Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 Review
Scroll down for the online review.
The end of July, 1999; I was sitting on the couch watching my precious ESPN X-Games on my precious cable box. The skateboarding vert competition came on, and first up was somebody by the name of Geoff Rowley. Watching him do a couple of kick flips, varials, and finally a Japan air, I was pretty amazed at the performance. Two or three skaters later the crowd erupts! Everybody was on their feet, of course by now, many of you know why. Tony Hawk stepped up and was warming up prior to starting his first of three runs. No doubt about it, I was in awe after seeing him damn near touch the sky. That's when I thought to myself, 'I would love to see a game that features the country's best skateboarders, with some intense sickening gameplay!' Two days had passed, and I get a demo of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater in the Summer '99 Jampack. I was pretty stunned and confused. After playing the demo religiously, and writing impressions on it, it was then followed by a previewable build a week after straight from Activision. Could this be an omen of things to come? An omen that would define nothing but the most epidemic of results worldwide for a game called Tony Hawk's Pro Skater? Back when the PS2 was still nothing but a dream, I spent hundreds of hours on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and boy am I serious! I did it all, I scaled the bars on top of Chicago and pulled off 200,000 point tricks, I beat the game with every skater, opened whatever secret lured in the game, and wouldn't stop playing the competitions until I placed gold with 99.9...can you say "addiction"?
I sure can, and I admit it! I was preposterously addicted to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. At times I would bite people to leave me alone so I can endure myself in the world of fictional skateboarding. A couple of months pass, I open my mailbox and a Press Release from Activision rolls in, "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 announced." At this point, my jaw was on my floor! My excitement, through the roof! And my feet, 5 feet off the floor. Come Summer 2000, a package arrives with the code "Tony 2/3rd party." I rip the Airborne padded package to shreds, and indeed, there it was the sequel to one of my most anticipated titles. Now take all of the excitement that I had with THPS and add all of the tension that built within in during the wait for THPS2. Surely, you get an exploding volcano that is I. As I began my campaign for Tony Hawk 2 superiority, I learned how to use the manuals to my advantage and perform single string combos that give me 200,000 points or so. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 hit the spot for me; Activision and Neversoft crafted one amazing videogame once again. Shortly after the release of THPS2, Sony debuted the PS2, and one can only imagine what the power of next-generation gaming can do to games such as Tony Hawk. Activision had quickly confirmed that the third Tony Hawk title was under development for the PS2. Earlier in the year the full announcement was made, as the game was revealed courtesy of screenshots and a video. But aside from basic gameplay elements, the PS2 version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 would have one thing no other skateboarding title would have: online play. This addition of online play made the anticipation of Tony Hawk 3 only more grueling. But good things come to those who wait, and indeed that is the case with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3.
The original Tony Hawk titles were said to have featured the most impressive game engine ever developed. Neversoft was of course responsible for crafting both masterpieces exclusively for the PSX, and in turn they were also the ones who gave birth to the fabled Tony Hawk engine. The engine was so flexible that it even allowed Neversoft to create it into an adventure game, Spider-Man, which would eventually be dubbed as the 'best super hero game ever'. But with an all new generation of gaming quickly feasting itself on the soil it rises from, gaming will continuously evolve, not look prettier, but to feature much more expansive environments that grant the gamer freedom in the virtual world. Games such as Grand Theft Auto 3 and Midnight Club have already proven this, and so does Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. As if the first two THPS titles didn't offer a level of freedom like no other, THPS3 takes what the first two did and expands on it, not only creating larger environments, but more complex ones that feature multiple levels of elevation and dozens of interactive objects. It wouldn't be smart to render environments 'much' larger than THPS2's, as it would cause A) a sense of being lost and B) too large to be able to complete in 2 minutes. Basically, if the stage is too large, then completing a mission such as SKATE or a mission that requires you to make your way around many portions of the course will be much harder to accomplish. Does anybody see my point? While when extensively compared to THPS2's stages, some stages in THPS3 are a little larger, and some smaller, but not noticeably or substantially.
