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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3






With an aura of excellence exuding from the title, the bar has been set amazingly high for THPS3, can it make the grade? Read on to find out.

Skateboarding has always been looked upon as a hard-nosed, grungy, punk infested get together to shoot up on all kinds of heroine. And that may still be true. But in the past few years we have been graced by one of the greatest video game franchises ever. A franchise that will go down in history as one of the first truly eye-opening and genre creating series of video games ever... What could I possible be talking about? Why, the tried and true Tony Hawk series of course. Sure the first game could have been a fluke and maybe even the second. But now that the series has spanned a two and a half and a third title with plans for the fourth already in the mix, it's quite obvious that Tony Hawk is no fluke.

With the third game in the series the developers have the opportunity to flex their creative muscles. Now that the game has made its way to the Xbox we can finally see the creative vision that Neversoft has been yearning for, ever since the initial PSOne offerings.

The gameplay of the title is where the series has always been a hit and absolutely nothing has been lost in translating the latest incarnation over to the Xbox. The trick system has been greatly expanded on from titles of year's past. A whole slew of new tricks have been added to the mix including the ability to lie down on your board as you grind on a rail (my personal favorite), as well the ability to simply jump on an adjacent wall and score some very easy points. The standard holds and spins are ever present in the game. You'll be able to perform standard favorites such as methods, cannonballs, and kickflip varials (see the teacher after class if you get lost). Mixed in with the standard smorgasbord of tricks are a few new addition to the happy family including: crookedcops, del mar indy's, and other forms of aerial debauchery.

You'll play through a total of nine levels, one of which is hidden. Unlike most other extreme sports games of its time, THPS3 features some of the most innovative level design and goals to achieve in each of the stages. You'll travel the world from Canada to Rio to Los Angeles and in each locale you'll be met with a generous helping of tests. A welcome surprise is that a large portion of the goals featured in the game have nothing to do with attaining a score. Instead, you'll have to find objects (tickets, axes, etc…) in an effort to help NPC's (non playable characters) in the level. For instance in the Suburbia level a man is trying to get into his home but does not have a key to open a door. Instead he sends you out searching for an axe to break down a wall to gain entry. It may sound a bit too adventury for a skateboarding game but the end product is a true thing of beauty.

Apart from level goals and tricking off of objects there is (believe it or not) yet another aspect of THPS3 excels to an amazing level. While it may not seem like an important aspect of the game, the placement of objects that you can trick off of is extremely well done. Half pipes and quarter pipes are placed in half way realistic places around the cities that you'll be skating in. Once again, Neversoft comes through in a big way, making the levels interactive as well as perfectly designed.

Graphically, THPS3 isn't quite up to the incredibly high bar which the Xbox has set for itself. Another oddity is the slight discrepancy in graphics between THPS2X. For one reason or another Neversoft's latest THPS3 isn't quite as visually sharp as its previous effort. Why? I don't know. It's not a huge difference and that doesn't mean that this version looks bad, it just means that it's not quite the same.

Something that the Tony Hawk series has always excelled in is the exquisite trick and more importantly the amazing bail animations that has us all cringing and crying out in pain. The tricks appear elegant as your skateboarder of choice soars beautifully through the air and contorts his body in every which way. But what if something goes wrong while in mid trick? This is where the spine tingling fun comes in.

There are a wide variety of bone crushing animations that will have you dreaming of blood spattering all over the pavement (a common sight in the game). Whether your board simply slips under your feet or your head goes plummeting to the earth, you'll love the animations displayed on screen.

A slight issue that some of the gamers who have skipped a generation from the first Tony Hawk game and have jumped straight to the third installment (such as myself) will find the game speeding by at a blazing pace. It may seem frenetic at first but once you've played a few levels of the game you'll soon be whizzing along at amazing speeds performing death-defying stunts at amazing altitudes.

The controls of the game obviously play an intricate part in the game's enjoyment. The analog stick is used for movement the X and B buttons are used to do a wide variety of kick flips and holds respectively. The left trigger is used to adjust your stance and the right trigger is set to switch from normal to a "switch" position. The right analog stick can be used for rotating the camera around your player enabling you to scope out your immediate surroundings. The black and white buttons are used identically to the triggers, to adjust stance and go to normal or switch sides.

As in all Tony Hawk games audio is a large part of the enjoyment factor in the game (as are so many things). THPS3 for the Xbox features the much underused ability to load your own songs on to the built-in hard drive and jam to them during some rippin' runs at the skate park. As usual the sound effects are fully intact with plenty of amusing NPC voices to listen to while either landing an amazing trick or eating some serious pavement. The only way you can go wrong in the audio department is if you load Backstreet Boys or 'N Sync onto your hard drive to play during the game.

Customization in THPS3 adds yet another layer of depth on top of the already handsome package. Create-A-Skater mode allows you to mold your very own skater and tune his attributes to suit your likings. Attributes range from spin to switch all the way down to lip balance and manual balance. Also included in the Create-A-Skater mode is the ability to accessorize your skater with the latest in greatest in the fashion world of skating.

Also enveloped in the field of customization is the ability to create your own skate park. Anything and everything can be done in this incredible skate park creation mode. You can raise ground or dig into the earth, you can place half pipes, quarter pipes, and every other type of pipe that you can think of within the confines of your newly made skating extravaganza. So, if you can't find a way to beat a tough level, just take a load off your mind and create your own park.

Multiplayer has always been a large part of the enjoyment in any Tony Hawk game, and this third installment doesn't dissapoint. The standard modes of trick attack, graffiti, slap!, horse, and king of the hill are offered in this version. My personal favorite, graffiti, forces opponents to trick off of object in the level and attain the higher score on those objects. The person with the higher score wins the object. The player with the most objects at the end of the round is crowned the winner. Another favorite is horse which follows the same style as the classic backyard basketball game. You only get one trick and whoever scores the most points wins the round.

As in the PS2 version of the game the ability to play across a network of Xbox's is completely intact in all its glory. What this also allows you to do is play through GameSpy's Tunnel Software which pits you against up to four other players from anywhere in the world. The gameplay is fluid and clean no matter what mode you choose to play in and the lag for the "online" portion of the game was very acceptable. Graphics take an extremely marginal hit while playing split screen and the frame rate is usually rock solid.

Jaw dropping seems like the only adequate desciption of the package that THPS3 presents the gamer. For all those Xbox haters out there who said Xbox games had no substance they may now proceed to eat their words. THPS3 offers more than enough gameplay with its 20 professional skaters and nine playable levels to last a good chunk of a month. The graphics are solid although not quite as purty as those of THPS2X, the controls of unrivaled, and the overall gameplay is something to marvel at.

Nate "GamerX" Ahearn
Needs to come up for air.

THPS3: The Scores













The Final Word:  Just go get the game. Don't think, just run out and buy this game as quickly as possible. It doesn't matter if you like or hate Tony Hawk any true gamer must have this game in their library. It mixes everything that makes video games one of the greatest entertainment mediums into one exquisite package.

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