Review by Hexrapper
"Worth playing, and playing again"
By this point in time, most everyone should know how a Tony Hawk game works. Perform tricks on a skateboard, linking them together to create combos, and attempt to achieve high scores. Complete level goals to progress the game, in the case of older Hawk titles (this title among them) while under a time limit. That's pretty much the gist of it.
The difference in titles comes in the level design, in the career structure and in the extra features. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 was, as you might have guessed, the third Hawk title out of the gate, so compared to later games it's pretty skimpy on features. The game has an array of different pro skaters you can take control of, or alternatively you can create your own skater. The Create-A-Skater mode in this game is far more advanced than that of Tony Hawk 2's, with many more body options, clothing options and the ability to colour most anything on your body any colour you wish, rather than having to select from stock colours.
With your skater you can tackle eight core career levels (and two unlockable ones) in the classic Tony Hawk career structure, which is a small number of goals (ten in this case) in under two minutes time. The goals range from being high scores, to level specific requirements like knocking down pick-pocketers, or smashing pumpkins by riding over them. Unique to Hawk 3 is the process of obtaining stat points. Stat points determine various attributes of your skater, such as their speed or balance ability. In Hawk 2, you were able to purchase these after earning money in the career. Rather than making you earn money, in Hawk 3 stat points are spread throughout each level and for every one you collect, you get one point that you may use to boost your stats.
The levels that you do these in are very well built. The levels span a number of different locales, some of which are grounded in reality (Canada, Los Angeles) and some of which are in more unique areas (Foundry, Airport.) The levels are relatively small compared to later Hawk levels, but they match the size of Hawk 2's. Each level was built with a number of different lines you can use to perform your combos, and they're structured in a way that's condensed enough that you can do well while improvising. By improvising, you can even discover meshes of different lines to create even more lines. Each of the levels offer enough vert to help max your score and enough grindable areas/open space to help build your multiplier. They are mostly horizontally geared levels which may turn people off more familiar with the likes of Tony Hawk's Underground 2 and American Wasteland.
With only ten goals per level, all possible to complete under the time limit if you know your way around the maps, the game is quite short. Once you're familiar with the game, it would not be unreasonable to complete the game in under twenty minutes. For a Hawk title the difficulty is quite low, low enough that most anyone should have no problem beating the game (if not completing every goal.) By today's standards there isn't enough content in the game. However, the game can still last you hours, even days, if you tackle achieving high scores. For many, this is where the true game lies. The career is merely an obstacle for unlocking levels and boosting stats. After that, the real meat of the game is exposed.
Apart from the career and the high scoring, you can also play with the park editor. With that tool, you can create your own level to play in-game, using a variety of different objects and with the ability to alter terrain on a very basic level. The park editor in Hawk 3 is very similar to the one in Hawk 2, although Hawk 3's is slightly more robust in its palette of usable objects. The game comes with a set of pre-made parks to give you a foundation to work off of if the interface is confusing at first, so it's quite easy to get into.
The regular multiplayer modes from past Hawk titles return. Trick Attack being a generic high score mode, HORSE being a mode where the goal is to set a score and then have your opponent try and top it. Failing that, they receive one letter of a predetermined word, and whoever gets all the letters first loses. Graffiti also returns, a mode where you're assigned a colour and as you skate around performing combos, the objects you trick on will turn to your colour. The goal is to colour more objects than your opponent. You can also steal objects your opponent has already tricked on, by tricking on them and receiving more points than they did. Truly a mode for those who know their levels and know their lines.
New to Hawk 3 is the Slap game mode, where the goal is to collide with your opponent while moving at a higher speed than them to slap them. The one who slaps the other the most wins. Another addition is the King of the Hill game mode, where a crown is set somewhere in the level, and it's your goal to pick up that crown and hold it for as long as you can, with the other skaters trying to knock you down to steal the crown. Although Slap is rather poorly conceived and difficult to play (it wouldn't move on to some later Hawk titles) King of the Hill is well built and just as fun as the other three game modes.
A couple things are unique to the Xbox release of Hawk 3. You can use System Link to play multiplayer with others on their own systems, on their own TVs, which although not offering an experience on par with the online mode of the PS2 and PC releases is a mode that is only available on the Xbox. Additionally, the Xbox has one level which is in none of the other versions, that being the Oil Rig. However, those who have played American Wasteland may recognize the level, since it was reused for a portion of that game almost one-for-one, not unlike the Tampa Skatepark in Hawk 2X being used in Underground.
Musically, Hawk 3 has many bases covered. The soundtrack isn't as large and varied as later Hawk soundtracks (clocking in at only twenty songs) but it has a good mix of rock, rap and punk to cater to different audiences. Included are artists such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alien Ant Farm, Redman, AFI, and Motorhead. Each song works as good skate music, although if for whatever reason you find you dislike certain songs then you have the ability to select specific songs that you can switch off from being in rotation on the playlist.
Overall, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 does much to match the great gameplay of Hawk 2 and succeeds in being a great game within the Hawk franchise. By today's standards, it's quite short and low on content. However, the level design is superb and the game engine, although not as good as 2's or 4's, works very well within the game. It isn't the best Hawk title, but it's a damned good one that came out back when Hawk titles were simpler and appealed to a wider range of people. It's a classic that's worth playing, and playing again.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/16/09
Game Release: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (Platinum Hits) (US, 12/31/03)
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