Nevertheless, Tony Hawk 3's courses are huge! Arguably the three largest courses in the game are Los Angeles, Airport and the secret stage Cruise Ship. The Airport stage is actually my favorite, mostly because it features some insanely long rails, that have other rails close to them, making the possibility of transfer grinds higher. On top of that the Airport also features great places to really hit the air and perform some amazing stunts. This perfect balance of pipes and 'grindable' structures is ideal to get the most out of the game's all new revert feature (more on that in the gameplay section). The course design is probably my favorite of the three. The incredible variation in design is something really noticeable. Everything from ramps, to rails, to kicker ramps, to gaps is cleverly placed. As far as detail goes, THPS3 is easily one of the most breathtaking videogames I've seen in action. Neversoft has done more than a fantastic job at creating finely polished skaters. The environments feature everything from reflections to excellent lighting effects, to superb texture detail. Despite how complex courses such as Tokyo and Foundry are, the frame rate manages to keep silky smooth at a perfect 60 frames almost all of the time. So far, I've only had one noticeable encounter with the frame rate. It wasn't very annoying, but only noticeable because my eyes were so comfortable with the 60 frames, that when the frame rate jerked to roughly the 45 mark, I caught it. Nonetheless, this is game streams seamlessly and even features permanently changing levels. For example, in the Los Angeles level there is a mission where you have to grind four rails of direction (North, East, West, South) to create an earthquake. After the earthquake occurs, the bridge above is completely destroyed into hanging fractions, and debris from the bridge can be found on the floor. This permanent change in the stage is something very well done on behalf of Neversoft, and don't worry, when something like that happens, its always for the best of a level and never worse.
Each and every skater in the game is unbelievably detailed! The bodies are compromised of high-resolution texture quality and feature roughly 2000-3000 polygons, incredible numbers for a skateboarding game. Each and every skater is much easier to distinguish, as the character detail directly relates to that. The overall body structure is superb to say the less. The skaters look incredibly real and visually well defined. Clothing detail is something I noticed as well. While the clothes don't flap around as they do in ESPN X-Games Skateboarding, which is a good game no matter what anybody says, they don't look as if they are painted on the skaters, but instead like separate polygonal material. What strikes me most about the gameplay is how realistic and smooth the skaters perform their moves. The landings, grinds, manuals, board flips, grabs and bails have never looked more realistic. Everything just looks so gorgeous; it never ceases to amaze me. What's more is that there are now nearly a dozen different bail animations. So say you mistimed a flip trick, instead of falling to the ground, the skater's skateboard will just slip from his feet, and the same goes for other cases such as when grinds are poorly executed. Neversoft has truly gone out of their way to develop one beautiful looking skateboarding game. This is a massive jump from what we've seen on the Dreamcast and Playstation.
Is it really a question anymore as to what to expect from the Tony Hawk series? Because the answer is simple; "adrenaline rushing, addictive gameplay that defines the word fun"! Compared to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, the original one was lacking in terms of extra modes such as Create-a-skater and park-editor, but no one really complained because nobody was even aware of these modes. That's when THPS2 steps in and shows us the light. Featuring both Create-a-skater and park-editor modes, the sequel defined the term replay value and gave it all new meaning. Here to do that once more in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3! Fully charged with out of the box online gameplay, Tony Hawk 3 is the definitive videogame experience. Even though it doesn't seem like it, I don't always feel comfortable handing out tens. I believe that the games that I've awarded tens to, (Gran Turismo 3, Devil May Cry, Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy VII-X), really deserve them, as does Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3! First of all Tony Hawk 3's features list has expanded, tremendously! In addition to the online mode, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 features three secret stages (excluding the Cruise Ship stage) from the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, all revamped and re-designed to look fantastic on the PS2. The three stages include Warehouse, Burnside (!!!), and Roswell. Simply because Neversoft decided to include these three courses increases the replay value of THPS3. Additional secrets also include hidden characters such as X-Men's Wolverine, Private Carrera, Officer Dick, Demoness, Kelly Slater (yes, the surfer) and even Star Wars' Darth Maul (!), not to mention a slew of other secret stuff. But honestly, would you expect anything less from the game?
