Occasionally a game comes along that no one expects to be good, but it turns out phenomenally, and once in a while, the sequel to the game is even better than the first. But rarely, if ever, does a sequel's sequel take the revolutionary steps that TONY HAWK'S PRO SKATER 3 does.
If you don't know the formula by now you probably have been living under a rock the past couple of years. PRO SKATER blends intuitive controls and great gameplay to make one heck of a fun game. In the original, players spent a lot of time looking for tapes, spelling out skate and getting high scores. As time has progressed, the game has become goal based, and while those original goals are still intact, new ones that are level specific have been added.
The controls are simple. The A button lets you ollie (jump) and the surrounding buttons are used for different types of tricks. When you press a trick button (sorted into grab, kick and grind) and press the D-pad in a certain direction, the skater does a certain trick. It's easy to remember and execute and it never gets much more complicated than on that fundamental level. The only other important buttons are the shoulder triggers as they allow you to spin faster in each respective direction.
Sounds easy, right? Well, the simple moves are cake to pull off, but combining them into a combo is more difficult. In PRO SKATER 2, the manual was introduced. In a manual you have to ride on two wheels and so, just like grinding, the player has to constantly balance the skater. This move allowed players to combine grinds and make massive combos. In PRO SKATER 3 the revert has been added. This quick move allows you to use a manual out of a vert trick and continue a trick string indefinitely with a combination of vert and street moves.
With all these new moves, Neversoft had to give Tony and friends some new playgrounds to have fun in. Several new levels are extremely impressive and really show off the power of the next generation consoles. The game begins in a foundry, complete with workers, flashing lights and steam and progresses through suburbia, an airport and Los Angeles. Each level has several generic goals (certain scores to attain, collect S-K-A-T-E) but also has some specific goals relating to the level. In the airport, you have to take your skater buddy his tickets, stop pickpockets, and visit ten different countries (accomplished by grinding along their flag). The goals are well laid out with a series of goal movies before you begin the level. One of the funnier gags is a guy named Chuck who got his tongue stuck to a light pole in cold Canada. You help him out by knocking him off of the pole (accomplishing a goal) but he then screams in pain and yells, "Youth thun ova bith! Thath my tongue!"
The level editor has been vastly improved and is now in full 3-D. There are also a plethora of cool pre-saved levels that you can use. The multiplayer makes a comeback in its two-player form, but gamers will be hard-pressed to play it over the PS2's online version. It's cool and all, but with SMASH BROS. MELEE occupying multiplayer time, PRO SKATER's multi-mode will gather dust.
The interactive levels and environments are incredibly detailed and beautiful. There are tons of color, life and ingenuity in the designs. You can spend plenty of time in each level finding different things to do and different places to try tricks. The animation is great and it is very cool to see the evidence of your bails spread across the wall or ground. The graphics are just phenomenal and are a big leap from the previous incarnations of the series.
Once again, several major artists have been contracted to provide the music. It's all the same rock and rap that were used in the previous games. So either you like it, or you don't. It just so happens that I do like the music. If having your own music is really important, the Xbox version will allow you to make your own soundtrack by ripping CDs to the hard drive. The sound effects are generic but work just fine.
TONY HAWK'S PRO SKATER 3 is once again another giant step for this relatively young series. It's a fantastic game and it makes me wonder how many more good ideas Neversoft has tucked away for the next few incarnations.
ESBR Rating: Teen
Genre: Extreme Sports
Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Fun Factor: A
Reviewer's Wild Card: A