Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3Our thumbs are sore, our eyes bloodshot, and we've caught ourselves wondering if we can pull switch-stance nollie-to-nosegrinds on the local freeway median dividers. This can only mean one thing--Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is here, and it's every bit as addicting, exciting, and gravity-defying as the previous version.
For the uninitiated, this is fast-action, arcade-style fun, requiring you to skate around, do tricks, collect points, and perform tasks to unlock each successive level. You score the biggest points by compiling one spinning-flying-sliding trick after another into a long string of grinds, grabs, flips, and manuals (wheelies). Fall on your butt halfway through such a string, and whoosh--you've nullified the whole series.
To get the rapid-fire button combos right requires fast fingers and almost certainly a USB gamepad controller (see "Instant Gamepad Support for Control Freaks," below). People put off by twitch-heavy games will not enjoy Pro Skater--though we enjoy this kind of thumb-numbing action, even we occasionally felt pushed to the edge by the sheer volume and precision of digit dexterity the game demanded. Pro Skater 3 is certain to be responsible for its share of gamepad-meets-wall encounters.
The biggest change in version 3 is the inclusion of online play. Unfortunately, the networking components of Pro Skater 3 were not yet ready at the time of this writing (and will not be included in the original shipping version--you'll need to get a free patch from Aspyr's Web site). We anticipate that these will add even more depth to an already great game, but won't be earth-shattering. Pro Skater by its nature is a single-player game, and while zipping around with a bunch of other people playing capture the flag on skateboards sounds like a hoot, it won't replace the trick-centric heart of Pro Skater. Just as in real skateboarding, the game doesn't require other people, just you and a board (or in this case, a gamepad).
While online play is the marquee feature of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, a few other additions are worth mentioning. The game features a new Revert move that lets you string together ramp and street moves. Like the inclusion of the wheelies (Manuals) in Pro Skater 2, this is a small change with big implications for point totals. The money system that plagued Pro Skater 2 has disappeared from version 3 in favor of a new breed of mission goals for each level (such as getting some airline tickets to your buddy at the airport, or trying to impress Canadian skaters who mock you until you do well--duh, eh?). These goals could have ended up seeming hokey, but they're actually pretty fun and provide a nice respite from the relentless grinding and flipping as you try to tally higher and higher scores. Last but not least, the levels are bigger and better designed than those in any previous release of the game.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 does a nice job of pushing this revolutionary series a bit further. It's as fun as ever to play, it still has plenty of hidden stuff, and the levels are just plain outstanding. Our only real complaint is that it has become quite difficult. The competition rounds in particular can be grueling to get through, ensuring that despite the game's addictive nature, only the most devoted fans will put in the time and effort to get beyond a certain point.
This game will wreak havoc on your social life and job productivity. Try to take a break from Pro Skater and you'll inevitably find yourself magnetically drawn back to your computer for one more attempt at landing that last trick or finishing that next goal. Better start getting your thumbs in shape now.