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 features the same cast of skaters, except for Bob Burnquist who can be found in Konami's ESPN X-Games Skateboarding, which once again was a good game! Replacing 'the Burn' is Bam Margera of MTV Jackass fame. In total, secret skaters included, there are 21 skaters; the most any Tony Hawk game has ever had. What makes THPS3 so unique is that depending on the skater you choose, a fraction of the objectives per every stage will be different. For instance, Tony Hawk and Geoff Rowley will have different placement for the letters SKATE during the career mode. There are three different SKATE locations, Hawk, Glifberg, Margera, Reynolds and Thomas share one location. Caballero, Koston, Mullen and Rowley share the second location. And Cambell, Lasek and Muska share the third. Other objectives are affected by this in different ways, so SKATE isn't the sole objective to be given this treatment. This time around upgrading your skater's stats has changed. The original Tony Hawk awarded new skateboards for stats, the sequel prompted the gamer to purchase stats, and now in Tony Hawk 3 the challenge has risen, as you know have to collect 5 stat points scattered through every course. This certainly adds to the replay value of each level. Removed from the PS2 version is a 100% objective, where if the gamer collects every stat point and does every objective, he will be awarded the last objective "100%". Every stage has 9 goals to complete, the first three will always be point-score related (high-score, pro-score, sick score), then of course the SKATE and secret tape will be the next two, and the last four are always based on doing something interactive such as impressing skaters or causing earthquakes or grinding on a bucket filled with lava, and etc. Some of these objectives are tougher than others, while others may just seem like cake. In total, secret stages included, there are 12 stages included, although theoretically speaking it's closer to unlimited.
Through the use of the newly revamped park editor, gamers can now create parks nearly twice as large as the largest custom park in THPS2. You can select from over 155 structures, not to mention set placements for gaps, and where the skater will start for various modes such as HORSE, single session/free ride and King of the Hill. You will now be able to control the ground level by raising it or lowering it. Not only that, but no matter how high you raise the ground, you will still be able to place park structures on it such as half pipes, pools, and whatnot. To set how high you want your half-pipe to be from the ground, select your desired half-pipe and keep on tapping the L1 button. It needs to be said that the gamer can now create a custom pool or a skateboard rink, depending on the elevation it is set at, a first for the series. I should also point out that there are pre-made courses to choose from as well, all with their own unique and distinctive feel. In some cases, with the park editor you'll be able to re-create a stage or two from first two Tony Hawk titles. I did myself a favor and re-created the Chicago level from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. The Create-a-Skater mode is deeper this time around as well. You now have more features to work with as you can add accessories such as backpacks, boom boxes, chains, tattoos and a couple of hundred other inclusions. Of course, you will be able to take your skater through a full career and whatnot as well.
The two-player modes in THPS3 are top notch. An all-new game has been included called King of the Hill. King of the Hill is a lot like Capture the Flag, found in most first person shooters. The skater must pick up a crown in a randomly placed location, and skate with it until time runs out. You can drop the crown by either going out of bounds or being crashed into. The winner who carries the crown the most wins. There are 5 two-player modes including, Trick Attack, Graffiti, HORSE, King of the Hill and Slap (who ever knocks down an opponent most wins). It must also be pointed out that the endings in Tony Hawk 3 are filmed in this documentary way. Tony Hawk's ending shows the gamer an inside look of his house - think MTV's "Cribs". The Neversoft ending is also incredibly funny, as the team's wildly stupid and funny antics are taped for a period of five minutes. The endings are well worth completing the game with every skater, as they last up to 3-4 minutes themselves. We come down to the question again; "what else did you expect from THPS3's gameplay"? I for one didn't expect anything less.
