Review by mikecullerne
"Birdman makes his first appearance on the Cube..."
Ever wondered what it would be like to fly like a bird or more specifically, a hawk? The sudden adrenaline rush of rising into the air – defying gravity – as you soar in to the sky followed shortly by the feeling of gliding back down to earth. Well in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (THPS 3) you can do this and while it isn’t exactly flying as you would normally define it the experience of THPS 3 comes pretty damn close - all be it with a plank of wood and four bits of plastic under your feet.
While the game is largely a port of the Playstation 2 version it does not mean it is a bad game, in fact THPS 3 is one the premier launch titles and there are some very good reasons for this. For one thing you don’t even have to like skateboarding to enjoy this game. This game is certainly not limited to die hard skateboard fans and the like it is made for gamers with the key ingredient being fun.
For those of you know never experienced the previous Tony Hawk titles on Playstation, Game Boy Advance or Nintendo 64, you missed out – big time. However, do not fear the Nintendo GameCube version more than makes up for lost time and in my humble opinion is the best Tony Hawk game released to date. For newbies there is a complete tutorial mode with instructions, hints and tips from the man himself, Tony Hawk. The first level in career also gives new players a chance to see what Tony Hawk’s is all about before things become tough.
Those who have played a Tony Hawk game before will instantly be at home with the controls and those new to the game should also have no worries handling the slick GameCube controller. Simply hold down A-button to jump and while in the air press a direction and press either X-button to grab your board or B-button to flip your board. Pressing different directions with each button press will pull off different moves. If you feel like grinding simply press Y-button when near a rail or lip to slide along it on your board, again pressing different directions enables different types of grinds. When in the air players can pull off multiple flips and grabs but then players must also land the tricks to get points. Stringing a series of grinds, flips and grabs together produces a combo and these can earn massive amounts of points in very little time. Points can also increase if when in the air players spin - the more you spin the more points you will get and to increase the spin speed press L-button or R-button. As you pull off tricks your special bar will increase. Once this bar is full characters will be able to pull off special tricks that are worth even more points, and they look awesome too!
As players land they can press R-button they can do a ‘revert’, a new trick in THPS 3. This revert enables players to go into a ‘manual’ (performed by pressing up-down or down-up quickly when on the ground) after they land and they can continue their combo into another jump or grind. Experienced players will soon be clocking up 100,000 – 200,000 point combos and beginners won’t be far behind.
The object of career mode is to select one of the 13 skaters and advance them through levels by clearing certain goals and earning medals in tournaments. Goals can range from pushing a foreman into a pool of water, creating an earthquake, stopping a police car chase or impressing other skaters with your moves. Each of the skaters has their own individual strengths and weaknesses and these can be improved upon by collecting stat points. Five stat points are located in each level for each of the 13 skaters.
Experienced players will be pleased to know that the location of S-K-A-T-E letters and stat points differ for each character making the games formidable replay factor that much better. Each character also has a skateboard hidden in the level which players can find and them use with the skater. As well as the 13 skaters already in the game you can also create your own characters with an impressive array of options to tinker with. There are also more characters to unlock including Officer Dick, Ollie the Magic Bum and certain characters from Star Wars and X-Men. Very impressive.
The levels in career mode are also very well crafted, a lot better than those in previous Tony Hawk games. They almost come to life with people scattered about the levels challenging you to pull off big combos or simply yelling at you for being a stupid skateboarder. Pulling off big tricks in front of spectators is well worthwhile as you can earn bonus points and also complete certain level goals. THPS 3 enables skaters to play in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Canada, Rio and even at an airport. Every level is well designed with plenty of half pipes, rails and gaps to pull off huge tricks. With nine standard levels and five bonus levels they do not get boring quickly. However for those of you out there with burning creative flair - you can design your own levels! There are plenty of options to tinker with and you can design it however you want. There are also about fifty pre-saved levels that you can open up and change how you see fit. Tony Hawk uses six memory card slots and two more if you wish to use a custom character. Replays and custom tracks take up more space on the card.
Multiplayer in THPS 3 is great. There are five main modes of play ranging from the classic H-O-R-S-E and Graffiti modes to the all new ‘Slap!’ and ‘King of the Hill’. With no slowdown in framerate and the same high quality graphics as in single player it is fun and easy to play. Oozaru and I spent about 4 hours with this title on launch day and were reluctant to leave such as the depth and addictiveness of the title.
Aesthetically THPS 3 is light years ahead of the Nintendo 64 version. We are talking no fog, no slowdown, detailed textures and bright vibrant levels this time round. Even in multiplayer there is no loss in quality and that shows firstly great game design and secondly the awesome power of Nintendo GameCube. Each character is easily identified with faces, clothes, hands and other parts of the body having a high level of detail. Grabs, flips and grinds also function very well and look realistic and the feeling of ‘flight’ as I described earlier is ever present throughout the game. Nothing quite beats leaping into the air with Tony Hawk and pulling off his signature 900-degree spin. The game also features many movies based on the skaters themselves and various other elements of skating. I estimate about half an hour of video footage is in THPS 3 and it varies from awesome tricks to massive bails and interviews with the skaters themselves.
Tony Hawk games have always had a great soundtrack and THPS 3 exceeds all expectations with its best line-up yet. Red Hot Chilli Peppers come aboard with ‘Fight Like a Brave’ as well as Alien Ant Farm, Motorhead, Xsibit, Guttermouth and Del the Funky Homosapien. You’ll find yourself singing along with the Ramones ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ in no time at all – “Hey ho let's go- They're forming in a straight line, They're going through a tight wind, The kids are losing their minds!”
Sound effects are also very nice and after playing THPS 3 you’ll wonder how you ever put up with the Nintendo 64’s lack-luster sound. Spectators yell at you, cars drive past with loud sound systems and heavy bass that will make your speakers shake off their stands. The GameCube mini-DVD certainly packs in great sound and I can’t stress enough how important a good set of speakers are for all your games.
While the load times in THPS 3 are not as quick as the Nintendo 64 versions they easily outstrip the Playstation 2 version – but what did you expect? Overall the presentation of THPS 3 is pure class. Previous Tony Hawk titles have often had cluttered menus and are not very responsive but THPS 3 bleeds class and may convince you to take up skateboarding.
So why are you still sitting here? Come on down to Stages right now and pick up this hot little number. THPS 3 is a title that all GameCube fans should own. Even for veterans of the previous titles in the series THPS 3 offers so much more in every aspect of gameplay and I doubt any other extreme sports game could beat THPS 3’s formula. So come on, fly like a hawk.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/15/02, Updated 10/15/02
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