It is time to oil those bearings, tighten the trucks and apply some new griptape. Skate 3 is here.
I am not a skateboarder. In fact I have enough trouble balancing on two feet most of the time, let alone on a wooden board with wheels. So I am not part of the demographic that this game is aimed at. The only reason I own the original Skate game is that it came packaged with my PS3. That being said, I did enjoy playing the game, but not enough to persuade me into buying the first sequel as, on playing the demo, it all kind of felt the same. When the opportunity arose for me to try out and review the third game in the series, I was more than happy to give it a go.
The game play of Skate 3 is not a huge change from the first game. Single player campaign has the player taking part in a series of challenges, be it races, competitions or pulling off tricks to be captured on film. Although there is a tutorial at the start of each of the skate games to teach you the basics, if you have played any of the other Skate games you already know the majority of the controls. Even if you do, you just have to play through the tutorials anyway, not because it’s a requirement, but because if you do not then you miss out on the comic genius of Jason Lee. Yes, the very Jason Lee of My Name Is Earl fame who was a skateboarder before taking up the acting, so there is a connection there. Not only are you learning how to play the game, it keeps you amused while doing so.
As I said, the controls have not changed throughout the series of games and this is not a bad thing as the developers got it pretty much perfect in the first game. One of two face buttons pumping your leg to get up momentum and then simply steering the boardÂ with the left stick. The right stick controls all of the tricks, with the simple yet effective flick it system. It gives players of all skill levels the ability to pull off impressive flips and tricks. Sure you can randomly flick the stick and achieve adequate results, enough even to pass through the majority of challenges in the game. However, if you take the time and practice moves over and over, you can master the system with some pretty amazing results.
The events all take place in the town of Carverton, a much more skater friendly town compared to the location of the first and, i am guessing, the second game. The Carverton architecture actually seems to have been built with skateboarding in mind, with many a flowing ledge, huge drops, big jumps and frighteningly fast downhill slopes. I have also noticed that, although there is still traffic on the roads, there are a lot less cars driving around the town. This helps but you will still be able to inevitably find the one car on an empty stretch of road and slam into it with a resounding thud. Another thing that I am happy to see which makes your skater’s life a whole lot easier, is the absence of security guards patrolling and chasing you away from certain areas. This is one of the few things I hated about the original game, being chased by them as you attempted to pull of a difficult trick on camera was a pain.
Of course, with this being the third game in the series, things have moved on vastly on the graphics side of things with the whole city looking bright, sharp and detailed. One thing that is pretty cool is that when your skater takes a tumble, the resulting grazes and bruises are visible on any bare skin that is showing. A small but welcome little touch. One thing on your skater, who is fully customizable, that has yet to be improved upon, that I really hoped would have been, is the hair. With your skater being at the centre of the screen 90% of the time, it would have been nice, this far into the series, to have more realistic hair, rather than the action figure style plastic hair we get. Again it’s another small thing and it is only one of a few things that plays against the game. But this and a few other small problems can easily be overlooked.
The sounds are equally as impressive. The sound of your wheels change perfectly depending on which surface you are on, from smooth tarmac, paving slabs and bricked roads, each surface sounding just like you would expect it to. The soundtrack is customizable, with the player being able to select from the available songs included in the game to create a personal playlist. Once in game, without even having to pause, the player can now skip forward and back through tracks of their playlist. Of the tracks included every player should be able to find a good handful to keep them entertained and the game scores bonus points from me here for being one of the few games ever to include Neil Diamond in the soundtrack.
The game play, like the previous games, revolves around the player either free skating around the city and discovering and taking part in events or, for the lazy players, just selecting the event from a list and being teleported directly to the location. Events cover a wide variety such as death races, which have the player taking part in a high speed downhill race with between three and seven AI controlled skaters, or being captured on film at various locales around the city as the player attempts to pull off specific tricks on a specific obstacle. There are large scale competitions set over a series of rounds, during which the player must rack up the highest score, thus earning the most points and winning the event. Also included are The Hall Of Meat events, in which the player hits a huge jump and then deliberately bails out striking poses as they fall to a bone crunching landing. Completely silly but yet so much fun.
What is new though is that Skate 3 focuses on team play as well as solo. The player builds up a team of skaters as they progress through the game, each of whom are completely customizable. These team mates are AI controlled skaters who turn up in the game in free skate. Another nice little point here is that anyone on your friends list who has played the game has their customized skater turn up in your single player game, controlled by AI. Something else that just makes the game a little more fun is that there are also team events, which are pretty much similar to the single player ones, only your score is combined with that of your team mate. Thankfully the team mate AI is decent enough that it does not blow your chances of winning an event with a poor performance.
Also expanded on here is the ability to change the environment. In Skate 2 you could move certain items around, creating some slightly unique jumps. This has been expanded on hugely in the new game, with the player being given a huge empty area in which they are able to build from the ground up their own skate parks. This is done via a simple drag and drop system where the player simply chooses the pre built items from the build menu and then rotating, moving and dropping into place before texturing it to give it that professional look. This gives the player their own skate playground to be built exactly how they want it to look.
This leads me on to the online features of the game, bringing in a little of the play, create, share style of play as skate parks you have built can be made available to other players online, so they can test your creations, as you can other player’s creations.
The online gameplay is also expanded. You can still go into it as a single player and find and compete in events with friends and other players, with the events lifted from the single player game. The team play from the single player mode is also carried over into multiplayer, with friends or people you have met in game either inviting you to their team or vice versa.
Summing things up, Skate 3 is by far the best skateboarding game available right now. But what you need to ask yourself is if you already own one of the first two games in the series, is the third going to offer you enough new content to keep you happy? It all comes down to whether or not you like to play online. If it’s the single player game you are after and already own one of the games in the series, there won’t be very much new here for you. However the multiplayer changes in Skate 3 more than deliver, with more player versus player along with with the new team building and competition modes, coupled with the ability to build and share skate parks, there is more than enough to keep you interested.
Pick it up if you do not already own a game from the series as it is the best of the bunch. But if you already own one of them, it comes down to how big a fan of the series you are or if you are after the great new multiplayer content on offer.