Title :Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
Platforms :Sony PlayStation, Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox
Publisher :Activision
ESRB Rating :Teen
Game Rating :9.0
Review by :Evan Wade

It's hard for anyone to be successful at a major undertaking three times in a row these days. Don't believe me? Ask the post-Jordan Bulls. A company that puts out an excellent game is often hard-pressed to produce a sequel that matches or surpasses the first. 

Luckily, Activision's Neversoft team hasn't had this problem with their outstanding Tony Hawk series. The relatively obscure Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2x notwithstanding, these once-unknown developers have made a name for themselves and, with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, have created the three best skateboarding games on the market, bar-none. [GameCube version reviewed here] 

A major component in the quality of any title is the gameplay, and THPS3 definitely does not lack in that department. Neversoft has managed to keep all three games from being too similar by adding small tweaks to their innovative engine, this time employing the "revert" trick. Want to add a 360-degree benihana to that 7000-point grind combo? Thanks to the revert, you now can. This move, which makes once-unheard of scores easily attainable, allows the player to link vert (ramp) tricks to combos usually reserved for flip tricks and grinds. A final (and helpful) new implement in the game is a revamped special move meter. No longer must we wait until after a big trick to do a special move, as the meter fills up mid-combo. The levels and goals are nicely varied, too. Skaters will go from a foundry to an airport to a cruise ship in this game, and a few skate parks in between, with the goals in each being refreshingly unique and fun to complete. 

If you're worrying about limited replay value here, well, don't. A roster of 13 starting skaters and eight hidden characters (including Darth Maul and Wolverine) awaits you, as well as four hidden levels and a plethora of cheats to unlock. The fine folks at Neversoft even gave the classic THPS level, Burnside, a spot in the new game, giving us all something to work for. The game's multiplayer option will also keep the skate action alive. Tag, Graffiti, and Horse modes, among others, are available to keep the gamer up all night with his friends. Be warned, however: the frame rate drops a bit in modes where two players skate simultaneously. 

Tight, easy-to-learn controls are a staple of the THPS franchise, and the third installment of the series is no exception. Oddly enough, one of the biggest criticisms about the game also stems from the controls. The GCN's smallish D-pad and B button provide an interesting, if not entirely fun, learning experience. Luckily, the game becomes second nature after a couple of hours, making those difficult secret tapes again a cinch to gain again. 

The GameCube is a next-generation system, and this game reflects that with excellent graphics. The levels, the most exemplary ones being Canada and the Airport, are amazing, and the character animations are excellent. The bails alone are almost worth the price of buying the game; who doesn't get a kick out of seeing Jamie Thomas unexpectedly (and painfully) straddle a handrail after botching a frontside 5-0 grind? The skaters fall down, roll their knees, smack their heads, and smash their boards quite a bit, providing many a chuckle for the sadist in us all. The attention to detail is also amazing in cases like when the light-up sign in Suburbia loses letters from a skater running into it. Finally, there is a much higher degree of interactivity with the levels than in the first two installments. Many goals involve changing or contorting a level, like the earthquake rails in Los Angeles. 

As good as the graphics are, the music isn't. While the soundtrack is extensive and varies from rap to rock to punk, the songs get old after a few hours. As much as I like hearing KRS-1 scream "WHAT YOU THOUGHT!?" every time his song comes on, well, I don't. There are some decent tracks, though, like CKY's "96 Quite Bitter Beings" and Guttermouth's "I'm Destroying the World." In contrast, the actual in-game sounds aren't shabby at all. The grind noises, sounds of wheels hitting a quarterpipe, and the sick thud of a skull smacking the ground are all realistic — not that I would know what that last one sounds like. The most irritating noise has to be the people with cameras that follow you around and say "What you got?" over and over. Too bad you can't swing the board at these irritating photographers. 

If you like the Tony Hawk series on any platform, buy this game. If you've never played a previous installment, rent it and see how you like it. If you were waiting to read a good review before you spent your fifty hard-earned dollars on it, step away from the computer and buy the game now. You won't be disappointed. 

This article is copyright (c) 2002, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Gamebits, 20-Aug-02