If you dont know what the Tony Hawks Pro Skater
series is, then you have probably been living under a rock for the last three years.
Spanning three games and appearing on every console from the N64 to the Xbox and the PC,
it is hard to ignore the Tony Hawks Pro Skater series. There is good reason for all
of the hype and critical praise, though. The series really is as good as everyone says it
is, and Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3 is the cream of the crop so far.
Each game in the THPS series has been a
logical evolution of the ones before it. The original THPS introduced the world to the go
anywhere, grind anything, trick off everything gameplay that has made the series famous
and provided the game engine for other "extreme" games and even a couple of
Spiderman games. Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 made everything bigger and better. Much
more customization, more tricks, more skaters, bigger areas, and deeper gameplay thanks to
the manual move. And now we have THPS3 and the series has once again evolved. The graphics
have had a major facelift and everything looks fantastic. There are even more tricks, even
bigger levels, and the revert move adds yet another way players can experience the game.
It is this constant growth from one game to the next that gives me the feeling that as
long as the level designs keep getting better, and the gameplay keeps getting more and
more refined, Ill be playing these games well into the future, which is a feeling
you dont get from a lot of big video game franchises these days.
Now that the obligatory gush
about how much I love the Tony Hawk series is over, lets talk THPS3 specifically. I
have played this game a lot, and it doesnt ever really lose its charm. I played
through it with fifteen of the characters on my roommates PS2. Then I got my own
memory card and PS2 and played through the game another 20+ times in order to unlock
everything. And just recently, I got the PC version of the game to review and Ive
played through the game another five times so far. I just have never gotten tired of this
game yet. There is always something new to try and high scores to beat and new skills to
learn that keep me coming back for more.
One of the greatest things about THPS3 is how well the game suits
all sorts of different styles and skill levels. Some people like to get big air in the
half pipes and raise their score that way. They dont even bother to learn the manual
and just stick to doing big grabs in order to achieve high scores. Other people prefer the
rails and curbs of street skating and manual their hearts out to get high scores.
Combining these two styles will result in higher scores, but isnt necessary to beat
the game. This freedom to choose how you want to skate and the pace at which you want to
learn things is one of the best aspects of THPS3 and results in a great sense of
accomplishment when you learn something new.
By now, Im sure you are wondering how the PC version stacks
up against the PS2, Xbox, and GC versions of Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3. The good news
is that it is a straight port of the PS2 version, plus an extra hidden character and a
movie featuring the developers of the PC version, Gearbox Software. The bad news is that
it is a straight port of the PS2 version, so if you have played any of the console
versions, you really dont need to check out THPS3 for the PC. If you havent
played it before, then by all means step right on up and buy THPS3. Its a great
game, but one not without its flaws.
Graphically, the Tony Hawks Pro Skater series has never
looked better than in THPS3. On the PC, the great graphics are touched up a bit and look
even better. The characters look extra smooth and their faces are especially clear.
Textures on ramps, floor and walls are just a touch sharper than in the console versions,
with some being more noticeably improved than others. Overall, the PC version looks better
than the console versions. Of course, that is to be expected thanks to the considerably
more powerful hardware. All of the music and sound effects have made the port to PC
intact, so you can still rock out to Motorhead and The Ramones while you skate.
Something troubling I noticed while tearing through the levels is
that the game seems to be a bit more sluggish than I remember in the PS2 version. I have a
fairly new PC, so I checked out the different resolutions and graphics options and the
problem persisted in all of them so it doesnt seem like a frame rate issue. It
merely seems as if Tony Hawk and pals gained a few extra pounds in the transition from
console to PC. I cant quite get as much air or go as fast as Im used to.
Comparison to the PS2 version confirmed this: There is a definite loss of speed in the PC
version. You wont notice this at all if you havent played the console versions
before, however, so it isnt much of a problem.
In a game like Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3, tight controls are a
key if you hope for any success. Using the keyboard to control your skater uses the arrow
keys and the number pad and works fairly well. But like I said in my Mat Hoffmans
Pro BMX review, why torture yourself by using the keyboard. Spend $30 and get a decent PC
game pad. Using my trusty Logitech Wingman Rumblepad, which is about as close as I can
find to a Dual Shock for the PC, and pulling off moves was very easy. Control isnt
an issue if you have the right game pad, but the keyboard works in a pinch.
A frustrating aspect of the THPS3 for PC experience is that you
cant tweak anything from within the game. You have to exit the game and use a
configuration utility if you want to adjust the graphics or change your controls. This
resulted in a bit of aggravation as I fumbled about with the clunky default game pad
control set up before I realized I had to change it outside of the game. You can turn off
the intro movies with the config utility, though, so that was a big plus and makes a quick
game of THPS3 that much easier to get into. There is an online multiplayer option that
allows eight players in the arena at the same time, and promises new PC-exclusive game
options like capture the flag, but since I couldnt get it to work I cant say
much about it. The game crashed out to Windows whenever it tried to connect to GameSpy.
This was annoying, but Im sure itll be fixed in a future patch release.
The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series is one of my all time favorites,
and I have played the hell out of each and every entry into the series. THPS3 is a
fantastic game, and has proven this by its success on every platform it has been on. The
PC version is no different and maintains the same great gameplay that is so addicting and
satisfying. If you have already played THPS3 on a console, you have already seen
everything the PC version has to offer. If you havent experienced THPS3 before, then
the PC version is a solid buy. Great graphics, fantastic gameplay, groovy tunes and tight
controls make Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3 a game that will keep you coming back for more
time and time again.