Recently, soundtracks in Tony Hawk titles have been the most herald music compilations in videogames. The first Tony Hawk title was solely rock based and I absolutely loved the soundtrack! I memorized everything, the lyrics, the order, the beats and etc. The sequel only improved on what the original started, by featuring rap and hip-hop tracks, along with classic songs by classic rock bands such as Bad Religion. THPS2 took the soundtrack portion of the game to a whole new level and here to continue the tradition is the third in the series. While only emphasizing on what the sequel did, Tony Hawk 3's soundtrack is fantastic to every extent. The crossing and seamless mixture of today's rock, with yesterday's rock, and ol' school rap with a little of new school rap contributes heavily to the overall atmosphere of the game. Much like an actual X-Games or Gravity Games event, the diversity of the music is there. The full soundtrack includes:
The Ramones - "Blitzkrieg Bop"
Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Fight Like A Brave"
KRS-One - "Hush"
Motorhead - "Ace of Spades"
Rollins Band - "What's the Matter Man"
House of Pain - "I'm A Swing It"
Xzibit - "Paparazzi"
Ozomatli - "Cut Chemist Suite"
Alien Ant Farm - "Wish"
Redman - "Let's Get Dirty"
Del the Funky Homosapien - "If You Must"
AFI - "The Boy Who Destroyed The World"
Reverend Horton Heat - "I Can't Surf"
Adolescents - "Amoeba"
CKY - "96 Quite Bitter Beings"
Zebrahead - "Check"
Guttermouth - "I'm Destroying the World"
Nextmen - "Amongst Madness"
Bodyjar - "Not The Same"
Mad Capsule Markets - "Pulse"
Everything about the soundtrack stimulates the experience. We've got one of my current favorite bands, Alien Ant Farm with "Wish". On top of that The Ramones' catchy "Blitzkrieg Bop" track has entered the circle. To top it all off, an incredibly heart pumping song by Motorhead -"Ace of Spades"- is the opening track as the game's FMV intro rolls. In the background, voices can be heard, these voices come from interactive spectators. If you impress them with a fancy trick or a sick string of tricks, they will comment on your performance. If you bail on a trick, or it just wasn't impressive, the spectators will hiss, boo, mock and patronize you. Mean bunch of folk aren't they?
Seriously folks, do I really need to go into the controls? This is Tony Hawk we're talking about; the controls are flawless! The face buttons still function as they did in the past, but I'm sure you already knew that. The newest addition to the controls in the third Pro Skater is a new trick multiplier called "revert." How this works is very simple and requires very little practice: as you are coming down to surface, after performing tricks and picking up multipliers, right when you land hit the L2 or R2 button and the skater will quickly perform a switch. As soon as you hit one of the buttons, quickly perform a manual and continue your string of stunts by grinding and doing ground flip tricks. That was called a 'revert'. In some cases, when on a half-pipe and a revert is performed, with enough speed you can soar back into the air using the half-pipe, land and pull of another revert. The possibilities with this new feature are almost endless. There are a lot of imaginative things that can be done through the use of the revert. Absolutely zero things are wrong with the controls!
If you live on the planet "Idiot" then maybe I'll forgive you for not playing any of the three Tony Hawk titles. No wait, come to think of it, I wouldn't! No matter your mental capacity, if you play games and own a Playstation 2 it is your obligation to purchase Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. Software this magnificent doesn't come around every day, although during the past three months it sure felt like it. Nevertheless, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is quite possibly the finest and most addictive videogame ever! The drop dead gorgeous visuals add a lot more realism to the game's atmosphere; in addition the gameplay is hands-down like no other. Tony Hawk 3's replay value is practically infinite, no wait...it is! I'd score the replay value an 11, but our database just doesn't have the coding to process that. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3's online mode, park editor, and all new bevy of secrets (such as skaters and THPS1 stages) heavily justify a perfect score. Aside from Final Fantasy X, no other videogame has really impressed me as much as Tony Hawk 3 has. The finesse, the flow, everything is just so balanced out, it almost makes me wonder if Neversoft was given holy powers by the gods of gaming? To put it in simple terms and to sum everything up: if you don't buy Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, you're a moron!
