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Tony Hawk | Pro Skater 3 | review | gamw | Lollipop
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
(Activision for the PS2)
by Eric Johnson
Virtual skateboarding at its best, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is yet another incarnation of the king of extreme sports games, this time on a much better game system. The hardest thing about writing a game review is that almost everything out there is redundant, to some extent. There are only so many archetypes, and most video games fall into two categories, those that rip-off the revolutionary ideas and those that seek to perfect them. Tony Hawk 3 is a prime example of the latter. If you own a PS2 and you've never played a Tony Hawk game, this is something to check out, even if you have no enthusiasm for skateboarding.
What you'll find is a game full of freeform acrobatics, where simple actions on your controller make a little guy on your TV screen do some crazy shit, best described as figure-skating through an obstacle course. Dozens of gesticulating airborne maneuvers take place in and around drained pools, chain link fences, half pipes, cop cars, furnaces, and park benches. The controls are easy to pick up, and doing these tricks follows a basic principle that makes the game especially accessible to newcomers: Do whatever you want, so long as the board is pointing in the direction you're moving when you hit the ground.
Compared to its ancestors, there's been a substantial jump in the quality of the graphics. That's to be expected, but the nice part is how the increase in graphics capability has allowed for infinitely more complex levels. The opening level, an ultra-modern steel mill called "the foundry," is a knot of ramps, rails, and catwalks with some downright dangerous props. There are a number of play modes, but in order to upgrade your character, buy new boards, and open new levels, you must play in career mode. Career mode gives you two min utes in a given environment and ten goals to achieve. These goals include getting people unstuck from lamp posts, collecting scattered items, scoring a given number of points, and performing prescribed tricks on prescribed objects. New to the series is that each of the available 12 skaters has a different set of goals for each level, a very nice touch that motivates the playing of the game. More detailed exploration of these environments can be taken at your leisure in "free time," a practice mode. The inclusion of a tutorial provides newcomers with some basic lessons and explains principles that non-skaters would never have encountered. Just to make the whole package that much more worthwhile, there's a skate park editor that is super easy to use. So if you have the gumption to sit there and meticulously plan some outrageous environment, complete with bamboo stakes to sic on your friends, there's ample opportunity to do so.
There's nothing from the excellent first two installments of the series that's not kept or improved upon in this one. In every category, Tony Hawk 3 takes a dramatic step forward. I do have some minor grievances, but nothing that detracts from my positive recommendation. Doing tricks becomes tiring and redundant after a while although the game remains fun, it needs to be played in relatively short bursts. Over an hour and it just starts pissing you off, even though the game is good enough to occupy you for months. It's also, when you get right down to it, a sports game, and despite the enthusiastic and imaginative design, the lack of a plot does eventually cause me to put it down. Some sort of adventure mode where you took down some people robbing a bank or something would be nice, something whimsical to unlock after you've played the game for a while. I know it sounds pathetic that the lack of killer robots, spaceships, zombies, vampires, and assault weapons can cut down on my overall ability to completely enjoy a game, but, to some extent, it's true. Given the type of game it is, and the idea that you could play as Wolverine or Darth Maul if you unlock their characters makes me think that such an idea would strike the people at Neversoft as being kinda cool.
With the release of this game, Twisted Metal Black, Silent Hill 2, and Metal Gear Solid 2, there are enough good games out there to make investing in a PS2 more plausible than six months ago. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 makes the unrepentant poser I was in high school really excited. Tony Hawk was around back then I remember a 1987 interview with him on late-night ESPN where he was driving around southern California in his god-awful teal mini-van, bragging about the fact that he made thirty grand a year. Skateboarding is notoriously brutal on the knees, and it blows my mind that he's still making a living this way, even if the 30 g's he was making then sounds like chump change now. Anyhow, old Tony's got a genuine dynasty on his hands, and so long as he finds ways to improve upon this formula, the long dead poser in me is going to want to see what he does next.