EA Black Box is sticking it to the man once again with the release of Skate 3. The third iteration in the Skate franchise takes the skateboarding game to bigger and better heights, and does a lot of things to advance what a skateboarding game needs to be. However, there are a few things that I found were not up to standards this time around, and a few little fixes that need to be made to make this skating franchise unstoppable.
The story this time around is that you screw up, bad. You take a dive at the beginning of the game, and are approached by one of your buddies and he asks you if you want to start your own skate team. You have no choice but to accept, and go into the business of selling boards. You accomplish this goal by showing off your skating skills through the new city of Port Carverton. As you meet milestones of board sales, you acquire more teammates and unlock more gear and events. I really enjoy that Skate 3 does not over-complicate the game with a story, and it is simply about you being the best skater out there, and being the most publicized. This is where they exceed the Tony Hawk series, because all you really need to make things enjoyable is to have good gameplay in these games, and Skate 3 has this in spades.
The gameplay in Skate 3 is a more refined formula from that of previous iterations. The trick stick is back, and has been polished in many ways. It seems to be more precise, and I had an easier time pulling off more tricks than I have in other games in the series. As I mentioned above, the goal in this game is to sell boards, one million to be exact. You gain board sales by completing various challenges such as races, competitions, video shoots, photo shoots, and by doing bone breaking maneuvers in the returning “Hall of Meat”. All of the events feel unique and fun, and really give you a grand tour of the new city. There are a plethora of events in the game as well, with there being even more than you need to complete the career mode. The career mode can take you several hours to complete, and the 100% completion taking you even longer.
On the downside, the gameplay in Skate 3 is not the most user-friendly. They take a new turn this year by adding difficulty levels: easy, normal and hardcore. Easy gets newer players into the game quicker, while normal is the base level the previous games have been at, and finally hardcore is basically like riding a real skateboard. They do a good job easing you into the game by a doing a very lengthy and extensive tutorial, which goes over all the basics. Despite all these ways of making a new player feel more comfortable, they still have many kinks to work out. After all of these tutorials and such, they pretty much drop you into the city with no real direction. Some of the tasks you are asked to complete can be very overly complicated, even when they don’t need to be.
I often found myself messing up just because simply of physics-based problems. The game I think just takes a lot of getting used to. There is a very large learning curve that I think needs to be addressed more in the inevitable sequel. Your best bet is to use the motto: practice makes perfect. You will eventually get through the event after several tries. On the flip side, the game does try to reduce this frustration by offering a ton of events to choose from, so if you are stuck on one, there are plenty of other options to work through to achieve your goal.
Skate 3 does feel more like an online game than anything else. The game almost feels like a persistent online world, when every time you load up the game you are taken into Skate.Feed, which is an online profile that allows you to see what your friends are doing in the game, as well as see what items you have created in the Skate Park Creator have been downloaded by other fans. The game also almost forces team play, with many of the events in the single player game letting you instantly get connected online to other players and go through the event as one team. I like this aspect, and I find that these games are more enjoyable as a group. A gripe I had was that some of the events need to be won by all of the team members online to continue, and one person can’t win it all for the good of the team. It does seem like EA Black Box is onto something with the online functionality, and I could potentially see a skating MMO sometime down the line.
Skate 3 is a decent looking game. The city is sprawling with pedestrians, other skaters, and cars moving to make it feel like there is a substantial population living there. However, some of the texture and facial animations can be pretty bland, with some looking downright bad. The overall skating animations on the other hand are very well done, with the player moving and looking like you are really riding a board. The voice acting is pretty good as well, with a lot of skating lingo in there to heighten the experience, and many real world skateboarders lent their voice to the game. Overall, they really nailed the presentation.
As a whole, Skate 3 is a good game. It is a skateboarding fan’s dream, with you being able to jump into the unique culture, and creating a team and a character that you can call your own. As mentioned, there are some things that I think still need improving, but any gamer who is still searching for a worthy contender to the skateboarding game throne, look no further; your game has arrived.
Review copy provided by publisher.