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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Shaba/Neversoft
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
Ah, Tony Hawk. King of extreme sports, role model to thousands of scrubby teens, and star of the finest sports series of recent years. At least, that's what countless polls and pre-order lists have been hinting at, as copies of the blistering new Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 have been flying off shelves since its recent release. But does the PlayStation version match up to its PS2, GameCube and forthcoming Xbox versions?

No chance in hell. But it's unfair to judge a PSX title against counterparts on more advanced machines. Instead, let us look back to the brilliant predecessor, Tony Hawk 2. To be honest, not much has changed between the two, especially in the way of graphics. Skaters will always look blocky and textures will continue to suck on this aging system, but let's face it: visuals were never, ever an important factor in the sheer fun factor of this series.

However, tons of fans consider the traditionally punk-riddled Tony Hawk soundtracks to play a pretty integral part of the appeal. This one disappoints a tiny bit with some of the selections (how did those hacks Alien Ant Farm get on there?), but counters with a few gems -- namely classics from The Ramones and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Sprinkle in some hip-hop from KRS-One and Del the Funky Homosapien, add a dash of timeless Motorhead, and there you have it! I was let down by the decision to leave out any electronic tunes (a la Grooverider and Fila Brazillia in Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX), but that's me.

At least the sound effects are up to par, albeit a little annoying in some stages; trust me, over time you'll grow to hate the Foundry's endless sirens. Trust me. Nevertheless, all the grunts and groans, grind noises and board squeaks are there. The sound of your skater's wheels changes according to the terrain you're on to satisfying effect, as well. The audible difference between coasting on grass and cobblestone is a very nice touch here.

Since Neversoft, the usual full-time team for the series, was too busy coding for the bigger and badder versions to pay much attention to THPS 3 on PSX, Shaba took the reins. Considering the amazing job these guys did with Mat Hoffman earlier this year, I'd say this was a wise decision.

Unfortunately, there were a few hurdles with this title that no amount of expert programming can clear. The PlayStation's limited processing power couldn't allow for the inclusion of people and moving vehicles in the levels (meanwhile, PS2 gamers have all the fun), causing several of the maps and goals to differ greatly from other console versions. This still doesn't get in the way of the traditional Tony Hawk experience... it just kinda hinders it a little.

Players can choose from several modes, including Single Session and Free Skate (where one player just skates for the hell of it), Career Mode (the real bulk of the single player game), Two Player (containing good 'ol Graffiti, Horse, Trick Attack and Tag variations for splitscreen action), and Create-A-Skater where you can forge your own likeness in baggy cargo pants and a wifebeater! Hell yeah!

In Career Mode, you'll collect stat points and new decks while completing 10 objectives across five normal stages, and earning medals in three tournament levels. By finishing every goal with all 13 pro skaters, new stuff will be unlocked for your amusement. Bail videos, new tricks, and even Wolverine of Marvel Comics fame (remember Spiderman from the last game?).

Like its prequels, Tony Hawk 3 charges the player with all sorts of tasks and stunts that usually seem impossible at first -- but after beating the game a couple of times, anyone should be able to cruise through every goal in an hour or two. Thankfully, different skaters will get slightly changing goals and item placements on each level this time around, boosting the replay value just a bit further. Can't argue with that!

Game Mechanics:
There's also no arguing that the best feature of any Tony Hawk game is the wild trick system, and if you've played the first two games you'll be busting crazy lines in no time flat on THPS 3. Virtually everything feels the same as before, encompassing previous moves and tossing in the new revert for even more possibilities.

Load times before levels aren't too bad, but the amount of time taken to go to and from basic menu screens seems terribly slow, even on the PlayStation. It nearly takes 3-6 seconds just to load the Career screen and your skater's model; small potatoes at first, but after playing the game for three days straight, these things tend to get on one's nerves.

PS2: Popping this disc into a PlayStation 2 won't offer up any noticeable differences in presentation. Of course, if you've got a PS2 already, why the hell are you wasting your time with the PlayStation version instead of the far-superior PS2 incarnation?

In the long run, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 builds upon the foundations that made THPS 2 one of the most addictive games ever made, and delivers the goods to fans looking for a new challenge. New additions (especially the revert and Create-a-Skater Mode) bring some welcome elements to an already ultra-strong series, and that's what really matters. Just be aware that the version going to PS2 owners is almost a different game entirely, and GameCube and Xbox fanboys will have their own places to grind very soon now. If you're still stuck with your trusty original PlayStation yet can't ever seem to whet your appetite for extreme sports, TPHS 3 should definitely be on your menu this season.

-Ben Monkey, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ben Lewis

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