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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3

Developer: Neversoft Entertainment
Publisher: Activision
Genre: Sports
Players: 1-2
Similar To: Tony Hawk 1 & 2
Rating: Teen
Published: 01 :23 : 02
Reviewed By: Ryan Newman

Overall: 7.5 = Good


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Yes, that lovable star of Gleaming the Cube and those annoying pizza roll commercials is back once again to entertain the masses in the first PlayStation 2 installment of his massively successful series: the one, the only, Christian Sla..er, Tony Hawk.

Gameplay: 8/10
That is right, the series that made severely un-sporty game reviewers everywhere spout out skater lingo like they had been doing it all of their lives and had them falling over themselves to make it as though they were apart of the scene is back. Unfortunately, unlike the step from the first to the second, there isn’t as much of an evolutionary feel in this latest installment.

Sporting the now-famous gameplay style of linking tricks into combos to beat previous scores and accomplish level goals, there are a few new additions to the formula to keep things interesting. There is now a ‘revert’ command that allows you to link tricks from vert ramps (oh! I feel just like a skater saying that!) to street tricks. This helps in the scoring department, but it also slows down the momentum, making it a bit more difficult to pull off impressive tricks at close, opportune spots. The special meter also fills up during a combo as opposed to after it, which allows for longer and more fluid combinations.

Some old favorites make an return appearance here, such as create-a-skater, create-a-park, along with the skater shop to accessorize your skater and his or her skateboard. There is a new snazzy storefront that makes these options accessible, and the interface is much more streamlined. The one major feature that is a bit ahead of its time is the online multiplayer option; with Sony not having its broadband and dial-up adapter combo out, gamers will need something along the lines of a 3com USB modem to play online. That would be an extra $50-plus, especially considering that the official PlayStation 2 version is coming out soon, and so this is a feature that won’t get as much play as intended, at least for a few more months. It is nice to have it added though; at least there is a real title that will be ready to go once the network launches.

One noticeable improvement would have to be the level design. In the previous titles, my attention would wane part-way through the game, as the middle levels and some of the later ones never held my attention as much as the earlier ones. I’m happy to say that nearly every level here is rock-solid in their design, and feature a lot more ways to interact. The level goals are still there and all help to keep the game fun, though some are a bit vague, and they vary per skater and get increasingly difficult with time. Thankfully, they also allow some leeway, as levels can be unlocked while only some of the tasks are accomplished. This was nice as it kept me going and let some potentially annoying parts fall by the wayside, as the newer levels would renew my attention.

In all, though, this just feels like a brief step up in the series, or an add-on as opposed to a full-fledged sequel. While I was disappointed with the lack of new features gameplay-wise, the much improved level design and areas made up for a good deal of it. Even with its faults, the game still sports some of the more addictive gameplay that can be found out in the market and is a nice title to play in any sort of situation. Whether it is for a group of friends, an hour or so to kill time, or even for a ten or fifteen minute gaming spurt, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 fits the bill and does so well.

Graphics: 7/10
It felt a shade up from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2(x), and that is about it. While the levels tend to be much larger, they will also get a bit bland at times. That is not to say that this problem strikes a majority of the game; to the contrary, most of the levels look nice, but they also come with their share of problems. Tight corners will cause the skater to get stuck if they come off of a grind or a trick too soon, leaving them to spastically jerk left and right as precious seconds tick away, and certain objects offer no resistance as the skater passes through them.

The skaters themselves look well and are animated nicely, though unfortunately sans the nice motion-blur found in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2x. As the only gruesome aspects of the game, the blood splatters and the pain animations are much more detailed, with a few that made me wince in my chair. There are a few problems though: the animation that the skaters go into when the time is up will be in effect regardless of where they are, so if the time is up and they are on the side of a mountain, then they will stand perfectly still in their stance while they do an odd side-slide down the mountainside. There is also some polygon breakups when close to the camera, albeit very little. Visually, I expected more than I got. Yes, the larger levels are nice, but with other titles out now, it just shows that so much more could be done; instead of taking full advantage of the PlayStation 2, it just looks like a souped-up version of the second title.

Sound: 7/10
While not nearly as bad as Splashdown, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3’s soundtrack fails to entertain as much as its immediate predecessor. There are a few tracks that are worth listening to, as well as a playlist editor, but one can only listen to the same few songs so many times before they just become bland. There is also an ambient option that will turn the music off and just let the sound effects be heard, but that only works in moderation, as there really needs to be something else to keep a rhythm to when trying to chain tricks. While there is a fair amount of variety, there just isn’t enough of each genre to keep the adrenaline flowing. Also, there are a few tracks that are fingernails-grinding-chalkboard irritating.

The sound within the levels themselves isn’t that bad. While fellow skaters will be heard talking when approached, a car engine will fade off as it gets farther and farther away. While not too ambitious, there is enough going on to make the game world feel much more real than in the previous efforts. From construction workers banging away at a house to some men shooting the breeze around a barbecue pit, an admirable job is done to make the world more alive.

Control: 8.5/10
If you have played any game in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, then you will be at home here. There are very few new additions, with the most meaningful being the ‘revert’ command that will let the skater combine air and street tricks; these are easily accomplished via the L2 and R2 buttons. There were only a few times when the skaters would get stuck, but other than that and a few randomly laggy moments, it plays just like its predecessors. One thing that I do appreciate is how accessible the menus are; far too many games require exiting the game itself and going back to the menu to change a sound option, and even the earlier titles would need to load the trick menus for the level, but no more, as a simple pause will allow access to the necessities. It seems like a small thing to mention, but it was very much appreciated.

Overall: 7.5/10
As Sony’s official PlayStation 2 modem isn’t out yet, the game’s multiplayer mode -- the real big addition to the series -- isn’t really accessible. Other than the revert command and a few other tweaks and larger levels, this is just a small step up from the previous installment. However, considering that this is the only version optimized for the PlayStation 2 and that it has that knack for being great for random spurts or even for long play sessions, with the addictive ‘beat the score’ mentality that is missing from so many games these days, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 rounds out as a solid title.

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Related Links: Neversoft Entertainment