Reviewed: July 8, 2002
Released: March 31, 2002
I have a confession to make. Until about 3 weeks ago I had never played a Tony Hawk game - none of them – on any platform. I wasn’t running a game review site when the first two Tony Hawk games released, and when Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 for the PS2 released last November I passed on the title and let another reviewer play the game. After reading his glowing review I swore that if I ever had the chance to play another Tony Hawk game I would.
Thanks to the great folks at Activision and Neversoft I didn’t have to wait long, as the Xbox port shipped shortly thereafter, and while this is essentially the same Tony Hawk 3 that is already available for the PS2 and the GameCube, there are a few improvements and even some Xbox-exclusive goodies that nudges this title into the top slot.
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Tony Hawk 3 is divided into several modes with a majority of the gameplay being found in the massive Career Mode. This is where you will unlock levels for use in the other modes. Each level comes with an extensive laundry list of objectives that you must complete to unlock additional levels. These can range from scoring radical amounts of trick points to performing certain level specific objectives to collecting letters to spell the word S-K-A-T-E. I haven’t had to spell words in a game since my pinball days in the arcade.
The game is designed so you have a very limited amount of time on any given run. This means you have to pick your objective(s) wisely because you will only have time to complete one, two, or maybe three objectives on any given run. This also means you will be replaying each level several times, but these levels are so huge and populated with dynamic scenery that you will always be finding something new to jump off or grind on – it never gets boring.
Control is really sweet with the Xbox controller being put to effective use. The lengthy tutorial walks you through all the traditional controls that are pretty much the same as they were in Tony Hawk 2X with the exception of a few new and very important moves. You now get a bubble-meter to judge your balance when performing grinds and manuals. This doesn’t necessarily make these moves any easier to perform – you just know when you are about to dump and can hopefully compensate in time.
Trick points have never been higher thanks to the new Revert move that enables you to chain tricks when coming down off a vert. Of course you still need to go into a manual to keep the combo alive across the flats, but when you start combining these moves you will find the combos can become insane and the points shoot through the roof. Of course, so do the objectives.
Tony Hawk 3 is a bit more realistic in terms of the “air” you can grab off verts. This makes it much harder to rack up the requisite points by performing traditional moves. This game is all about the grinds, manuals, and combos; a totally new twist from previous versions. You will need to learn every square inch of every massive level and exploit every trick opportunity.
Additional levels are unlocked by completing a set amount of objectives in previous levels. This is a great feature, as it doesn’t require you to complete each previous level before advancing. You may only need 6 objectives to unlock level two, so you can do the easy stuff to open up more environments before going back to perfect each level. Some levels require medals to unlock, and getting these will test every last ounce of your skill.
The levels are masterfully created with meticulous detail and amazing amounts of interactivity. There is always something going on and things for you to do that often trigger additional events that change the level or perhaps open up a new section previously inaccessible. You will skate in such creative locations as a working foundry, an outdoor Canadian skate park, a cruise ship, an airport, Los Angeles with rush-hour traffic and earthquakes, and even a competition in Tokyo.
Tony Hawk 3 is addicting in the worst kind of way. The first time I inserted the disc to peruse the tutorial I immediately lost 6 hours of my life before I even knew it was gone. You keep telling yourself “just one more objective”, then the next thing you know you’ve unlocked a new level and you promise yourself to just make a single run through it to check it out before you quit playing, and the next thing you know the sun is rising and birds are chirping outside your window.
One of the best things about the gameplay is that the individual runs are only a few minutes. This is great when you have multiple people who want to combine forces to get through the career mode. You may have some players who can rack up the insane points while others are better at doing the adventure-style objectives or finding those letters to spell SKATE. Each player can get a turn without waiting for extended periods of time.
The Xbox version of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 is the undisputed king of its own series in the visual department. This game is light-years beyond the previous versions and easily exceeds the quality of its PS2 and GameCube cousins. The game maintains a smooth frame rate for the most part with only a few very minor occurrences of slowdown; none of which ever affected the gameplay.
The colors weren’t as rich or vibrant as I would have personally liked, but everything had a suitably realistic quality to it. The level of detail in each of the huge environments is beyond words. There is always something moving whether it be traffic, pedestrians, or a bucket of molten lead dumping into a vat.
The amount of detail put into this game is unbelievable and in some cases totally unnecessary. Let’s take the skaters for instance. The level of complexity and customization you can put into each of your skaters is insane. You can change every article of clothing, every part of the hair including color and style, add tattoos, jewelry, protective gear, and even change body features based on sex, age, height, and weight.
The motion-captured animation is perfection. Each trick looks amazing and they all blend together seamlessly when performing even the longest and most radical chain of combos. The realism even extends to the occasional face plant complete with bloodstains on the pavement. These animations are actually painful to watch and will have you groaning with empathy.
This game features one primary sound; the rolling of wheels on whatever surfaces you happen to be skating on. If it’s the concrete of the training levels you get the clackety-clack as you roll over the joints, and the wooden swoosh as you ride up the verts followed by the momentary silence as you hang in the air.
There is a small sampling of speech that usually consists of impressed fans urging you on to bigger and better tricks or annoyed pedestrians or level specific employees annoyed at your trespassing. Comments are often humorous, but can get repetitive after a few hundred hours of gameplay.
Of course the highlight of the audio is the stellar soundtrack featuring hot contemporary artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Xzibit, Alien Ant Farm, Motorhead, and more. But there is only so much music the game disc can hold and when you will be playing Tony Hawk 3 for hundreds of hours you will be grateful for the custom soundtrack feature that lets you grind and groove to your own set of MP3’s.
I can’t think of another game out there (at least on the Xbox) that offers as much gameplay value as this. Tony Hawk 3 is one of those games that you can start playing and never stop until Tony Hawk 4 is released. Seriously, there are hundreds of potential hours of gameplay here. You can probably work your way through all of the career objectives in 40-50 hours, but don’t overlook the five multiplayer modes or the enhanced skate park editor.
Challenge up to 3 other friends in some multiplayer skate competition in:
The skate park editor is a breeze to use, and there is a huge library of scenery and stunt-related items to populate your park. Anyone with enough practice and creative design skills can create levels comparable to the built-in levels.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 is one of those games that made me realize I have been missing out on a major franchise for a long time. If I wasn’t confident that this game encompassed everything that Tony Hawk 2X offered and more I would be adding that game to my library.
The extra level and secret character are just icing on an already very tasty cake that will have you spending countless hours on your Xbox until Tony Hawk 4 arrives later this year. If you love skateboard, extreme sports, or just want to play one of the best and most comprehensive games you can buy for your Xbox, then you’ve skated into the right park.