Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 Review
By Monica Bair |
For me, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is the best game in the land. There, I've said it. I'm not saying it's a perfect game -- I think there's always room for improvement, no matter how hard it might be to conceive of specific improvements -- but it's the best we have. The game strikes a perfect balance in its play; You can pick it up for a quick run on your way out the door or batten down the hatches and settle in for an all night session with the same ease. It's just plain fun, and awesome fun at that.
I've put in my time with this game on the PS2, GCN, Xbox, and now PC. My weapon of choice is the PS2, mostly because of the Dual Shock 2, which I think is the perfect controller for THPS3, but there aren't any bad versions of the game. And while a few of my coworkers wondered how the game was still any fun for me, the main reason to play it on different consoles, or, in this case, on the PC, is to discover new features. (The Xbox Hawk, for example, boasts a whole new level and a new character.) After going through the PC version, I realized that the review had to address two main concerns. Firstly, does the PC game bring anything new to the table? Secondly, is it a worthwhile investment if you already own a console version of the title? The answer to both questions came from same feature: online play. Not only is the online play the sole improvement, but it is also the only reason to invest in the PC port. And while the network play is damn fun, I'm not sure if it's robust enough to warrant the $50.00-or-so expenditure.
Network action is nice and all, but the real thrill of THPS3 is the single player game. The powers that be were smart enough to leave well enough alone and didn't monkey around with this mode.
The trick system is much like it's been since the first Hawk title reared its lovely head. Most tricks are accomplished by some combination of the D-pad and one of the four main action buttons: ollie, grind, flip, and grab. The addition of the manual to the second Hawk title revolutionized play; the move became a staple of the game, not simply a slick trick. In the third iteration we get the revert, a subtler but nonetheless useful move. A revert is a 180-degree pivot performed near the flat while coming down from a vert trick. After the pivot, you have an opportunity, albeit a very small one, to link another trick to your chain. This means that vert work can be combined with flatland action. The downside of the revert is that it slows you down a good bit. You can't simply perform endless halfpipe trickery because after one or two reverts you'll be moving too slowly to get much air at all. Early on, you might not use the revert much at all, but after you achieve a certain level of play you'll appreciate its quiet power.
One of the problems I ran into with the PC version was finding a good controller. Keyboard play is ridiculous. I did it so that Dan could grab some preview screens a while back, but it was no fun at all. This, after all, is a console game, and a very "console-y" one at that. I've been playing with the Microsoft Sidewinder, but it's not nearly as comfortable as a console controller.
Most of the fun you'll have with THPS3 will take place in the single player mode. The main attraction is the career mode. As you'd guess, career play means taking one of the skaters through eight incredible levels, of which three are contests. When you 100% everything -- didn't know "100%" was a verb, did you? -- and gain gold medals in all comps, you are rewarded with a bonus level, the famous Cruise Ship. Thankfully, the Cruise Ship is a complete course with a full set of goals, not a simple free skate arena, like the Oil Rig on the Xbox game. Make your way through the Cruise Ship and you'll earn one of the many secrets of the game. When you're done with everything, you start over with another skater. And so on and so on and so on.... (For the guide I went through the game in its entirety 22 times, in order to finish it completely. Smarter people have done dumber things.)
The other single player modes are single session (play one level for two minutes and record scores), free skate (unlimited skating without score recording), and a tutorial for you wimps. These modes are somewhat entertaining, but career is the real business, as any player will come to learn.
New to this version of THPS3 is fully enabled online play. I know that you can do it with the PS2, but it's not nearly as developed, or populated, as the PC play. All told, there are eight modes:
- Graffiti: "Tag" an obstacle or area by pulling off a trick. Steal others' areas by pulling a superior trick. Everyone has his/her own color.
- Trick Attack: Skate with other players simultaneously for a set time. The one with the most trick points wins.
- Slap!: Run into other players. The faster player stays upright and earns one point. The player with the most Slap! points wins.
- King of the Hill: Find the crown hidden on the level and wear it as long as possible. While you're wearing it, you'll skate slower, so other players will have a chance to slap the crown off you. First player to wear the crown the preset amount of time wins.
- Free Skate: Skate with other people. No winners, no losers.
- Control the Zone: Two teams fight for control of the same area. Control the zone by holding the key. Drop the key and the other team might pick it up and gain control.
- Keep Away: Find the ball and skate with it. Doing tricks while holding the ball earns mad trick points. If you fall or get hit, then you drop the ball. If someone else gets it, they build points.
- Capture the Flag: Well, you know what capture the flag is.
The online play supports up to eight skaters at a time, which makes it pretty hectic. However, this craziness gets old after a while. The beauty of the game lies in the career mode, and even after facing off against a formidable player, the experience is somewhat unsatisfying. I think that really talented players might enjoy the graffiti or trick attack mode, but overall it's unspectacular. I do, however, appreciate the inclusion of network play.