Skate 3 Review
Written : Friday, May 14, 2010
By: Richard Walker (GT: Redriceman82)
Skate 3 has quite possibly one of the best intro cinematics we've ever seen. It defies your expectations for this kind of game, introducing Skate 3's roster of skating talent in a live-action short that follows a lump of wood's journey from fallen tree, to the skateboard your now legendary skater uses to make a ridiculously ambitious leap from the top of Port Carverton's University. You bail from the over-ambitious stunt, where you literally jump the shark, only to wake up ready to face the next step in your career, amid the skate-friendly, sunny climes of Port Carverton.
Just pulling off a simple grind takes a steady thumb.
After taking the time to set up your game with a custom skater, team logo and difficulty setting, you're then introduced to My Name is Earl and Mallrats' Jason Lee, here playing the role of Coach Frank who gives you a crash course in Skate's basics, which are especially necessary for "noobs" or the forgetful (like us). It's worth going through as a brief memory jogger, and it's strangely fun having Lee barking commands at you (oh, and there's an achievement for finishing Skate school too). The addition of a visual gauge that traces the line you draw with the analogue stick is a welcome one too, allowing you to see where it is that you're going wrong, giving you ample feedback to improve your thumb action.
Challenges are doled out thick and fast in Skate 3 once you decide to leave Skate School, quickly immersing you in executing simple tricks to begin with, before throwing you right into the reams of Death Races, Hall of Meat, photo and video-ops, jamming with the pros and unforgiving, tough skate competitions. In fact, tough and unforgiving pretty much covers the entirety of Skate 3. As it was with Skate 1 and 2, number 3 is a game of strict timing and precision that doesn't take any prisoners. Thankfully, you can always adjust the difficulty setting (between easy, normal and hardcore) at any time, including the challenge fail screen, which we're personally always reluctant to do as it just feels like giving up, but it's nice to know that the option's always there.
Catching air like this takes real skill.
Rewards also keep on coming at a steady pace, providing adequate propulsion to persevere with Skate 3's steep learning curve to unlock new team members, characters, items of apparel that you can adorn with your logo and more decks, wheels and trucks than you can shake a gnarly bang stick at. And shooting videos and photos of your tricks to grace magazine covers and billboards gives you a genuine sense that your brand and notoriety is spreading throughout Skate 3's sprawling world of ramps and grind rails.
While Port Carverton is a refreshing change from the oppressive anti-skate city of San Vanelona from Skate 2 (“even the security guards skate here!”), the control interface remains unchanged. Adhering to the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' mantra, Black Box has chosen to simply refine rather than introduce sweeping gameplay and interface changes, which is a wise move. The series' stick-flickery has served Skate incredibly well, beating out lacklustre rival Tony Hawk's, yet it's still as exacting as it’s always been, punishing mistimed runs and ham-fisted inputs with a chin scraping, bone crunching bail and an insult for good measure.
Still, if you find yourself struggling with certain challenges, you can always open up the pause menu challenge map and teleport to another objective. The secret is to avoid getting wound up into a raging frenzy when you fail a challenge, and just calmly quit and try something else. It's not like there's a dearth of activities, as there's always dozens of varying tasks to complete dotted all over Port Carverton's districts. The only downside that comes with jumping around the map in this way are the irritatingly protracted load times, which can leave you sitting and staring at Coach Frank tips and statistics for what seems like an eternity, especially if you're moving from one end of the city to the other. It might be the perennial problem of being a fast food gamer, who demands games yesterday and starts twitching uncontrollably if a loading screen lasts longer than ten seconds, but there are many richer, more detailed open worlds out there that load up much quicker than Skate 3's.
That however, is more of a niggle than a game-breaking issue though, and it's not enough to distract you from your driving goal to form your killer skate team, sell boards and conquer every nook and cranny of Port Carverton's skateboarding paradise. Creating team photos, magazine spreads for Skateboard and Thrasher and getting your team's visages pasted all over the city is a gratifying reward for successfully pulling off tricks for the photographers. Less satisfying are the Death Races, which demand nothing short of perfection in order to win. Even a bail free run doesn't necessarily guarantee victory, and watching your rivals effortlessly glide past after they all fell at the first hurdle - when you've been almost flawless - is grounds for a smashed pad.
Skate 3's inherent difficulty will make or break your decision to pick this up and ultimately whether you'll enjoy what the game has to offer. Taking the game online, there's co-op and competitive modes to uncover, but if you're not sufficiently proficient in the art of Skate's right stick trickery, you're likely to end up looking stupid. It requires a lot of practice then and a lot of time and dedication too, but nailing even the most basic of tricks is massively rewarding as a result.
Port Carverton – a city of perpetual sunshine.
Skate 3's achievements are a nice mix of easy and difficult, with the odd grinding achievement thrown in for good measure. There are plenty in there to encourage you to get to grips with most facets of the game, although mercifully there are only a few online achievements that are fairly straightforward to obtain. Nearly all of them are easy to acquire, including landing specific tricks and beating certain challenges, but there are a couple that will take forever. 100G for unlocking absolutely everything is a real sod to unlock, as is the achievement for killing 80 challenges for 75G. Killing challenges requires going the extra mile when completing a task, so performing 10 is a big enough ask, but 80?! That's just sadistic. A bit of a mixed bag overall then.
Port Carverton's various environments are immensely appealing whether you're on or offline – although you can't beat playing alongside a team of friends – and locations like the quarry, university district and industrial zone are worth spending time in to work on your moves. There's also the in-depth park editor that can be accessed at anytime, and your private team HQ that can be tweaked to suit your own preferences. Video editing and character customisation menus can also be dipped into at your convenience, so there's no limit to what you can do in Skate 3. There's always something vying for your attention, making Skate 3 the most definitive and comprehensive iteration so far. It's just a shame that it's so damn hard to master and that Black Box have gone for quantity over quality in terms of franchise progression. More of the same this time around.
Skate 3 has the kind of soundtrack you'd expect, with a mixture of hip hop, alternative rock and unexpected oddities like Neil Diamond. The grindy and skatey audio all sound perfectly authentic too.
Port Carverton is an attractive environment and a definite improvement over the comparatively grey and oppressive San Vanelona from Skate 2. Character models are still a little basic, but they're all perfectly serviceable. A blend of functional and pretty, Skate 3's visuals do the job, no fuss, no muss.
Skate 3 plays every bit as well as its predecessors, and its trademark flick-it analogue stick mechanic still works brilliantly. It beats the hell out of paying an exorbitant amount for a plastic board, even if Skate 3 is unrepentantly difficult, punishing mistakes with unflinching bails.
Fun to play if you don't get bogged down and stuck in trying to complete one annoying, anger-inducing challenge, and massively difficult if you don't pick up and 'get' the game's unique control system. Practice makes perfect essentially, meaning that if you want to get the most out of Skate 3, you had better be willing to put the hours in. Loading times outstay their welcome too often for our liking.
This list isn't too shabby, mixing up easy and grinding achievements to complete the package. You'll likely breeze through the majority of them, then struggle with a couple here and there, but overall, it's a likeable list that will encourage you to visit all areas of the game. And in that respect, there's a hefty amount to delve into.
More quantity over quality, Skate 3 nonetheless impresses with its sunny city built to accommodate your team of skaters, but ultimately doesn't deliver much in terms of innovation to the franchise. Probably more importantly though, it retains its crown as the skateboarding game of choice, although that was never going to be a stretch considering the standard of the competition. The analogue-flicking system still reigns supreme as a mechanic that's simple to understand, but incredibly tough to master. Still, this is undoubtedly the best Skate game out there, but we kind of expected more from it.