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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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