, bracelets, necklaces, hats, bandanas, shirts, jackets, pants, shorts, shoes, socks, and even different shapes and sizes for the eyes, nose, mouth, amongst others are available to mold your Frankenstein into shape. You can also opt to change colors of something, whether it is a character's skin, hair, or even eyes. There's also the possibility of change in a character's age, height, and in fact their weight for any customizable posture you so desire. Plus, for the first time, you can make your own female skater: complete with transparent shirts, short skirts, and stylish clothing allowing any guy gamer the chance to actually want to play as a female.
And just like the new Create-A-Skater features, the Park Editor manager allows tons of more accessible pieces from which to design the mastermind circus rings of ramps, plants, and more for you and your friends to venture into. Such items like pools, half-pipes, staircases, and railings make their return to the Editor. And new items like trash cans, trailer houses, and even pits of death have the new game as an apparatus of momentum to want to create new parks forever, and ever. If that wasn't enough, you can shift the height of where a certain object is standing. Do you giggle to yourself when a railing is five feet below the normal surface? You can make it so! How about a bench placed 20 feet into the air? You may never be able to reach that spot, but linking together all kinds of ramps, walls, and other stuff could present a challenge for you to edit the design of a park to at least make an attempt to get up there.
Graphically speaking, the third game holds its own as a standout title in the PlayStation 2 collection. Each character is well done in fluid animation, clothing attire, and reacts perfectly with the surrounding atmosphere. Character's shadows blend in well, and adhere across each area that the player's movement also does. The environments, scaled larger than the second title, are even more lively than ever. Each of the game's areas holds approximately 20 or more individually interacting AI parts, and each one has a certain attitude to add to the level. A good example would be how in the Foundry level, the staff likes to yell when your character flies by them, over them, or into them.
Your character on screen is well rendered looking, and sleek in the game throughout. The clothing detail on all of the characters is there, from shoes with shoe laces, socks with lines, shorts with pockets, shirts with ripples...even caps with folds. I'll tell you, the graphics get so good in the new Tony Hawk, so as when your character falls down, blood will splatter accordingly to how a stain would stay. Occurrences in the other areas are just as real. For instance, you can break through a window, letting shards scatter about. When grinding, sparks can be set flying. Even the massive levels, which stick to what they "are" and have in them, all show off a projected angle at what makes the new Tony Hawk as real as you and me. One location being a suburban area, holding scenery of men barbecuing, construction workers building a house, and also a trailer park with ramps that let you live that saying, "The sky's the limit!"
What's new is good. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 has a lot of new. So, that must be good, right? The sounds of the game, frankly, are definitely lively, and fit just right to the game's mold. Characters, when they fall, are true with a thump. Rolling over wood or cement floors mimics the noise made if you were to actually attempt to skate over these areas in real life. When passing by the many other people acting out their parts in a level's layout, they can react to your character, whether they've got something to say that will help you complete a task, comment on how good or bad you skate, or murmur their own conversations about whatever's on the top of their head.
Bigger than the first sequel, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 fills more bands into the list of a wide variety of different music tastes. From rap/soul you get singers like Redman and Xzibit, in old-school rock/metal there's the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Motorhead, and in Punk, it's The Ramones. And really, these songs aren't your new age listening. Each song is a select style of which skaters prefer. If you're into skating at all, these are probably the bands that you'd like to listen to. It really all depends on the individual player's choice. Luckily, if you're more of a Country or Pop person, you'll find that the option to edit the play list is a feature you'll get used to most often. Through the pause menu, you can access a play list of songs that you can turn off, never to be heard through the gameplay again. Or if you're just interested in listening to one of the featured tracks, you can pause the game entirely, and jam with the long list of tracks available.