Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
The original and still the best is a slogan that they used to slap across the box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes and it is a slogan that is just as applicable to the Tony Hawk's series. Others have tried to emulate it's magic formula of skill and enjoyment but they have not quite succeeded. Activision themselves have had spin-offs such as Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX and Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder and while these have all been good games, none have come close to matching the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series.
So why is it so appealing? Well it stems from the fact that you're able to pull off simple tricks from the instant you pick up the gamepad. Okay so you're not going to have high scores from these initial moments but it doesn't make you feel useless at any point like the other games do. The goals for each level, excluding the competitions, always contain one or two targets that can be achieved easily and this further increases your initial enjoyment of the game.
The skaters that are in the game include Tony Hawk (of course), Steve Caballero and Elissa Steamer. There are eight different levels in the game and these range from the initial Foundry to Downtown Tokyo. Initially only the Foundry level is accessible and all the other courses have to be unlocked. The levels are unlocked by achieving a certain number of goals. There are some exceptions though. When you come to a competition, there are three levels and the only way you can unlock the next level is by placing third or higher in the competition.
Put some practice in and your trick scores will soar. Of course the key to amassing big scores is learning to combine the tricks into a seamless move, otherwise known as a combo. The manual is a method of connecting tricks and now THPS 3 gives us the revert. By pressing the L2 or R2 on landing a vertical trick you can double your score for that trick as well as go straight into another trick. This offers the potential to amass huge scores.
THPS 3 also has a great sense of humour that will not be wasted on the player. It is a humour which places the emphasis on enjoyment and the gaming experience is all the better for it. Whether it is attempting to soak a worker in the foundry, freeing some nutcase who has his tongue stuck to a frozen pole or going round the neighbourhood squashing pumpkins, the game always attempts to give a distraction from constantly gaining a high score.
What makes THPS 3 so special for the beginner is that it includes a great tutorial. The tutorial, given verbally and also in text, tells you how to perform the trick, combine moves into combos and how to make high scoring combos. The best thing about it though is that you can access any part of it at any time you wish so you don't have to trudge through all the basic stuff everytime you want to learn an advanced technique.
The look and feel of the game is fantastic. The graphics look detailed and sharp and feel far smoother than the previous versions on the PSone ever did. The controls are beautifully simple. Although the amount of tricks is vast they all derive from variations of the four basic moves. Again this allow the beginners to learn the basics quickly and easily develop their skills once they feel comfortable with the game. Landing tricks is much easier than in Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder and believe it or not this makes the game far more enjoyable for the beginner.
As far as multiplayer side of things goes, THPS 3 is well blessed. There is the usual game of Horse in which you take it in turns to perform tricks. The player with the lower score, inferior trick, gets a letter of the word Horse, or whatever word you choose. The first player to spell the chosen word loses. Also included are games called Graffiti, Slap and King of the Hill, which is sort of like Tag on skateboards. For those of you who have a compatible modem for your PS2 you can also compete online. To be truthful though we haven't got a modem for the PS2 so we can't comment on the quality of this service except to say that the idea looks exciting.
Overall Game Rating:9.6/10 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is one of the finest games on the PS2, of that there is no doubt. Excellent control system, good levels and pure addictive gameplay mean that you're only going to have had enough when Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 is in the shops. Which begs the question, just how are they going to make No.4 better when No.3 is pretty much perfect? We'll just have to wait and see.
Deaf Gamers comment: Provides full access to deaf gamers. All info is given in text and the tutorial is subtitled so you'll be able to learn the tricks in the same manner as hearing gamers. Like SPPS the levels all have subtitled goals at the beginning so you'll be fully aware of what you have to do. It is brilliant that such an important title for the PS2 is suitable for deaf gamers.