If you’re anything like me, you’ve always been fascinated by skateboarding, but don’t have nearly enough coordination and patience to perform the most basic of tricks. Lucky for guys like us, skateboarding video games exist. I’ve been known to get gnarly on the sticks since Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and have to say that the genre has reached its pinnacle with Skate 3, EA’s newest addition to the Skate franchise. When the Tony Hawk franchise got WAY too over the top with its physics engine, I thought skateboarding video games were dead. Have a gander at some gameplay from Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, one of the later titles in the series.
Wow, is that horrible. I understand how video games work, that you need to suspend your disbelief to get the most out of it, but I can only do that to a certain extent. They made the game so easy that it wasn’t fun anymore. A backflip became expected, and as such, mundane. Tricks were just button mashing into a manuel into more button mashing. Skill and technique were thrown out the window, and the guys who had grown up on the game would take it no longer. And finally, after years of waiting for a realistic skateboarding game, EA brought out Skate to the market to wrest the genre away from Activision’s Tony Hawk series. The move worked, and now the guys at Tony Hawk are headed back to the drawing board, expected to come out with the series’ next game later this year.
Enter Skate 3. The most recent installment of the series stays true to the values that inspired the game in the first place. Real skateboarding, realistic physics, and beautiful environments.
The first thing you’ll notice when you play Skate 3, or any Skate game for that matter, is that doing tricks is really, really frustrating. The guys at Black Box decided to go a different route than Tony Hawk, using the right analog stick to do tricks instead of the face button. For example, pull back on the right stick, then quickly push it forward to do an ollie. Pull the stick back, and push it forward to the slight right or left and your avatar will do a kickflip or heelflip. Learning how to do the tricks takes awhile, but the game has a glossary in-game to show you how to do everything. Jason Lee makes a cameo as hot pant enthusiast Coach Frank to teach you the game’s basics, and they start you off slow challenge-wise after the tutorial. I hate learning how to do things as much as the next person, but stick with Skate 3 and you’ll notice how much fun the game is once you start landing tougher tricks consistently. The Hawk series major problem wasn’t that the tricks you could do were too difficult, but that they made difficult tricks too easy. Skate 3 has its share of badass stunts, but they do a good job of keeping those tricks difficult. Now I hate stupid advertising campaigns as much as the next guy, but that doesn’t make the Miracle Whip any less of an awesome trick.
The physics of the game are unparalleled. Charging down hills isn’t just challenging, but just as fun as skating a pool or funbox. Whether or not you’ll be able to land a trick is based on speed and timing. Unlike the Tony Hawk series, Skate gets the two to work against each other that makes busting a huge air all the more satisfying. The more speed you have, the harder it is to time your jump. Conversely, if you have less speed, your jump will be easier to time, but that much harder to get the air you need.
Skate 3 also wants you to play the game online as much as possible. The replay system they have in place is much like the rest of the game: difficult to use, but gratifying once you get the hang of it. They give you a lot of room to be creative with replays, your avatar, and created skate parks, and encourage you to share your creations with the rest of the Skate community. You can form skate crews with your friends online, and become the alpha nerds by being the best online crew.
As awesome as the game is, it’s certainly has its faults. The game is set in the town of Port Carverton, which has three different districts. Unfortunately, there is no way to skate from one district to another, so at times the game feels like a series of menus and loading screens. And to say that the game’s lacking in plot would be the understatement of the century. Basically, you’re the same skater from the previous two games, and are so disenfranchised with the business that you decide to start your own skate company. The more challenges you complete, the more boards you sell, and that’s it. There’s no Eric Sparrow that you have to beat in a epic, 80s style skate-off, so beating the game is definitely anti-climatic.
That being said, Skate 3 relies more on it’s gameplay than it’s plot, so the game doesn’t lose replay value after you sell the number of boards required to beat the game. After finishing the objectives, I still found spots I had never seen that were plenty enjoyable to skate. Spots which, like the rest of the game, look beautiful. They’re arranged in such a way that make them easier to skate. You can buy more spots online for Microsoft points (or whatever the PS3 equivalent is) too, if that’s your bag. The soundtrack, such an underrated aspect of skateboard games, is great. It has a lot of tracks that will keep most music fans engaged. It’s a good mix that includes Young Jeezy, Neil Diamond and the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, himself.
Once you get past the learning curve and get into the meat of the game, you’ll discover just how fun Skate 3 is. You’ll find a cool spot, and although it may take you a couple of tries to hit it the way you want, you’ll be pumped when it finally comes out the way you wanted. Then you can edit the replay of that trick just the way you like, and put it online so that everyone can acknowledge just how awesome you are. Skate 3 is one of the best sports game to have come out this summer, and has the critical reviews to back it up. I strongly recommend giving it a chance if you were a fan of the Tony Hawk series, or if you’re looking for something new you can sink your teeth into.
What’s almost as good as Skate 3 is watching hipster skaters get hit in the balls. The Black Box guys should try to incorporate that into Skate 4 as much as they possibly can. That, and Photoshopped pictures of cats.