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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Extreme Sports

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Neversoft

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q1 2002

 

 

-Best skating game ever made
-Levels are huge!
-Graphics are pretty sweet but..

 

 

-..Doesn't take complete advantage of Xbox hardware's graphic capabilities
-Some hidden new decks and stat coins hard to find
-Soundtrack not as good as previous games

 

 

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X (XBox)

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (XBox)

 

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3

Score: 9.9/10  

 

tony-hawk-3-xbox-1.jpg (10813 bytes)          tony-hawk-3-xbox-2.jpg (10819 bytes)

 

Neversoft had a tough assignment ahead of them. As the development team that made the most perfect skateboarding game known to videogaming mankind, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, how could they improve it the next time around? For the answer, check out Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (THPS3) on the Xbox, the newest and, beyond any doubt, best in the series that has unquestionably defined what it takes to create the perfect skating game which has spawned many wannabe imitators.

 

Playing THPS games has become one of the best ways to spend some quality time with the console of your choice over the past few years. It’s just plain all-out video game fun. THPS2 was a great improvement over the original. THPS3 does the same trick, enhancing a great game that many thought would be hard to upgrade any higher. How does it do it? Let me count the ways.  

 

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THPS4’s Career Mode goal system has been changed too. Each one of the nine levels still has goals that must be completed to gain stat points and cash for upgraded equipment and clothing, but now there is no rush to complete the goals in a restrictive time frame. The levels are free roam and you only take on a level goal when you are ready to – even better, they don’t have to be done in any particular order. But some of the goals are ridiculously hard. This is by far the most challenging of the THPS titles to date. The C-O-M-B-O goal is easily the most difficult goal on each level.  

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First of all, Neversoft went and tweaked the already-effortless game control and came up with an more taunt schematic, even in light of the Xbox controller and its large number of available controller options (six color-coded buttons, two triggers, two analog sticks and one directional pad) which many people seem afraid of handling (and some have trouble holding). But as I have learned from some heavy Xbox gaming, don’t be afraid, folks. While it looks scary, the Xbox controller is really easy to learn to use, and in THPS3 this holds true. A more formidable trial awaits you in THPS3 as you learn to control your skater’s balance on lip, rail and manual moves. This was an easier function in previous Pro Skater games. Now, even experienced THPS players will need to master the many new tricks available in your repertoire. 720 and even 900 tricks are simpler to pull off with some practice, and there are tons more customized tricks for each skater. But the tighter and more fluid control scheme imbedded into the game makes getting adept in the Hawk’s third world no problem. There is also the inclusion of the new vert landing, which after a quick run-through practicing with the fresh tutorial feature hosted by Tony Hawk himself will be a snap to master and increase your scoring.

 

The best feature of the game is the vastly increased size of the eight levels to explore in the game. You won’t get bored roaming the creatively designed interactive worlds that Neversoft has given you to skate. These levels seem to have more thought put into their layout, as every part of each level has somewhere you can go to either grind, ollie or flip air tricks to rack up some serious game points. By far the biggest level is the airport. It’s an amazing layout considering the smaller type of levels anybody who has played the previous games is used to. Neversoft has also designed an extra Xbox-only oil rig level to make up for the game’s inexcusably long wait to appear in Microsoft's console world.

 

Each skater’s statistics such as their rail balance and speed aren’t purchased at the skate shop as before. Collecting one of five THPS3 coins placed throughout each level increases your stats instead. This makes the going a little difficult in the early levels, but after finding a few of these coins and applying them to your skateboarder’s stats, the game becomes much less difficult. Acquiring new boards on the levels doesn’t do anything for your skating ability though. Unlike THPS2, the new boards you discover hidden on each level don’t upgrade your control skills, which is a little puzzling. You still have to spell out S-K-A-T-E and collect secret tapes, but other level-specific goals are more interactive and cinematic this time around, even though THPS2 introduced some of this game action too. In Los Angeles, you have to start an earthquake by grinding on four rails and help the cops nab a van-driving shooting maniac by dumping a car stranded by the quake off the overpass onto the bad guy’s van. After you deposit the car you get to watch the result play out in a short cinematic clip. In the airport, there are two skate-buddies waiting for you to deliver their plane tickets before they can board the plane. But if you go through the metal detectors or bail before you get to the gate, you lose the tickets and have to start over again. On each and every level there are these types of mission-based activities to accomplish. But that’s part of the game’s charm. It mixes up the gameplay from straightforward skateboarding to some fun activities that give you a chance to investigate more of the levels than you normally would if you didn’t have to complete some of the goals required to move on.

