Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone






The gold-standard of extreme sports games Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 has made it’s first appearance on the Nintendo Gamecube. As you’d expect, Neversoft has once again topped themselves with another first-rate skateboarding title. With the eternally addictive gameplay, smooth controls and of course, legions of unlockable items, secrets and moves, THPS 3 is once again at the top of the mountain. Read our review to find out how THPS3 stays at the peak of its game.

Even though seemingly hundreds of imitators have cropped up in the past few years, none has ever come close to matching the sheer excellence of Neversoft and Activsion’s Tony Hawk games. While some Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater remains the standard by which all other ‘extreme’ sports titles are measured. The third installment in the series and first on the GameCube shows THPS at its absolute peak with a bevy of new features and refinements that other extreme sports games will be imitating shamelessly for the next year, until the next installment blows them away. As has been the case with the previous sequels, Neversoft has taken everything that was great about previous games and have added a ton of new features onto a great game to make it better. The big thing this time is the increased amount of customization features, allowing for even more fun. This begins with a greatly enhanced and much more elaborate create-a-skater mode, which allows even more customization options including changing appearances, clothes, helmets, hairstyles, shoes and boards. In addition, you can build up the custom skater’s stats as well as other attributes of the skaters.

It doesn’t stop there, as there’s now an enhanced skate-park creation tool which allows for greater flexibility with more types of pieces with more ramps, grinds, and jumps making this much more enjoyable and useful. Players can also create bigger parks as well, making their designed courses a lot more interesting and fun to play on. Despite these new extras, the biggest changes and differences come in the actual gameplay. Neversoft has add in the numerous gameplay enhancements such as the much larger, much more interactive levels, new tricks including the super-cool manuals, more combos which makes THPS even more addictive and fun than before. There are also hidden combos and abilities which will take hours and hours to master. Another cool enhancement in THPS3 is the balance meter, which allows you to have much better control while grinding and also allows you to make massive chained grinds for huge points and scores in the various modes. The money system from the last game has been jettisoned in favor of the traditional goals and hidden tapes, this resumption brings the series back to its classic formula and fixes the one area of TH2 that didn’t feel right. This assortment of changes is all wrapped around the same incredibly addictive, polished and, deep gameplay that the series has become synonymous with. So all in all, this is how a sequel should be done – building on the successes of previous games while layering on enough new elements to keep the formula fresh.

In addition to multiplayer, practice and single session modes, the game also has an extensive Career mode. The main goal here is to skate around and collect various items, perform tricks, unlock secret areas, enhance your character with points and of course there are other objectives such as collecting the letters S-K-A-T-E and finding the secret tape on each level. Each objective completed earns you a point and these points can be used to unlock more levels. There are also stat icons which you can collect and enhance your skater’s abilities. THPS3 has abandoned the money system of the second edition and instead reverts to the simpler objective system used in the first game. However, this doesn’t mean that THPS3 represents a step backwards. The levels this time out are much larger and more elaborate than any seen in the past and feature cool new interactive elements that really help to immerse the player into the world. The levels take place in a variety of locales including an Airport, Rio De Janeiro , Canada , and skateparks. What’s cool about this is that each level now has its own indigenous tasks such as causing an earthquake, fixing a satellite dish, grinding a bucket of burning steel, finding the entrance to a haunted house, causing snow to fall on a bully or triggering an earthquake. These unique challenges gives each level its own personality.

One of the first things players familiar with the older outings in the series will notice is that the visuals have been significantly enhanced. An impressive engine allows for a greater definition in objects and structures in the background making for a more realistic appearance throughout. Animations are now much smoother and the game’s engine moves at a very smooth clip with little in the way of slowdown. It seems a little flat at points, but the vastness and detail of the environments makes up for any of the plainness in the graphics and visuals giving a nicely polished appearance. Another significant enhancement is that THPS 3’s levels are now populated with other skaters and civilians, some of whom get in the way while others need to be knocked down which also gives the levels more life. This seemingly insignificant change is actually a fantastic enhancement that helps to make the environments feel more realistic and authentic. THPS3 does a good job and this translation makes excellent use of the GC”s power. The Nintendo console’s use of mass-storage also allows for a nice soundtrack, which has been broadened to include hip-hop and metal in addition to the pop-punk tracks that have become the series trademark music. Some of the tracks are more annoying than invigorating but the variety is greatly appreciated. Another improvement isn’t as noticeable initially, but the trick system is even deeper with new moves such as the manuals which are hard to master but reward the player with huge amounts of points. Earlier installments were intuitive but THPS3 features a much simpler and much easier combo system that adds another layer of challenge and difficulty onto what is already an incredibly deep game.

What makes the expanded combo system so appealing, at least on the Gamecube, is the system’s controller, which is perfectly suited to this type of gameplay. With its extremely comfortable analog stick making movement responsive and smooth and the different sized and shaped face buttons making commands easy to differentiate, the console’s controller is absolutely perfect with this game and THPS3 exploits this to the fullest. So, in the end, the increased customization, larger environments, deeper tricks system, enhanced interactivity and greater variety of mission goals makes this another outstanding title. Neversoft deserves a lot of credit for not resting on their success and continuing to improve the series. As usual, this is a highly addictive, incredibly fun game with a myriad of secrets to unlock that should keep you occupied for many hours. In fact, we purposely avoided mentioning a lot of these because a big part of the fun is finding them yourself but suffice it to say, there are some huge surprises in store. The question isn’t whether you should get Tony Hawk 3, because it’s as close to a mandatory purchase as you can get, but why you’d bother with anything else in the genre. 


Also on the-laser.com: 

> review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (PlayStation1)
> review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (Dreamcast)