Skate 3 – The PS3 Attitude Review
It would appear that not long after Tony Hawk himself retired from professional skateboarding competition, the games bearing his name followed suit.
Does EA’s Skate 3 put the final nail in the ‘coffin’ for Activision? (That’s a skateboarding reference right there people)
It doesn’t seem like three years have passed since the original Skate game freshened up the genre and was received with much critical acclaim, and its fair share of funny ‘glitch’ videos. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but the big selling point for this new foray into skateboarding was the combination of a ‘natural control method’ and a more lifelike ‘boarding experience.
In Skate, you took control of a skateboarder in the fictional town of San Vanelona. Skate 2 brought us the city of New San Van, re-built after a number of ‘natural disasters’. Skate 3 does away with the old locations entirely and delivers a new location, called Port Carverton.
Unlike the San Van mentality, where skateboarding is seen as a crime and you’re being chased from pivot to pop, Port Carverton embraces skateboarding and offers much more freedom. It is more colourful than either of the San Vans, and pedestrians will even cheer you on. In all, the Port is a much nicer place to skate than we’ve been used to in this franchise.
As before, various skating challenges are marked on a mini-map, and the variety of these has been improved. You’ll be subjected to a number of different challenge types, such a ‘photo’, ‘own the spot’ locations, ‘death races’ and the like. A new ‘team’ element comes in to Skate 3 as you build a group of skaters that ride under your own banner; in our case, Team Attitude. During certain team challenges you’ll take control of your various team members, and in others they will compete alongside you, controlled by the completely competent AI.
Completing challenges will generally unlock new clothing and equipment items, characters and additional challenges to compete in, just as in previous versions.
Two new game modes have been added in this iteration – one that simplifies the trick system (Easy Mode) and one to make it harder (Hardcore Mode). Hardcore Mode restricts a number of tricks so that they can only be performed at a lower height, making getting onto ledges much harder. Grinds are also much harder in Hardcore mode, and it takes five pushes to get to top speed on the flat as opposed to the three. Easy Mode makes changes to the physics too, allowing higher (n)ollies, faster spins, and easier grinds.
The online element in Skate 3 is better than it has been, and unlike some of the problems we experienced in the previous two editions, it seems lag-free and therefore much more enjoyable. In addition to the usual online modes, Skate 3 adds ‘1-Up’, ‘Domination’ and ‘Own The Lot’.
1-Up is effectively Skate 3’s version of HORSE, PIG or any other variant of the ‘beat that’ game you may have played in other skating games, or indeed on a skateboard in real life. Domination is a fun online mode, as teams compete against each other to try to ‘own’ as many spots that they can in a time limit. Own The Lot, which is available in both offline and online modes, contains a list of things to do within a particular zone. In the online variant, the first team to do them all wins.
You’ll also find a fully featured, and remarkably easy to use, skatepark editor. Want to re-create a famous park, like Burnside or the X-Games street course? Go ahead. As you go through your ‘career’, you’ll unlock enough elements to create almost any type of park, including monster trick setups that mirror Danny Way’s monumental ‘big air’ ramps.
As you progress through the game posting new photos, magazine covers, billboard adverts for your team and completing the various challenges, your progress is monitored by a bar that shows you how many skateboards you’ve sold. Reach the 1,000,000 mark and you have effectively completed the ‘career’ mode. However, you’ll still be left with dozens of challenges to complete once this milestone has been passed, and then there is always the expansive online mode and the ability to create your own team of friends so that you can compete online for fame and fortune*.
Skate 3 includes its fair share of notable skateboarding stars such as Eric Koston, Darren Navarrette, Terry Kennedy and more. It also features a good number of the now-ubiquitous product placements. Heck, even one of the trophies is named after a mobile phone provider, so those of you sharing your exploits on Facebook will be unwittingly giving them a minor boost. However, the products never outshine the game, and any advertising or sponsorship fits naturally in, just as it would if you were watching a skate competition on Rush, EuroSport or ESPN.
Whilst the ‘Party Play’ offline co-op mode has been removed, we’re pleased to say that the ever humorous Hall of Meat returns, this time with some additional features that allow you to carry on breaking bones and scraping flesh for minutes at a time, if you can get your button presses in exactly the right place. To be honest – and we’ve told the developers this in person – we’d love to see the Hall of Meat appear as a game of its own on the PSN. It is that much fun!
As well as crisp and colourful graphics that never seem to glitch or shudder, Skate 3 also features a great soundtrack with an interesting feature. Some of the tracks, such as exclusives from Del the Funkee Homosapien, appear interactively when you pull an amazing trick in a particular area of the city. If you feel you don’t want to go discovering to hear the music you prefer, however, you can switch off this interactive music mode and go for the old-fashioned play-list instead.
Another area of Skate 3 that is a big improvement over the previous incarnations is the tutorial system. Not only has it been completely revamped, making it easier to learn new tricks such as the array of darkslides available, but the entire tutorial has been voiced by My Name is Earl actor Jason Lee. His likeness appears in the form of Coach Frank, and he seems like a perfect match for the game.
For those of you who know your skateboarding, you’ll remember that before his success as Earl, Jason Lee was a professional skateboarder who, in fact, was one of the first two people to get a signature shoe from Airwalk. The other was Tony Hawk.
Skate 3 is the best in the series, and we can state that without any shadow of doubt. In fact, it is also the best skateboarding game we’ve played since Tony Hawk 3. The game gives you a real feeling that you are actually skating, and pulling off some of the harder challenges after a dozen attempts makes you feel that you’ve really accomplished something. With the video editing and sharing built in to the game, you can even show all your friends what you’ve achieved.
The game doesn’t rely on gimmicks, breakable plastic peripherals or 100,000,000 point flat-trick combos to win you over. Our only concern is that this is the third Skate in three years, so it seems the franchise has entered the EA ‘mill’. Whilst Skate 3 includes enough new features to make it a worthwhile purchase, we hope that the developers and EA slow down a little and support this title with great DLC and online events that mean we don’t have to worry about Skate 4 for a couple of years at least.
With Tony Hawk: Shred coming later in the year, and some new competition with Ubisoft’s Shawn White Skateboarding on the horizon, the future can only be bright for fans of decks, trucks and grip tape.