Black Box’s latest release asks players to ‘team up and throw down’ in order to claim skateboarding world domination. This year Skate 3 focuses heavily on the online co-operative modes and community features that made last year’s outing so successful. While it can still be fun to shred with your friends, the trade-off is a single-player experience that feels short and uninspired.
With each new game comes a new city. Having become a well established legend in the skateboarding world, your personal filmer Reda decides to show you around a new district called Port Cavetron. Skate 2 had a city in need of liberation, but that’s been thrown out in exchange for an ultimate skate utopia. Security guards will show you the best lines, every plaza is filled with perfectly sized ledges and every building is now splashed with hyper realistic colour.
Reda thinks that it’s time for you to build your own brand. By completing challenges and gaining exposure, you’ll sell more boards and increase the notoriety of your company. Shift one million skateboards and you’ll be crowned the ultimate industry guru.
One of the biggest changes in Skate 3 is the shift towards a crazier arcade experience similar to the early Tony Hawk titles. The physics and realistic controls haven’t changed, but your surroundings feel less like a believable city and more like a giant fun park. The spectacular accident mode known as Hall Of Meat has returned and death races now take place through huge, cavernous cliff faces. It’s all in good humour, but detracts from the sensation that you’re actually controlling a real skateboarder.
1up is a new mode for taking on other professional skateboarders. It’s exactly the same as the game ‘horse’ created in the Tony Hawk franchise, where players have to constantly out perform each other to stop themselves from obtaining a letter. Darkslides and underflips are the only new trick additions and while they’re fun to perform, they can also be mastered in about five minutes.
Skate 3’s biggest improvement is in its tutorial system. The lessons from Coach Frank (voiced by Jason Lee) are far better than the advice given in previous games, with better teaching methods for pumping and grab tweaking. There’s also a new hardcore mode, which ultimately results in your character being restricted to slower speeds and lower flip tricks.
The career in Skate 3 feels ghostly and isolated. The ability to teleport to each challenge removes any need for exploration and the absence of a storyline means that there’s no emotional feedback for what you’re doing. Watching an experience bar fill up, only to be replaced by another feels mundane and uninspired.
As you build your brand, new skateboarders join your roster and can participate in challenges. Friends can jump in from Xbox Live and PSN to fill up your team, earning you more board sales in the process. If you can organise an active roster online, Skate 3 becomes a fantastic and seamless co-operative effort. You can compete against other teams online, work together to complete freeskate activities or just film each other’s moves – it’s the perfect place to build rivalries and banter with one another. Keep your experience offline however and you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about, watching needless and mindless NPC characters take up slots. The lack of offline experience is highlighted further through its removal of local multiplayer.
Skate feed, the tool used to share content has also seen a fairly large overhaul. Players can now create their own skate parks alongside their repertoire of photographs, videos and custom logos. The tools are simple and well thought out, taking inspiration from the excellent level creators found in LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers.
The soundtrack is far better than its predecessors, taking a few pointers from recent skate videos. The selection of music is still too broad though, detracting from any sort of personality in the audio. The refined playlists that supported the original Skate has unfortunately all but been forgotten.
Skate was originally a game that I felt accentuated the real skateboarding community. It was a relaxed simulator that worked best when you were playing on a rainy afternoon. Two sequels in two years have taken the franchise in a far more corporate and content driven direction. If you like doing one handed back flips and have a bulging friend list full of skateboarders, you’ll find a lot of enjoyment in teaming up together. But if you’re looking for a drastic new revolution in the skateboarding video game genre, you might be better looking elsewhere.