Skate 3 should really come with an ‘online only’ label. It’s all about teamwork this time around – skating together, sharing videos and skateparks, and embarrassing rivals as you build your brand into a phenomenon. In complete contrast, the single-player experience has been grossly simplified with idiotic A.I. teammates, a throwaway story about starting a company, and insulting challenges, like, “Do a trick.”
The Flick-it controls are as smooth as ever, with most tricks assigned to snappy movements of the analog stick. The heavily-requested darkslides and darkcatches have been added, but best of all, vert finally works. For the first time, I can enjoy carving the pools and sessioning half-pipes, instead of cringing at the thought. The mysterious ‘pull’ towards rails and ledges is greater than ever, evidenced by the appearance of people nearly floating sideways. This is good for newcomers, but bad news for old-timers who have their gaps and manuals ruined by unwanted grinds.
The first thing to do is hop online for freeskating or to complete challenges. Completing challenges opens up a wealth of new content, like skateparks and clothes, and is far more enjoyable with other people. An online challenge isn’t complete until everyone finishes, which adds much needed tension. Rolling with a friend, instead of the bumbling A.I., is almost necessary for the team-based street and vert contests. Whether playing 1-Up or shooting a film together, having a spot-battle or getting your face torn up in a race, having a solid crew of friends at your side almost makes Skate 3’s problems disappear.
Port Carverton is familiar, but the memory is far better than the reality. Like its predecessor, Skate 3 begins on a university campus, minus most of the architecture. Head northward, past the green bushes of suburban houses, and you arrive at the top of a mountain, at the precipice of a small dam. There is no water to drain this time. You drop in, wheels shaking vigorously as you rip through the canal with breakneck speed. You nail a handful of mild jumps and slide the length of a perfect rail, and like the kiddie-coaster at the fair, the ride ends before it has a chance to get started.
Skate 3 is split into three, completely separate districts – University, Downtown, and Industrial. The lack of connecting roads is disappointing for fans who enjoyed cruising from the heights of San Van down to the marina, although Port Carverton is only half the size of the old city, and severely underpopulated. Each district has a handful of prime spots to skate, often with humongous sculptures at the epicenters, like gaudy neon signs advertising the lone rest-stop in a desert. Venture out from the mini-parks and you are greeted with a barren landscape of mundane ledges, empty sidewalks, and unimaginative lines.
There are always players who only want to go big with freakishly massive airs. Skate 3 generously delivers, but Skate 2 also gave technical street skaters an unending playground. Half of the fun was finding your own, unique line and practicing until the impossible became possible. The landscape was cluttered with uneven ledges, sketchy gaps, rocky banks, and makeshift ramps. Skate 3 is minimalist, with clean lines that couldn’t be more apparent if there was a map drawn for you.
No, really, there is no map. The only way to find your way around is to either memorize the city, or teleport to challenges.
Black Box obviously wants you to make liberal use of the new object dropper, which allows you to fill the vacant lots with rails, wedges, dumpsters, and dozens of other shapes and objects. It works extremely well, and lets you put almost anything, anywhere. Trouble is, the landscape has obviously been simplified for the DIY-level-design, so a kicker-to-bench-to-rail combo in the Industrial district is roughly the same as one Downtown.
The new skate.Park mode gives you all the tools to make your dream skate park, from a small street section to a jumbo mega-park, and is surprisingly user-friendly. You can peruse the creations of the community, download something tempting within seconds, and edit it to make it your own.
Skate 3 takes one step back for every step forward. Creating custom skate parks is a blast, especially now that vert works without a hitch, but that doesn’t substitute for an uninspired city-scape. Friends make the challenges of career-mode more entertaining, because they are only marginally tolerable to begin with. Skate 3 is a very beginner-friendly starting point, but for the hardcore players, Skate 2 still has no rival.