I remember my very first online console experience, it happened not too long ago, actually. I went down to my local Stop n' Save (EB World) and purchased NFL 2K2 on the day it hit store shelves. Arriving back home, after about an hour of single-player gameplay, I decided to hook up my existing back-up ISP service powered by the now defunct Red Connect. The set up took a reasonably long time, approximately 15 minutes. After I was done with that, I went in to find a great room with a low ping number for no latency effect. Upon entering the game, I felt the unresponsive controls as I scrolled through my play book. I looked over it. The game had officially begun and within a matter of seconds my face sunk! The lag, o' the lag! I couldn't bare it. I didn't want to sign up to AT&T's SegaNet service because I thought it was preposterous to pay for 56k service, even if 5 hours of free time were given. To say the least, my first online console experience was a severe disappointment. I felt like it would take forever for me to play a console title that was as smooth as it was played online as offline, but I knew that only broadband would help me achieve this wish.
Come time for the announcement of Tony Hawk 3, Neversoft would confirm that the game would feature out of the box online gameplay with very minimal configuration time required. I was still skeptical to say the least, and I have my obvious reasons. After hearing numerous statements straight from Activision/Neversoft reps that to register online with THPS3 takes only 5 or less minutes, I was convinced that this would be the definite online console experience. Despite Sony's Network Adapter being delayed, Neversoft played their cards perfectly right and dealt a hand like no other. Neverosft put matters into their own hands and implemented compatibility support for third party PC based USB Ethernet modems such as Belkin, LinkSys, SOHOware, and D-Link. PSX Extreme was fortunate enough to receive a USB 10/100 Ethernet Adapter from Belkin and even though it wasn't on Neversoft's official list of compatible products, it worked like a dream! Not only does the Belkin USB Ethernet Adapter work, but it's possibly the most trust worthy of all, as Belkin is arguably the largest and most reliable PC accessory manufacturer on the market. Belkin's USB Ethernet Adapter comes with the unit itself, a broadband cable, USB cable and a PC installation diskette (which you will not need). This is my personal recommendation for your THPS3 online needs. Those interested in acquiring this adapter, head on over to a CompUSA (online or store), Circuit City, Best Buy or whatever PC retailer that carries model number: F5U122-PC. [Note: Adapter is for broadband users only].
I must be honest, I have not played THPS3 with a modem, but Neversoft insists that the game runs smooth with 56k as well. USB 56k modems such as Zoom FaxModem 56K USB Model 2985L can be found at CompUSA, Best Buy or Circuit City. All that needs to be done with 56k modems is to take your existing 56k connection (AOL is NOT supported) and plug the wire into the adapter and connect the adapter to the PS2. Make the few, but necessary configurations, and you're online! I'll be reporting on behalf of all broadband users with my DSL connection. First I configured my network settings, by confirming that I was using a USB Ethernet Adapter (PPPoE). I then entered my username and password for my Verizon DSL connection. PPPoE means that I had plugged my existing DSL connection (split by a hub) into the Ethernet adapter. After that, I entered the "Network play" option and within three seconds I was online...for the very first time with my Playstation 2. It was truly a great feeling. From there, I picked my maxed out Tony Hawk, entered various game rooms until I found something to my liking. Almost all of the multi-player modes are playable in THPS3, King of the Hill, Slap, Graffiti and Trick Attack. I couldn't find a single host that had a HORSE game, nor could I select HORSE as a host myself. Joining a game and serving a game is as easy as one, two, three.
Getting online and playing online is fast and easy, and there are absolutely no payments! Serving -or hosting- a game means you are in charge of everything. You can select which stages you want to play, the game mode, how many players can join, set a password for private games and even boot people if they are disruptive. I got booted twice already, but only because I scored over 1 million points too many times and the opposition couldn't crack 500,000 (HAH! Rookies!). As I write this, there are only 50 people who've played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 online. The number is growing daily, but not tremendously. With a DSL connection, I very rarely experience any lag or latency effect, this is a huge advantage for us broadband folk. 56Kers, purchase USB 56k modems at your own risk. Nevertheless, playing THPS3 online is a blissful experience, with the use of a USB keyboard you can easily chat with your opponents. No gamer should miss out on THPS3 and its online capabilities.
11/4/2001 Arnold Katayev