As the first functioning online PlayStation 2 title to come through the GameSpot offices, it's fairly impressive to see how well the online multiplayer mode in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 works on a technical level. Even when playing with the maximum capacity of four skaters on a level, the characters still animate well, the action still moves fluidly, and exhibits of slow-down or lag are rarities. The multiplayer levels in the first two Tony Hawk games were trimmed down versions of the single-player levels, sometimes sacrificing large chunks of the level for the sake of competition. But Tony Hawk 3 puts the technical capabilities of the PlayStation 2 to good use, as the multiplayer levels are virtually identical to the single-player levels--the only major difference being the absence of pedestrians and moving vehicles. Not all the terrain-altering effects were accessible in the build we received, but we could still trigger the earthquake in LA. Beyond the pure technical polish that the game displays, the four gameplay modes found in the online component of Tony Hawk 3 are shaping up nicely as well. Today, we'll focus our attention on the two new online multiplayer games in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3: Slap! and King of the Hill.
Call it deathmatch on skateboards--or just call it Slap! The skaters may not be armed with rocket launchers or rail guns, but the concept is still roughly the same as a free-for-all deathmatch mode found in most any first-person shooter. Armed with only your skateboard, your speed, and your wits, the objective is to simply knock the other skaters off their boards, which is accomplished by running into another skater who is moving slower than yourself. If you're successful in knocking another skater off his board, you score a point. But if you don't have enough speed, or another skater punks you, you'll be treated to a mocking frag message and your skater will respawn at one of several random starting points in the level. With no frag limit, the skater with the most notches on his skateboard when time runs out wins and can then declare himself Master of the Universe--at least, until the next round starts. Slap's gleeful emphasis on sheer aggression over trick prowess provides a nice frantic change of pace from Tony Hawk 3's other, more skill-based multiplayer games.
King of the Hill
The other new online multiplayer mode in Tony Hawk 3 is King of the Hill, which is essentially a reworked version of the tag game found in Tony Hawk 2. A floating golden crown is randomly placed somewhere in the level. Your timer will start counting up once you pick up the crown and will continue to do so until another skater relieves you of it--or until you've hung onto it for a full minute. As you are dodging the other players vying for your crown, your skater's momentum will slowly dissipate, making you a slower, easier target. The only way to maintain your momentum is by doing tricks, making it important to have a firm grasp of THPS3's flatland trick system as well as the grind lines in each level, as they can often serve as quick escape routes from your persistent pursuers. Once another skater liberates you of the crown, a helpful arrow will appear at the top of the screen, guiding you toward the current king; additionally, the king can be identified by the big golden crown that hovers over his head. This mode is definitely shaping up to be some good fun, though it should be noted that King of the Hill exhibited some skater collision detection problems in the latest build sent to us, occasionally letting players steal the crown without actually making contact.
Tony Hawk 3 still has another month and a half until its release, and having played this five-level online-only build of the game isn't making that wait seem any shorter. Be sure to check back tomorrow for our continued coverage of the online capabilities of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3.