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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

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Enter the world of pro skateboarding as the man himself in Aspyr's latest

Every sport has its hero, and pro skateboarding is no exception. Enter Tony Hawk, pro skater and Apple user. How fitting then that Aspyr Media's latest opus, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, should be such an excellent addition to any Mac gamer's collection.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 picks up where Pro Skater 2 left off; players hit the virtual skate park under the identity of one of 13 professional skateboarders. Big names besides Hawk include Bam Margera, Steve Caballero and Rodney Mullen. Those guys not good enough for you? No problem; create your own pro skater, complete with his or her own stats and appearance (right down to the tattoos) and get into the game. Once you're there, beautiful skate parks in a variety of urban locales offer some fantastic skating action in glorious 3D, replete with cars and pedestrians that threaten to wipe you out as you're tricking off of everything in sight. A park editor allows you to design your dream park to skate through. You're not likely to get bored anytime soon.

If THPS 3 is about one thing, it's pulling off cool tricks. As you grind, flip and manual your way around the park, you score points by deploying fancy moves and skillfully combining them without losing control and landing on your face. It's the small nuances of gravity and weight that make getting those points both challenging and satisfying; while THPS3 succeeds on many levels, the sweetest thing it offers is the feeling of actually riding a skateboard. The physics of the 3D world in which you are deploying your moves are well-tuned and immerse the players to the point that they're leaning from side to side in their chairs. It is both fresh and exciting to play, and in an age where big guns and brutal combat are the touchstones of computer gaming, it's great to see a title that keeps your heart beating without violence being part of the equation. Finally, to complete the "skater punk" feel, a revolving playlist of rap and punk music by groups like House of Pain, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bodyjar play along behind the action, giving a final garnish of excitement to this already great game.

In addition, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 boasts multiplayer and Force Feedback support. Multiplayer offers several game types which let the player compete with others over a local network or the Internet. Players using OS X 10.2.3 or higher can enjoy Force Feedback that puts vibrations, jolts and tremors in your hands when using an Immersion-compatible controller or joystick (www.immersion.com). Unfortunately, these features are not present in the boxed version of THPS3 and will be added later with a downloadable patch. Promised for two weeks after release, as of press time that patch has still not appeared.

THPS3 does the skating legend's name justice. With beautiful graphics, a great soundtrack and terrific physics, it's gaming money well spent. Unfortunately, it loses marks for shipping without features that are advertised on the box (something no publisher should do), and the patch that promises to add them is way overdue. That aside, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is cool, original and, above all else, a whole lot of fun.
-Corey Tamas

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3:
Aspyr Media  |  www.aspyr.com  |  512-708-8100  | $40
Pros: Great physics, terrific soundtrack, highly customizable, so hip it hurts.
Cons: Shipped without the multiplayer and force feedback that was listed on the box.
Requires: 400 Mhz Power Mac, OS 9.1/OS X 10.1 or higher, 128MB RAM (256 MB under OS X), 700 MB Hard Disk Space, 3D graphics card w/32 MB or more
macHOME recommends: A faster Mac and more RAM

 



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