 

Visuals are at their most impressive on the Xbox. However, because this is a multi-port title, one has to wonder what incredible look the game could have had if it were created exclusively for the most powerful graphic console of the market today, the Xbox. On the ‘box, The smooth and sweet graphics hit the screen at a high-octane 60 frames-per-second with impressive full-screen anti-aliasing that gives the THPS series its nicest appearance ever on any system. Bright colors drip off the screen on every level. Check out the drained pool’s mosaic tiling on the Cruise Ship level or the vividly painted cars roaming the L.A. streets. The skaters themselves are nicely rendered, as are the many interactive people walking around each level, particularly the thong bikini-clad babes and Neversoft hotties you have to impress with your skating prowess as a level goal on the cruise ship. In every visual aspect the game is good-looking but, as I mentioned before, somehow doesn’t seem to take full advantage of what the Xbox is capable of graphically. One other improvement is to the customized movies that are available for viewing after you complete each skater’s career mode goals. This time, they are longer and more personalized, as you can get a glimpse of Tony Hawk’s house and custom car or Steve Caballero riding his motorcycle in addition to some sizzling skating film for each included pro skater. And yes, there are the bail movies that everybody loves showing some nasty crashes by pros, amateurs and Neversoft development team members alike.

 

Multiplayer options are one of the game’s only letdowns. While it’s true you can play with up to four players, you can only accomplish this by linking up Xbox systems. Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you consider that there are four controller ports on the Xbox and that the earlier Xbox-exclusive THPS game, THPS2x had four-player gaming options available on one system. You are only able to get two-player action on a single Xbox this time around, which can be fun, but obviously not at the same level as having four players going at it at one time. The game also has some online gaming options built-in for those expert enough in online gaming to set up a broadband connection with three other players on GameSpy (which unfortunately doesn’t  include me in its fraternity) but true online capabilities most likely won’t appear until THPS4 is released, when Microsoft should have its online gaming network already up and running. There are the usual varieties of more-than-one modes available, including the returning King of the Hill, Trick Attack, and Graffiti. “Slap!” replaces THPS2’s Tag mode, but essentially plays the same way.

 

The music is basically the same mix of hip-hop and punk that has graced earlier versions. It doesn’t have the same quality as either THPS or THPS2, but some Alien Ant Farm and some older Red Hot Chili Peppers save the soundtrack from slipping too far. And even if you don’t like ANY of the game’s songs, THPS3 on the Xbox lets you take full audio control with the soundtrack management capabilities of the system, so you can rip your own skate-shredding tunage into the game. Sound effects stay about the same quality as previous THPS games. The sound of your board speeding over different surfaces has different audio tone qualities. The cars, pedestrians, and other interactive pieces of the various levels have that just-right amount of sound interaction. Nothing really stands out sound-wise as the unbelievably realistic cawing birds on the Marseilles level of THPS2 though.  

 

tony-hawk-3-xbox-3.jpg (10647 bytes)          tony-hawk-3-xbox-4.jpg (7554 bytes)

 

Besides the usual suspects returning like Bucky Lasek, Steve Caballero and Rodney Mullen and including the one-and-only legend himself, Tony Hawk, the cast of 13 skateboard superstars available subtracts Bob “signed on with another title, ESPN X-Games Skateboarding” Burnquist and adds Bam “star of MTV’s Jackass” Margera. Of course there is the requisite hidden characters to unlock. Star Wars fans will enjoy being able to choose the bad boy of the Phantom Menace flick, Darth Maul. While THPS2 unleashed Spider-Man on the skating scene, included this time around is my all-time favorite character from the Marvel comic universe, the clawed wonder, Wolverine. Instead of having only a few different clothing options available, you now have literally dozens of choices including the skater’s headwear, shirt, pants and shoes. And last but not least, you can again take advantage of the vastly improved Create-A-Skater option. THPS3 includes female characters to create and complete control over the frankensteinish creation’s skin tone, clothing and accessories. Going along for the enhancement ride is a refined skate park editor. It operates similar to its predecessor, but gives many, many more rails, funboxes, and ramps to design your very own homemade skate park.

 

The Hawk series soars to its highest echelon in its Xbox incarnation by besting the other earlier releases on the PS2 and GameCube, especially in the graphics department and giving meaning to the old saying “saving the best for last”. With its huge and creative levels, stellar graphics, and improved tighter control, THPS3 has more depth and re-playability than ever before. This is one game that is going to be hard to improve upon, but I’m sure the good folks over at Neversoft will have one or two goodies to throw our way in Hawk’s next flight. THPS has not only become the definitive skateboarding game, but after its third consecutive amazingly solid-in-all-facets installment, has quickly not only established itself as one of the best sports titles, but one of the best games of any video game genre out there today. A gotta-have title regardless of what next-generation system you own, particularly the Xbox. With the announcement of THPS4 as already under development, one can only salivate in mouth-watering anticipation while playing this already-classic rendition.

 

- Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(April 6, 2002)

 

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