Monday, 14 June 2010

Game review: Skate 3

Skate 3 sets out to be an enjoyable, varied and accessible entrance into the skateboarding world. While it does not do anything significant to re-invent the gaming franchise, its consistent and fun filled challenges, plenty of easily usable creation tools and noteworthy enhancements over Skate 2, really make it a great skateboarding game.

Skate 3 puts you in the shoes of an already established skateboarder, looking to build up an empire by creating the best possible team and selling as much merchandise as possible. Your success here is measured in board sales, with more sales enhancing the status of your team. This opens up team based missions and objectives across a variety of pretty standard yet will executed game modes such as races, score based events, H.O.R.S.E., bone breaking challenges and the occasional film and photo shoots to enhance your stature in the skateboarding world. Skate 3 offers two significantly different levels of completion in its challenge modes, the standard ‘owned’ completion that merely allows you to pass the challenge and go on to the next one, or ‘killing’ the challenge, which awards far higher points and gives a reason to go back to previous challenges to try and master them. This helps add replay value and most challenges are changed somewhat by asking for specific tricks and so forth, meaning you won’t simply be doing the same challenge just trying to get a higher score, you will be forced to implement advanced moves and skills.

Skate 3 also includes two new game modes titled easy and hardcore, the latter being what you want to get involved in to really get the most out of your experience with the game. Hardcore mode really mimics real life physics, making certain tricks impossible to perform at certain heights, making it more difficult to catch grinds on rails and forcing players to skate for longer to catch high speeds. The Easy mode is however including for newcomers to the series that changes the physics in almost the exact opposite direction, allowing for higher ollies, quicker movements and such to allow access to better moves in more unrealistic circumstances. Skate 3 also holds a very impressive tutorial mode for those considering to make the step up to the big leagues of Hardcore mode but don’t quite think they have what it takes. A well-created tutorial is incredibly important to a game that does have a variety of complicated actions that need to be performed and it is executed very well here.

Straight off the bat Skate 3 offers you the open-ended world of Port Caverton to explore. Fans of the previous instalment will notice that the immediate accessibility of all areas helps promote realism, but diminish a strong sense of progression that Skate 2 had. Fortunately, Port Caverton is certainly a beautiful looking virtual city. Skateboarding on the pier, in the neighbourhoods or across many of the different skate parks, wherever you go you will be impressed with the great detail put into the games presentation. Unfortunately, Skate 3 does little to promote the actual exploration of Port Caverton as there is in fact a menu option to access all the game’s challenges and this omits the actual need to travel by board across the city, unless you’re looking for the occasional ‘own the spot’ challenges or just want to freestyle across the terrain.

At this point it seems Skate 3 has done everything right, a large well presented open world, great variety in game modes and plenty of replay value. The package is hindered somewhat, not significantly however, by the lack of a consistent AI. You will find yourself on more than one occasion, infuriated with the stupidity of skateboarders around you, including at times, your own teammates. Too many times has a professional skateboarder I have been following, randomly fallen off his board and I had to wait for him to get back up and continue on our way. During cooperative based challenges it is unheard of that your AI teammates can actually drag your score down with abysmal performances while you put in a star show. The AI will also quite often get in your way during races and such, which ruins fluidity and the motion of the game which for the most part, plays at quite an enjoyable pace.

It boggles me how different the two sets of AI in the game are. While the skateboarding AI are so stupid and continuously make your life a pain, the pedestrians around Port Caverton will do whatever they can to get out of your way and as a result, make your roaming of the city actually quite fun, if you choose to actually do it. There are enough people to make the city seem fairly realistic and not deserted, but not enough for them to really get in your way. It is also absolutely hilarious abusing the civilians by using your D-pad to do crazy gestures that scare them away.

Skate 3 excels significantly in its online modes and being for the most part, a multiplayer experience, this is fantastic news. Removing the AI skateboarders and playing with your friends is really a fun treat that offers plenty of competition, rivalry and a great time. The game has certain features that are only actually accessed via the online experience such as certain game modes and the ability to create or join online skateboarding clans. All of these game-modes promote leaderboard scores and a lot of friendly competition, making this an experience you do want to return to again and again.

It seems that user-created content is becoming a really massive part of the gaming world this generation. The single most important basis of these creation tools is usability, if it’s complicated, no one will bother. Skate 3 does a fantastic job making the tools really easy and fun to use, allowing the creation of almost any type or size of skate park possible. One of the most satisfying elements here however, is the ability to share and play on other gamers created environments, which can be very well designed if the time and effort is put in.

To conclude, it is fair to say Skate 3 has a few noticeable lingering issues with AI and some rather questionable choices for game modes such as the poorly constructed photo shoot mode. However, with a well designed and varied single player mode, a great online community with plenty of continuous content flooding in and a good technical presentation, there’s no reason to not call this is a very good skateboarding game and a great sequel to the series. It may not unleash new features and re-invent skateboarding for those of us who grew up on Tony Hawks, but it does a good job at reminding me why I had so much fun with skateboarding games.

Technical presentation – 6.0

Graphics – 8.0

Game-play – 8.0

Replay value – 8.0

Final score – 7 / 10

CeX (UK) Contributor

Igor Kharin

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