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by Activision

Geoff01-01.jpg (6093 bytes)If you have played videogames at all over the past couple of years, odds are you’ve taken a run or two at Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. The THPS series has consistently scored well in reviews and is such a successful franchise that it led Activision to create an entire series of Pro Whatever games – Matt Hoffman’s Pro BMX, Shaun Palmer’s Pro Snowboarder, and Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer – and a whole new label, Activision’s O2 (Oxygen) line. The other "Pro" titles have been built from the solid premise put forth in the first THPS, but none of them have quite captured the magic of the original. Neversoft, the developer of THPS, has achieved a higher level of control, detail, and just plain fun gameplay, and they’ve improved on this in THPS2 as well as the latest installment in the series, THPS3.

Tony02-01.jpg (6368 bytes)Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 is, for the most part, more of what we expect. The first of the series developed specifically for a next-generation console, the PS2, it incorporates better graphics and larger levels as well as some new controls and even more tricks. The short story is that if you are a fan of the THPS series, you need this game, and if you have yet to be sucked into the games, this might be the one to do it. Of course, that’s the short story. There is plenty to talk about in this new version of the best skateboarding game ever created.

Rune01-01.jpg (6419 bytes)All the THPS pros are back for another round, including the eponymous Tony Hawk, Rune Glifberg, Steve Caballero, Kareem Campbell, Eric Koston, Bucky Lasek, Rodney Mullen, Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Geoff Rowley, Elissa Steamer, and Jamie Thomas. New to the game this time around is the crowd pleasing Bam Margera, well-known as Johnny Knoxville’s most popular sidekick on the now defunct MTV series, Jackass. Lest skateboarding outsiders see this as cowtowing to a non-skateboarding audience, allow me to suggest you check out ESPN2’s series, Tony Hawk’s Gigantic Skatepark Tour, which featured Margera this summer. Bam is the man, more capable and insane than most other skaters.

Jamie01-01.jpg (6553 bytes)Gameplay is very similar to previous installments of the series. You are presented with a set of goals to achieve in each of the eight levels. Both fantasy and real world levels are included. The complete lineup is: the Foundry, Canada, Rio, Suburbia, Airport, Skater’s Island, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. As usual, there are three contests to participate in, and earning golds in each of these competitions is crucial to defeating the game. Rather than collecting tapes (as in the original game) or money (as in number two), you simply achieve goals to progress to new levels.

Chad_Tony01-01.jpg (6720 bytes)The levels are uniformly excellent, as we’ve come to expect. The Airport will have you squealing in glee as you air over metal detectors and grind the heck out of counters, benches and baggage claims. The Tokyo competition takes place in a skatepark that is equal parts Space Channel Five and closet Otaku. Levels are more populated, although still less so than in reality, and you interact with non-player characters more. For example, in Canada you must unstick Chuck, who has frozen his tongue to a post, and you must also bury a bully who pummels other kids at the park with snowballs. In LA you trigger an earthquake and then must rescue (sort of) a car stuck on the crumbling highway. As we’ve come to expect, you can air off, grind, slide and otherwise ride just about every element of the terrain – every ledge, rail, step, curb, slope, etc. New in this installment is the complete removal of any fog or draw-in, which had previously been necessary to accommodate the large levels on the PSone and previous systems.

Rodney01-01.jpg (6817 bytes)The skill system has been altered. Rather than buying stats, or just automatically increasing abilities, you now collect stat points that are scattered across all the levels. These points are sometimes difficult to acquire, and they fulfill a role similar to the cash in THPS2 – they add a little more to do on each level, even after you’ve achieved the other goals. You assign stat points to your skater and can redistribute them at any time. If you’re having trouble making that big air to get a goal, simply reshuffle your stats and you might make it. The system is an improvement. In THPS2 it was inevitable that your skater would end the game with all stats maxxed out. Here, you must work with considerably fewer stat points and development of your skater is slower, making the game that much more challenging.

