I must be the worlds biggest masochist. Playing Skate 3 brings out the worst in me, anyone passing by will hear minutes of continuous swearing punctuated by the odd victory fist pump.
Before I jump ahead of myself, it's time for the disclaimer. Back in the day, I was a big fan of the first three Tony Hawk games. After that I got a bit bored of collecting 'S.K.A.T.E.' and left the series alone. The new kid on the block, 'Skate' was getting rave reviews, but somehow I just never got around to playing with the franchise. Until now. As such, I will be writing this review from the perspecive of a newbie and not of someone that has played the franchise before. Cool? Good.
Ever thought having to learn to walk again would be frustrating? Hopefully deviating from the Hawk games to Skate will be the nearest any of our readers get to this experience. The first few hours (and a good many hours after that) are a humbling experience indeed. Tricks that you didn't even think about in the Hawk games will have your character slamming into the concrete. You will be torn apart, shamed and ridiculed by Skate. It's all worth it though, because the controls seem very realistic and you will soon be patting yourself on the back for successfully ollie-ing the curb.
Instead of queuing up button presses, Skates controls flow much more naturally. The left stick controls your direction while the right stick controls flicking your deck. Holding down with a flick of the right stick in the upwards direction will see you ollie, and the reverse will see you n(ose)ollie. A quarter circle will execute a kickflip and the left stick will spin your skater. Timing is completely unforgiving, requiring a lot of practice and patience. Although the controls are daunting at first, getting to grips with them will give you a level of control above and beyond any other skating game, and give you a lot of freedom to express yourself over the game's environments. Just don't expect to be able to hit lines the first time you come across them or to survive dropping off the edge of a building onto flat land.
All of this would be for nothing, though, if the game's map lacked imagination. Or good lines for that matter. Luckily the environment thrown up by Skate 3 is simply amazing and a lot of fun to explore. There is huge amount of variety too; you will be grinding around skate parks, car parks, universities, suburbs and underground tunnels on your journey to the top. The transitions between environments are seamless and the city feels completely natural to move around in. You can also hop off the board at any time (sometimes intentionally) and run about to get to the best skate spots. One real nice feature is the ability to place a marker and spawn back to that point on command, giving you unlimited tries at that perfect line. To further spice things up, you can drop objects such as dumpsters and ramps into your favourite skate spots - or just create your own skate park with Skate 3's editor. This is, luckily, easy to use and actually does offer you some freedom to add you own flair or check out your mates creations online.
Of course there are many set tasks to achieve when you feel like having a little direction. These can be anything from Death Races to positioning a camera and trying to then trick that spot for magazine pictures. Most of these challenges will require a lot of trial and error. Some of this will be due to you fluffing the controls, but quite often people will walk in front of you, or slightly clipping another skater in a race will stop you dead in your tracks. Messing up because of your lack of skill, and the games difficulty, is one thing, but a car coming out of nowhere just as you are about to set a new record on a line is broken controller material.
Online play is one aspect of the game I unfortunately can't try out at this stage, but Skate 3 lets you put together a crew and even lets you put together videos of your crew to share online alongside your other creations. A big part of how much fun you have in the game will of course depend who you play with. I don't really want to tackle the challenges online with random n00bs, but would definitely like to session a couple of areas once some friends pick up the game.
Being an EA game, presentation levels are very high. Of course there are licensed tracks by bands such as Pixies, Beastie Boys and Animal Collective to listen to, as well as great sound effects. The graphics are mostly up to par; I did notice a couple of minor glitches but the smooth animation more than made up for these rare occurrences. As you travel around the map different locations are always fresh to look at and don't ever look or feel like filler. What really stands out in the presentation department though is how all these areas come together so seamlessly to make Port Carverton feel like a home away from home in no time.
Aside from the challenges, truly mastering the controls of this game and really exploring the available environments will keep you busy forever. Skate 3 really is rewarding when it all comes together, but if you want a game to just play for five minutes, or you have little patience, then Skate 3 may not be the game for you. I'll often put the game down in frustration, only to come back to the console in another five minutes to have another go at nailing a trick.