Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
This is one of those games that could ruin your social life. Forever.
If you haven’t seen at least once Tony Hawk in action, it’s difficult to understand the potentialities behind a human with a four-wheeled, small board under his feet. This artist of the skateboard is one of the heroes of the young, and not so young, American boys. That’s why two years ago Activision and Neversoft decided to develop a game for Psx dedicated to Tony Hawk. The game was called Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and soon became a success not only in U.S. but also in the rest of the world. A sequel followed just a year ago and once again, it was a success.
In Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater the player has to guide Tony Hawk himself or another professional skater through a series of levels, performing chains of unbelievable tricks. Tony Hawk Pro Skater, with its crazy gameplay and unrealistic physics, has succeeded in creating a new genre of games. Several clones have been released on all platforms, and also the original SSX for Ps2 derives many of its ideas from Neversoft’s series.
With Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, the series enters the crowded world of Next-Generation consoles with a refined, addictive, innovative title. And guess what? This is the first Ps2 game released in Western countries to fully support online games. Are you excited?
THPS3 features a list of professional skaters nearly identical to the one of the preceding episode. Besides Tony Hawk, the skaters available are Steve Caballero, Kareen Campbell, Rune Glifberg, Eric Koston, Bucky Lasek, Bam Margera, Rodney Mullen, Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Geoff Rowley, Elissa Steamer, Jamie Thomas – Bam Margera is the newcomer, while Bob Burnquist has said goodbye to the series to appear in Konami's ESPN X Games Skateboarding. Each time you beat the game, a new character or a new level is unlocked. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I can say that when I saw the character I had unlocked beating the game once, I started to cry with joy. You can also edit the professional skaters changing their shirts, pants and other stuff.
The Create-a-Skater mode is still here, and it has been improved. You can select height, weight, face, skin, hairstyle and here you have your “nude” skater. Now you can select shirts, shoes, socks, helmets, glasses and much more. Of course, you can edit your character’s stats and configure his (or her) tricks. Overall, the possibilities are simply endless.
I’ve always admired Neversoft’s developers for what they have done with the control system in the first instalments of the series. They created games that were at the same time complex and absolutely intuitive a mix that is somehow close to the formula used by a great software house, Namco, for its titles. The same formula is behind THPS3, but with a few little novelties that make the gaming experience more exciting both for the newcomers and the expert players.
The control scheme is almost the same featured in THPS2. The X button is used to Jump, Circle, Square and Triangle are used respectively for Grab, Flip and Grind tricks. Combining these buttons with the direction pad and the shoulder buttons you can get an enormous number of variations on the basic moves. The key to reach high scores is to perform chains of tricks. In fact tricks can be linked together with special little moves, called manuals, that consist in popping a wheelie on your board. The most noticeable innovation in THPS3 is the introduction of the revert move for which R2 and L2 buttons are used. Basically, if you perform a revert after a vert trick, you can now link all your vert moves with a manual. It’s a nice addition to a control system that was already perfect in the preceding episodes.
Neversoft has created for this new chapter an incredible series of challenges. There are 8 main levels, many hidden levels, 20 skate parks and the Create-a-park mode has been improved. You can now create your own big parks choosing among a great variety of structures and setting different ground levels. All is done with a system that’s extremely easy to master.
The eight big levels are just marvellous, and not only for the graphics. The minds behind this game have designed each course with skill, and the result is a title that is much more varied than its predecessors. The levels are completely, insanely interactive. For example, in the Los Angeles level an earthquake transforms the scenery in real time, creating new difficulties for your skater.
The two player modes are great, too. The classic Horse mode, Trick Attack, Graffiti, Slap and King Of The Hill are the ones you can choose. King Of The Hill is new to the series, and consists in fighting against the other player for a crown. If you hold the crown for more than two minutes, you win. I assure you: this mode is highly addictive.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 is the very first online title for PS2 released in the western countries. And the work done by Neversoft and Activision for the online mode of THPS is nearly flawless.
While Sony’s Network Adapter has been delayed for a 2002 release, you can use an Ethernet Adapter or a USB modem to play this game online. Neversoft has officially tested THPS3 with the following peripherals:
- LinkSys EtherFast 10/100 USB Network Adapter USB100TX (the one I’ve used)
- D-Link DSB-650TX USB ETHERNET ADAPTER
- SMC EZNET-USB 2202 USB
- SOHOware 10/100 Mbps USB Network Adapter NUB100
- Zoom FaxModem 56K USB Model 2985L
- USB Pocket 56K NetSurfer NMT00700
- MultiTech Systems MultiModemUSB MT5634ZBA-USB
- Actiontec Call Waiting USB modem USB56012-01CW
To start playing, all you need to do is to connect the peripheral to your Ps2 USB port. Of course, you also need a high speed access via a cable modem, DSL or a simple dial-up account. Unfortunately, AOL is not supported by THPS3.
After you have entered your information through an easy in-game setup, you have to choose a server. At present, there are only U.S. servers available: three servers on the West Coast and three on the East Coast. The setup procedure requires no more than a minute. Now, you are ready to play online. When you connect to a server, a list of the games currently running appears.
In the online mode you can play free skate, Trick Attack, King of The Hill, Slap or Graffiti multiplayer modes with up to four players. If you are “serving” a game, you can set a password for your game (in this way only your friends will be able to join it), choose the game mode, kick a player you don’t like – exactly like if you were an IRC operator. You can also use a skater you’ve created with the Create-A-Skater mode, while you can’t play online in the parks you’ve created.
I’ve played the game online on a cable connection, and I’ve experienced only minor slowdowns, that anyhow didn’t affect significantly the gaming experience. You can also chat with other gamers using a PC USB keyboard .
Overall, the gameplay of THPS3 is virtually flawless. Once again, Neversoft’s developers have created a gaming experience that’s just unique. In a phrase, THPS3 plays like a dream.