The Xtreme games have always been a mediocre racing series at best, but now, with the release of 3Xtreme, the series has hit an all-time low. The sprite-based graphics have been replaced with 3D polygons that actually manage to look worse than the sprites. Only six racers can race together, and the polygonal racers and environments don't look good. It still plays like the previous Xtreme games but you'd still be better off with the original than you would with this.
All of the familiar modes of play are still here. You can choose from three different types of "extreme" sports equipment: bikes, skates, and skateboards. Each of these can be used in any one of the game's four modes: season, exhibition, time trials, and freestyle. Two players can play exhibition, freestyle, and time trials simultaneously. The season mode is the main single-player mode. You race through a season composed of three circuits. The first has six races, the second eight, and the third ten. You and five other racers compete for the top three positions for season standing points. The better you do, the more points you have to spend on better equipment, which will, of course, help you win more races. By winning the circuits you also unlock extra competitors, courses, and equipment. There are 27 courses in all, with about 13 different racers to use. Each racer has his own unique abilities, which are shown on the select screen. Some are better at flat-out racing, while others are better at performing tricks. 3Xtreme's control scheme and overall play mechanic are terribly executed. The major problem, controlwise, is that the D-pad is used in conjunction with the shoulder buttons, making it super hard to come off a ramp or land at the angle you want. Most of the time you instinctively try to correct your racer's landing but end up making him perform a trick a foot above the ground. This trick setup causes nothing but frustration and pain. On top of that, the D-pad moves the character so slowly that you're almost always using the hard-turn button.
Visually, 3Xtreme is a mess. The 3D models used for the characters are extremely blocky. The environments and objects also look bad. The frame rate is constantly going up and down, which actually makes the game hard to play. When you're lining up to go through a gate, the frame rate shoots up and your character moves too far to one side. The only neat visual thing in the game is the beautifully edited FMV intro video that shows some amazing tricks and crashes.
In the audio department, there are a few cool, fast-paced songs that get you pumped, but a lot of the sound effects are very weak. All you hear during the race is a bunch of oohs and ahhs from the racers, who are always slamming into something.
In the end, there isn't one redeeming thing about 3Xtreme that would warrant buying the game. If you are a die-hard fan of the previous games and just have to know for yourself, do yourself a favor and rent the game first. After playing the game for 30 minutes you'll be wishing you had rented something else.