Skate 3 Review
Remember when the Tony Hawk games were good? Seems a long time ago, right? Whilst Tony Hawk games were getting progressively more gimmicky/worse, EA brought freshness to the skating platform, much needed since the arcadey fun of the Tony Hawk series had been chipped away. Skate brought with it more realistic physics, an entire city to skate and a fantastic control scheme which instantly made me love the series.
In true EA style, they have tried to release a new version every year, with new improvements each time. Usually, yearly instalments can be the death of a series but, with so much to do in Skate, it has a long way to go before it’ll be heading to the grave. Very little has changed from the Skate formula but a bevy of new stuff has been added, so there’s plenty here to satisfy those with a taste for the virtual grinding (and not the kind found on dubious internet sites!)
The game’s Flickit! control scheme, the thing that made me fall in love with Skate, is pretty much the same as previous instalments. Its intent is to simulate how an actual skate needs to shift their body weight and feet around the board in order to pull off tricks. A simple ollie involves moving your right thumbstick down and flicking up. More difficult tricks, of course, require some precise timing to pull off. Skate was never the easiest game to get into as the control scheme requires a lot of practise. It’s very much the antithesis of Tony Hawk’s “smash a bunch of buttons to do AWESOME TRICKS!” system.
Luckily, Skate 3 is very user friendly compared to the previous two titles. Firstly, the training mode is very comprehensive and is pretty much like someone holding your hand as you learn to ride a bike but not clinging on for dear life. For this new to the Flickit! system, it acts as a great introduction to it, with the help provided by Coach Frank, voiced by the brilliant Jason Lee, well known for being a Kevin Smith regular. You’re not forced into advanced training but the option is there and is well worth it for learning how to pull off some of the crazier tricks. Secondly, there’s a new Easy mode in which bailing is harder, picking up speed is easier and pulling off tricks is more forgiving. Of course, it doesn’t make everything so much easier that the game is a breeze, you will still need to get a hang of the intricate system but it does make it easier to tolerate the learning process.
For those who fancy a bit more challenge, you can always knock up the power to “Hardcore”, giving you much more realistic physics to crack your skulls and bruise your knees with. This is unforgiving. I’m normally pretty good on Normal then I realised how horrifically bad I am when I bumped things up to Hardcore. This is definitely a mode for those experienced players only although if you’re playing Hardcore well, it’s probably better for you if you actually go out skating.
There’s plenty to do in the world of Skate. You can take on some Pros, create some films, take the best photo for a magazine cover or shooting down a hill at death-defying speeds. And the world is pretty large. I do prefer the world in Skate 2, but there’s still plenty here to explore. The problem is that the career mode gives you objectives and you’ll simply end up zooming between each one instead of exploring the world properly. Plus the objectives aren’t that creative; the most interesting ones are the photo ones because it’s quite cool to see your awesome tricks on a billboard or magazine. But the most interesting parts of Skate, and always have been, are when you just discover the fun by yourself. You need to be very proactive in finding the coolest spots to skate or try to pull tricks from. Actually taking the time to explore the world for neat places is where much of Skate 3’s appeal comes from.
The team system is a very interesting addition which does make the career mode more interesting; you are able to create your own skate team with the intent of selling your brand and your team mates can be used in competitions and promotional materials. This is mainly offline stuff but online you can join a team with real people and help them with their competitions or to promote their brand and gain them more board sales which go towards merchandise to customise your characters.
Custom content is also a big part of Skate 3. Not only can you share videos and photos of you grinding along a sign on the side of a building but you can also share your own skate parks. These skate parks can essentially be built from scratch to suit your own needs as you’re given a plain area in which you can just drop items in to create the ultimate park. It’s very LittleBigPlanet-esque in that you can download the best parks for your own usage and there are plenty to choose from.
The Skate series has always been my skating series of choice. The realism coupled with the expansive world makes it a lot more rewarding when you pull off a fantastic trick and Skate 3 is no different. The barebones have always worked and EA has gone by the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” idea and kept most of it the same. Instead, EA have thrown in a bunch of interesting extras that make a purchase worthwhile. If you’re thinking about upgrading your Skate game or wanting to delve into the Skate world, Skate 3 is the perfect place to start.