(This isn’t a) Skate 3 Review

 

skater

I remember the first time I played a Tony Hawks game because initially the premise didn’t overly appeal to me. See I grew up on a variety of different “wheeled shoes”, trying my very best to kill myself on the vert-ramps of the local skate park and, despite sharing the same hobby, there was a fair amount of rivalry between us bladers and the boarders at the time. (Don’t even mention BMX’ers, those guys were ramp hogging dicks). However, any animosity I felt towards the subject quickly melted away once I started playing because Tony Hawks pro skater was fucking awesome (or gnarly, or whatever those douche bags used to say).

It went on to become a staple of my gaming diet and, in my opinion, is one of the greatest series in gamings history. However, you can only scratch an itch for so long before it starts to bleed and I did eventually out play the series. It was either at this time, or whilst I was still firmly on #TeamTony that Skate was released – either way, it was never really on my radar.

Overlooked awesomeness

Overlooked awesomeness

Fast forward about a decade and recently the itch finally returned, so I decided to try out the previously overlooked Skate series, grabbing a copy of Skate 3 for the bargain price of £9.98.

The first thing that hits me about the game, other than the zany intro, is how hard it is compared to Tony Hawks. The second thing that hits me is the realisation that, despite my best efforts, I was going to perpetually compare and benchmark Skate 3 against Tony Hawks.

Whilst Tony hawks lends itself to massive, endless combos and over the top moves, skate 3 is much more reserved, requiring careful planning of lines, precise stick control and  good timing to nail comparatively basic tricks. The original Tony Hawks games intense 2 minute sessions had you skating frantically to accumulate massive scores, collect floating S.K.A.T.E letters and find hidden tapes, whereas Skate 3 will simply have you trying to nail a certain trick on a particular obstacle. It arguably makes Tony hawks better as a game, but Skate 3 better as a reflection of the sport.

You probably won’t find yourself pulling off an endless stream off 1080 rocket airs in Skate 3, but that isn’t to say the experience is any less rewarding, although it is possibly a little more frustrating, much like the sport itself.  From my (inline) skating days, I remember how we’d explore an area until we found a “spot” – usually little more than a decent rail or well placed ledge – we’d then set a decent run-up and repeatedly have attempts to trick off it; hitting it faster, cleaner and better until we’d nailed it.

In today's lesson, we learn which way up the board goes

In today’s lesson, we learn which way up the board goes

Skate 3’s open environments and spawn marker mechanic, which lets you instantly return to your own custom spawn point, perfectly captures this element of skating. You may find yourself wanting to throw your controller across the room as, once again, you face plant into the tarmac, but at least you won’t be carrying the scars to show for it.

The control system is a lot more involved than in the Tony Hawks games. Rather than a simple button press, you have to flick the right stick to do flip tricks and it’s also used for grab tricks in the air. It’s a decent system, but in certain situations, it doesn’t always feel that intuitive or natural. I’ve found myself battling the controls a few times, although it’s hard to tell if it’s the games fault, or simply my inability to unlearn hundreds of hours of Tony Hawks gameplay. I imagine it’s a bit of both.

When it does come together though, it feels better than Tony Hawks. It feels like I am actually doing the trick, I’m not just mashing the face buttons in a varying combinations to keep the score mounting up. Like in real life, the more time I spend practising my skating, the better I feel I become. I’m not just getting better at beating the game (like in Tony Hawks), I’m becoming a better virtual skateboarder.

Luckily, when it doesn’t all come together, the game also appeals to my more sadistic side. While some people may enjoy a witty punch line, me, I’ve always derived great satisfaction from watching people fall over and in this respect, Skate 3 doesn’t fail to deliver. You’re haplessly thrown from your board with such profusion that the game has even made a mechanic of it, letting you customise you bail stance. I’m not sure what this says about me as a person, but I like to take regular breaks from skating and just repeatedly thrown my guy off of cliffs; manically laughing as he cannonballs into a tree. Simple pleasures.

The ball-grind "trick" is surprising easy to master

The ball-grind “trick” is surprising easy to master

From what I’ve played of it, the main career mode, despite having the pretence of an underlying story, is little more than a set of objectives within a free-skate session and you can tackle them at your leisure. This is fine though, as it gives the game the kind of carefree feel that skating with your mates has. Coincidently, if any of your mates has the game, you can import their virtual skater into your world, adding to this feeling.

As you progress through the game completing objectives, new gear unlocks, letting you trick out your dude (my character is literally called “Dude”) in the latest fashion accessories. Between the character creation tools and the wealth of boards and clothes you unlock, you really can make a unique skater tailored to the style you chose. There is also a pretty in-depth skate park editor if you’re into that kind of thing.

Overall I’ve very happy with my Skate 3 purchase. Although infuriating at times, it manages to balance out hardcore, skill based gameplay with pure, slapstick comedy. If, like me, you missed this one due to Tony Hawks dominating the market for so long, I highly recommend you give it a try.