Skating fans and gamers of all sorts will spin, flip, grind, and sky their way to glory with more control and realism than ever before in this third full version of the explosively popular series of Tony Hawk skateboarding games. The Tony Hawk Pro Skater games established developer Neversoft as a universally respected big-name player in the industry and alone accounted for nearly 25% of Activision's total revenues in 2000. Many credit the franchise with legitimizing the extreme sports genre and this third edition once again infuses the title with outrageous tricks, engaging environments, and the distinct styles and personalities of some of the world's most talented and successful professional skaters.
As Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 enhanced the play of the original game with larger environments and the possibility for more tricks and combos, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 expands upon the standards established by its immediate predecessor. This third edition features levels that are up to twice as big as those featured in THPS2. Levels are more dynamic and interactive in this version, featuring streets busy with traffic, sidewalks full of pedestrians, and several special mission-specific events. Each professional skater is imbued with stylistic distinction and signature moves. More options are included for developing custom characters in this version as well, including the ability to create female boarders with a wide range of clothing and appearance choices.
By including up to five times the amount of animation that was used in THPS2, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 is designed to make it easier for the player to read the status of his or her on-screen persona (and pull up when the skater is about to lose balance and bail!). The addition of new landing tricks is intended to allow the gamer to string together bigger combinations, even when moving from vert to street style skating. In all, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 has been crafted to enhance and improve on features of the earlier titles while maintaining the core gameplay that makes the series one of the most important of its time.
By now, you've probably read a review of THPS3 for some other system. In the off chance that this is your first contact with this franchise, I'll briefly explain the concept behind it.
Real-life skater Tony Hawk does some pretty amazing (and some say insane) things on a skateboard. Most of this is represented in the game, and believe it or not, the game isn't that far off from reality. What makes the Tony Hawk series of games so appealing is the level of gameplay and replayability, especially with THPS3. In this latest installation, the parks are absolutely enormous, the graphics are topnotch, and with over a dozen real-life skaters to play with (as well as the ability to create your own skaters and parks), there's literally weeks of entertainment to be had.
And entertaining it is. The control scheme is deceptively simple, with a button for grinds, a button for kick flips, etc. However, there are hundreds of different moves to make, and with the introduction of the revert in all versions of THPS3, you can virtually chain tricks together for the entire two minutes of a level. Since chaining brings more points (over a million per trick if you're good), and the high scores are tracked, there's always one more record to beat. Each level also contains several goals, ranging from getting a certain amount of points to collecting videotapes, unlocking new boards, stat increases, etc. There's so much offered on each level (with different placements of collectibles for each skater) that it's easy to spend a day or even a week just having fun on the level of your choice. It's that good.
New to THPS3 is the ability to play online, as well as an expanded create-a-park level editor, and an even more in-depth create-a-skater mode, including female models. The park editor is fairly straightforward and lets you create the park of your dreams in a minimal amount of time. These parks can include named gaps (in most versions), starting points, and goals -- essentially everything found with the included levels. The skaters you create can gain stats and rise up the ranks to become another Tony Hawk if you work at it hard enough. It's all so well done that it's actually fun to just tweak little aspects of the game to your taste.
What's been said so far is true of all the incarnations of THPS3, so what's so great about the PC version? First and foremost, the graphics on the PC version are by far the best. If your computer can handle it, cranking up the resolution to 1280x1024x32 provides an eerily realistic skating experience. The amount of detail in the textures, the skaters, and even the skater's boards, is amazing. The environments come to life and are complemented with appropriate sound effects as necessary. Compared to the console versions, the PC completely dominates in the graphics department.
Next is the amazing amount of control you have over how you control the game. You can play with a mouse, the keyboard, and a gamepad -- it may even be possible to control this game with a steering wheel and pedals! While the default layouts are for keyboard, I highly recommend that you invest in a decent gamepad for THPS3. If you don't already have a gamepad, I used Interact's Hammerhead and it worked beautifully. Whatever pad you use, though, you'll probably want it to have ten buttons on it. Most console gamepads have at least ten buttons, and THPS3 sort of assumes that yours will too. If your pad doesn't have that many, you'll have to put a few of the lesser used commands (pausing the game and the like) on the keyboard. Without a pad at all, the keyboard is surprisingly responsive, but there's no comparing it to a genuine gamepad experience. On an up note, the gamepad will actually control menus and make selections as well, so you don't have to switch to the mouse to do this. It's a nice touch.
Third, the multiplayer for the PC version of THPS3 has been expanded upon, above what the consoles can do. Up to eight players can compete in games like tag and king of the hill, and for the most part, I had no problems with this. Players can also show off their skills in multiplayer mode and go for points, competing with all the other fanatics out there for bragging rights. The interface is clean and easy, and once you're in, the potential is there to drain hours of your time.
Finally, user-created parks can be freely traded through the Internet with others -- and even used in multiplayer mode. Although the user-created parks are fairly small (under 1 MB in most cases), everyone will have to download these if they are to be used in multiplayer sessions. It would've been nice to have an "auto-download" feature of some sort, similar to what's found in games like Q3A and UT, but that's perhaps a minor annoyance. Downloaded maps can also be played in single-player mode, and it's perhaps in your best interest to explore them some before venturing online.
The rest of the PC's THPS3 play is the same as the PS2 version. It's got all the same features, all the same music, all the same everything. We would've liked to be able to include our own .mp3s or CDs into the song list as it seems natural on a PC and would give it another bullet point over the console versions. However, the included soundtrack is quite good and it's varied enough to suit most tastes. (I really wanted to skate to some Enya or perhaps a classical CD, but that's probably just me.) If you've got a gamepad and a medium to high-end PC, this is the Hawk to own. If you've already got a version of this on any next generation console system, then you'll have to consider the benefits of the PC version on your own. Regardless of what you do, though, you should own a copy of this game on nearly any platform. Even non-believers in sports games (especially extreme sports games) will most likely become addicted to its fast pace, dead-on control, and sheer experience.
People who downloaded Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 have also downloaded:
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, Tony Hawk's Underground 2, Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, Need for Speed: Underground, Max Payne, Need for Speed Underground 2, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
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