Five years ago, if you’d tried to tell me that a series other than Tony Hawk Pro Skater would be ruling the roost in the skateboard video game category, I would’ve laughed at you and gone back pulling off a million-point trick combo off the Liberty Bell. But, ever since the first Skate game hit consoles three ago, its stripped-down approach won it fans who were ready for something different. Two games later, the big question now is whether the Skate franchise can avoid the same stagnation that withered the once-mighty THPS games.
The Dealie, Yo: Skate 3’s the polar opposite of its predecessor in one big way. The last game had you as a rebel skate punk, butting heads with an anti-skater regime in a small fictional California town. In this game’s fictional burg, you’re sort of tasked with becoming the regime. Your mute legendary skater has now formed his skateboard company and the game’s uber-goal is to sell a million skateboards. You and the friends you do co-operative challenges with will wind up on billboards and magazine spreads to build up hype. Non-playable characters spout a lot of talk of your stunts and popularity being good for the product and the brand. from in the game. This hucksterism gets blatant at times and feels… wrong. But it feeds into some interesting gameplay ideas.
(More on Techland: id Shows Rage, A First-Person-Shooter That Will Blow Your Mind)
Sweet Logo, Man: EA’s third time out on the streets isn’t a bad looking game. It’s not an OMG eye-popper but there’s an appealing slickness to it all. There’s nice, stumble animations which include one that lets you run out a flubbed trick. The city environment itself isn’t as colorful as Skate 2’s San Vanelona but you kinda feel like it has to be blander because of how modifiable it is. You can design graphics for your brand and team that wind up all over the city depending on how well you play. But there’s more robust ways to leave you stamp on Port Carverton. We’ll get to that in a second.
Flipping the Board: On the most basic of levels, the core gameplay of Skate 3 hasn’t changed. The analog stick trick controls are still fluid, intuitive and responsive. Flicking down then up to jump still feels really natural and the tricks that spin out of that make sense. You can toggle the difficulty between easy, medium or hard at any time, which wasn’t present in Skate 2. The biggest alteration to Skate 3 is on a level of scale. Port Carverton’s a bigger space with more challenge types and more pro skaters to encounter. But you can change the scale of the experience, too. Skate 2 let you move objects around to create unique jumps and lines; Skate 3 now lets you craft whole skate parks and lets you share them online. If your park gets downloaded and further modified, you sell boards. The more boards you sell, the more objects you unlock to create with. EA’s trying to fold a few Farmville-style social gaming tricks into Skate 3 and they’re interesting, if kind of unnecessary. The asymmetrical co-op–which lets you download friends’ skaters and add them to your team even if they’re offline–also riffs on the kinds of games that are popular on Facebook. You can see similar ideas in how you get more board points simply by logging on to perform certain challenges.
(More on Techland: God of More: New Ghost of Sparta PSP Game Explores Kratos’ Past)