Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 Preview
Read our impressions of this upcoming PC port of last year's smash PlayStation 2 hit.
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Very few people thought it would be possible for the development team at Neversoft to top what it had accomplished in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, but a revamped graphics engine, the addition of the revert, and the inclusion of online play in the PlayStation 2 version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 catapulted it well past its predecessors. Activision hopes that the PC version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, which features an expanded multiplayer component, will receive the same reception as its console counterpart.
Like the previous games, there are several modes to choose from in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3: career, single session, free skate, network play, create a skater, park editor, and tutorial. The career mode is probably the most worthwhile of the bunch. In this mode, you'll get to select from any one of the 13 original skaters in the game or a skater you've created in the game's create a skater mode. Each skater is rated in a number of different attributes, ranging from air and hang time to lip balance and manual balance, so one skater may initially be able to catch more air than any of the others, while another may have better balance while grinding. However, in the career mode, you can actually improve a skater's individual ratings by collecting the skill points that are located in various areas around a park--some may require a simple jump to get to, while others may require fancy grinding skills. By the end of the game, the skater you've chosen to go through the career mode with should have most, if not all, of his or her statistics maxed out.
Skill points are an important part of the game, but they aren't the only things you'll have to be aware of while going through the career mode. Most levels require you to complete a number of objectives before proceeding onto the next level, and since the levels are so much bigger in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 than they were in the previous games, it can be quite a challenge just to get to the right area. For example, in the second park, Canada, a few of the objectives are pretty simple--you have to score a certain amount of points, collect the letters to spell "skate," and collide with a bystander whose tongue is frozen to a pole. But some of the other objectives are a little more complicated, as you'll have to impress a couple of skaters with some complicated trick combinations and find a tape that's hidden pretty well. The objectives in some of the later parks get even a little more crazy. In fact, in the Los Angeles level, you'll have to grind on several rails in order to cause an earthquake that opens an entirely new section for you to explore. When you enter these parks for the first time, it may seem a little frustrating, but once you get a general feel for how the level is structured, it shouldn't take much time to get through the majority of the objectives.
New Bag of Tricks
Of course, there are some levels in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 that actually don't have any objectives to complete. Instead, you'll have to participate in a competition where you're judged based on three individual runs through a park. If you complete a series of complicated tricks without falling, then your overall score is going to be much higher, but if you fall too often, then your score probably won't be high enough to place you in the top three when the competition is over.
One of the keys to success in this competition--or any other part of the game, for that matter--is learning how to use the various parts of the trick system. When you're starting a game, you shouldn't have any problem executing a basic assortment of kickflips, grabs, and grinds, but for the more complicated combinations, you need to use manuals and the latest addition to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series, reverts. Manuals are especially helpful in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, as they can help continue a combination if you're coming off a grind. In the first level, for example, you'll notice a railing on a wall that is relatively close to a half-pipe. You can basically grind all the way along the wall, then use a manual to continue the combination to the half-pipe, and then execute an aerial trick. When you're coming back down from the aerial, you can then perform revert, which essentially involves changing your stance, allowing you to continue the combination. Later on, you'll learn how to mix these basic moves with special tricks that are performed by pressing button combinations that are similar to those found in traditional console fighting games. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 also includes a tutorial mode for anyone who's having trouble learning how to do specific tricks.
If you feel pretty confident about your skills in the single-player mode, then you can try competing against other players online. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 has internal GameSpy support, so you'll be able to see a list of servers when you connect through the Internet mode in the game. Unfortunately, the Internet play wasn't functional in the early build we have, but the LAN time attack mode, which supports up to eight players, did work. The multiplayer component is still a little unstable--other players in the park drop in and out of the action, which remains generally remain choppy throughout--though you can expect that to be fixed by the time the game releases. Still, it was fun to compete in a trick attack challenge and watch the lead change as the competitors constantly one-upped each other with better tricks. In any case, it should be much easier to find an online game in the PC version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 than it was in the PlayStation 2 version of the game.
As previously noted, the current build--which Activision says is in pre-alpha--suffers from a few problems, which is to be expected from early software. As it stands now, there's a little bit of slowdown in this version, the collision detection seems to be a little off, and there's no support for a gamepad--and needless to say, it can be rather difficult to play Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 with a keyboard. However, Activision has said that the developers are aware of all of these issues, and there's no reason to think that these problems won't be addressed before the game's release on March 26.