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by Activision

If you don’t know what the Tony Hawk’s 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 Hawk’s 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 Hawk’s 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 Hawk’s 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, I’ll be playing these games well into the future, which is a feeling you don’t 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, let’s talk THPS3 specifically. I have played this game a lot, and it doesn’t ever really lose its charm. I played through it with fifteen of the characters on my roommate’s 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 I’ve 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.

Geoff01-01.jpg (6093 bytes)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 don’t 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 isn’t 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.

Rune01-01.jpg (6419 bytes)By now, I’m sure you are wondering how the PC version stacks up against the PS2, Xbox, and GC versions of Tony Hawk’s 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 don’t need to check out THPS3 for the PC. If you haven’t played it before, then by all means step right on up and buy THPS3. It’s a great game, but one not without it’s flaws.

Rune02-01.jpg (7065 bytes)Graphically, the Tony Hawk’s 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.

Steve01-01.jpg (7314 bytes)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 doesn’t 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 can’t quite get as much air or go as fast as I’m used to. Comparison to the PS2 version confirmed this: There is a definite loss of speed in the PC version. You won’t notice this at all if you haven’t played the console versions before, however, so it isn’t much of a problem.

Tony02-01.jpg (6368 bytes)In a game like Tony Hawk’s 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 Hoffman’s 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 isn’t an issue if you have the right game pad, but the keyboard works in a pinch.

Tony03-01.jpg (6980 bytes)A frustrating aspect of the THPS3 for PC experience is that you can’t 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 couldn’t get it to work I can’t say much about it. The game crashed out to Windows whenever it tried to connect to GameSpy. This was annoying, but I’m sure it’ll be fixed in a future patch release.

Eric01-01.jpg (6851 bytes)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 haven’t experienced THPS3 before, then the PC version is a solid buy. Great graphics, fantastic gameplay, groovy tunes and tight controls make Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 a game that will keep you coming back for more time and time again.

Eric Qualls   (04/25/2002)


Ups: Great controls; online mulitplayer with new modes; nice visuals; a whole bunch of fun.

Downs: Can't tweak settings from within the game.

Platform: PC