Eric01-01.jpg (6851 bytes)In addition to changes in the skill system, renovation has been done to the trick system. Perhaps the most significant change is the addition of the revert, which allows you to string together series of big airs on ramps, or connect huge ramp tricks to street tricks. It is now possible, and highly desirable, to land a huge set of tricks off a ramp, revert, go into a manual, and ride to a rail where you can rack up another set of tricks. This ability to connect different combos ad infinitum allows you to complete dozens of tricks in a single combo. Of course, to go along with the revert Neversoft has added a set of flatland tricks, which means that when you play Rodney Mullen in THPS3 you can actually skate like Rodney Mullen. Flatland tricks have always been a part of skating, although they lack the flashy flair and death-defying aspects of big ramp or dangerous street tricks. However, the finesse involved in flatland tricks is incredible, and they make the game that much more appealing to skaters and skater wanna-bes who want to recreate every line they’ve ever seen in a video.

Tony01-01.jpg (6915 bytes)Replay value has also been enhanced. It has always been important to complete all goals with all characters, but now the goals on each level change according to what type of character you play. The skaters are categorized as either street, vert, or all-around skaters, and each category differs in a couple of goals on each level. With one type of character you may have to make a huge jump on a level, while another will have to grind a difficult rail. The differences are small, but provide more variation than before.

Chad01-01.jpg (6932 bytes)Also improved this time around are the Create-a-Skater and a much more robust Park Editor. I am happy to report that Create-a-Skater now includes female models and allows you to customize everything from hair color, facial hair, tattoos, clothing, accessories, and a bunch more settings. It has become popular to create skaters in the likeness of various celebrities or other skaters not included in the game. I can’t really describe how satisfying it is to create a skater who looks like a reasonable approximation of yourself. The clarity of the next-gen graphics really helps you imagine just what you’d look like skying off a bridge in Rio to grind a power line then hop down onto a quarter pipe in real life.

Tony03-01.jpg (6980 bytes)The clarity of next-gen graphics is significant, too, because it actually helps with gameplay. Although previous installments were incredible achievements in graphics and technical prowess, it is now much easier to see exactly what your skater is doing right there in front of you. You can see landings and potential lines much better this time around simply because of the graphical improvements.

Rune02-01.jpg (7065 bytes)Although THPS3 (and the previous versions, for that matter) have been very satisfying playing at home alone or with a friend, some folks are just nutty over THPS3’s online multiplayer, and with good reason. Neversoft, in a shining example of how much these guys care about us, have included support of online multiplayer in spite of Sony’s lagging and delays. You don’t need the Sony network adapter – a compatible USB ethernet adapter can be plugged into the front of your PS2 and you can be online, playing in populated skateparks and online competitions, with little to no sweat. Of course, the game works best over a broadband connection, and you’ll probably have a few questions about how to get it to work. I suggest you consult the Planet Tony Hawk Photo Tutorial to get more help with setting up and connecting to an online game.

Steve01-01.jpg (7314 bytes)I could go on and on about how much fun THPS3 is, but it would just be a rehash of things I’ve written in previous reviews. I’ve reviewed this series on every platform it’s been released for, and I always look forward to it. There is something deeply satisfying about THPS. I am getting to be an old gamer at the ripe age of 26, and my skateboarding days are all behind me. I have some scars and funny shaped bones to remind me of the days gone by, and I walk my dog past our local skatepark to see my younger friends, many of whom I worked with to help raise funds and get the park built. I have always believed that skateboarding is a legitimate sport, and I’ve been incredibly happy to see it grow over the past ten years. Undoubtedly, one reason it has been so successful as a sport is the ambassadorship of Tony Hawk, and one reason Tony Hawk is such a mainstream icon these days is the Pro Skater series. I love these games, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 is no exception.

Shawn Rider   (11/29/2001)


Ups: Added revert move and flatland tricks; better balance system; better create-a-skater; better park editor; online multiplayer; still as much fun as the original.

Downs: What, you don't like skateboarding?

Platform: PS2