Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: ActiVision, go to the web site
Requires: Pentium III/500 MHz or Athlon processor; 100% Windows 98/ME/2000/XP system: keyboard, mouse, 16MB or greater 3D AGP video card, 4x CD-ROM & drivers; 64 MB RAM, 700MB uncompressed free hard drive space for installation, 150MB hard drive space for Windows swap file, DirectX 8.1 and compatible true 16-bit sound card and drivers; Internet (TCP/IP) and LAN (TCP/IP) play supported - 28.8Kbps modem and drivers
MSRP: US$39.99

Tony Hawk is a living legend among pro (skate) boarders and probably ranks as the best-known skater in the world. For years Tony Hawk has been more than just a competitor, having branched into business, commercials, stunt riding, marriage and fatherhood (the last two items being at odds with the typical competition skater image). Mr. Hawk is 34 years of age and out of serious competition now, but he has focused a lot of energy on the sponsorship and development of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game series, available for PC, XBox, PS2, GameCube and Game Boy Advance. The original release of the game almost 5 years ago, set the standard for this sort of thing and the release of Pro Skater 3 pushes the envelope farther.

We tested Tony Hawk's Pro Skater on a PIII/600 with 768MB RAM and an ATI Radeon 7500 All-in-Wonder (64MB), driving an 17" NEC MultiSync LCD 1700M+ flat panel. Scrolling, rendering and details were smooth, crisp and fast from 800x600x16 bit all the way up to 1280x1024x32 bit.

I got my first skateboard when I was about 11 years old - in 1963. It was a flat, high-density, varnished plywood slab with modified roller skate wheels and trucks. No suspension except for dense vulcanized rubber grommets and no more than 5 ball bearings in the semi-exposed axles and bearing races. Two hours of boarding meant at least a half hour of axle and bearing cleaning and lubrication afterward. Those were the days! Yuch. But I really, really liked that skateboard. It cost about $30.

Fast forward 33 years. My 13 year old son wanted a serious board. I went into the local board shop with him and dropped a cool $300 on a state-of-the-art deck, trucks, wheels and griptape. Nice. So I decided to review Pro Skater 3 to see how well the digital skateboard gaming experience matched what I remembered and what I've observed my youngest son doing on his board these days. The short answer is "Wow!"

You can skate as Tony Hawk or one of 11 other pro skaters (in addition to Bam Margera from MTV's Jackass - we liked his "CRY2K" shirt), and you can customize your skater's physics. You can customize your board - choose your wheels, griptape and deck. There are 11 incredibly detailed levels complete with adjustable traffic which can be crashed, skated or avoided - lots of decent AI here. A lot of the levels seem to be recreations of some well-known real-world spots such as Skater's Island, Canada Skate Camp and a few others. Of special interest too is the large custom skater creator - change clothes, shoes, hats, hair, glasses, pads, tattoos, pants, jewelry and so on to give your skater a completely individual look and attitude. It's possible to get lost for a while just creating your skater.

The actual game play is impressive and realistic. Although there is no ultra-powerful Quake III-style graphics engine under the hood, the game designers and programmers have done a terrific job on the skaters' physics, movement and controls. Jumping, landing impacts, Ollies, grinds, turns, momentum, falls, acceleration and keyboard response are very, very good. It's the playability that makes any game and Pro Skater 3 is very, very playable. We especially like the career mode, which is full of pedestrian interaction, traffic interaction and reaction to other skaters.

Cons: The online tutorials are great for practice but contain a whole bunch of instruction errors. For example, [O] will definitely not Ollie; 8 on the numeric keypad (as stated in the user guide/booklet) is the correct Ollie key. We counted half a dozen more key command errors in the tutorial before we checked the booklet and found all the correct commands.

Pros: The tutorials are very well done, narrated by Hawk, and provide lots of practice on almost two dozen different moves, jumps, grinds, etc., etc. The reward cinematics are excellent too, provided as streaming video using DVD capabilities. Graphics configuration utility can be run independent of the game. You can unlock Behind-the-Scenes videos of the making of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 and learn something about how a video game is built from the ground up. There are also interviews with Tony Hawk and other pro skaters. Loads of action, lots of variety, excellent game physics and control, months of game play. Forty bucks well spent. Highly recommended.

(Ed. Note: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 has been released)

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