Skate 3 has probably the best difficulty and learning curve of any game I have played this generation. It’s a bit of a tall claim to start the review with, but allow me to back it up. You don’t rack up XP, you don’t get better equipment, you don’t unlock new abilities; everything you can do in the game, you do it simply by practice. So if something seems out of reach or impossible, it’s not because you haven’t grinded (pun intended) enough, but simply because you aren’t good enough. Yet. And that’s where the difficulty curve of the game comes in. Skate 3 is one of those few games where the challenges are balanced in such a way that when you end up nailing them, it feels like an accomplishment, and when you end up failing them, it feels like its always within grasp.
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The core “story” of the game is simple enough. You are an up and coming skater about to start your own skating empire. You build your skate brand by simply completing objectives in the game. Doing so helps your brand sell more skate boards and recruit new skaters to your team. Progression though the game is handled smartly as well. There are a lot of things you can do and the game never really forces you to finish something before letting you move on. So if you’re stuck at a particularly tough jump, you can just abandon it, try something else for a while and come back later if you want. You don’t even need to mop up everything to hit the “1 million boards sold” target. It’s a neat little feature that you normally wouldn’t notice, but it helps keep the frustration to an absolute minimum.
It also helps that there are a ton of objectives scattered around, which require different types of abilities to complete. For example, Deathraces usually come down to simply going from point A to B the fastest, while “Own the Lot” challenges involve doing multiple tasks (like busting a specific trick or grinding some specific portions of the map) in a specific location. So if you aren’t good at one type of thing (lets say the racing aspect of the game), you are always free to ignore that and try your hand at something else that you have a better chance of finishing. Hardcore mode is another new addition that tweaks the physics to make the game a lot more realistic. It’s a lot of fun to try when you get good at the game, but I doubt most people will play the game at that setting for long because the difficulty is fairly brutal. Still, difficult or not, it’s hard not to acknowledge that Hardcore mode is probably the best realistic representation of skating as a game.
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The city itself is also a lot more open to exploration, especially now that you can simply hop off your board at any given time. It’s a nice way to take shortcuts and do simple things like getting back up some stairs that would otherwise be tedious and time consuming. Unfortunately, the off-board physics feel a bit wonky, especially after the tight on-board gameplay. Walking and running without a board never really looks or feels natural and falling down seems a bit off as well. It’s doubly noticeable in “Hall of Meat” challenges where you have to fling yourself off the board to inflict punishment or bail in specific parts of the map. Landing (or crashing) looks very stiff and fake, so it’s never really a total sell.
Like previous Skate games, you can place markers and warp back to it if you want to. You can also warp around the city directly to challenges and events. This again works both ways. On one hand, it does cut down the travel time, but on the other hand, it cuts down exploration. In fact, through large chunks of the game, I was simply teleporting from one event to another, so I never really got to see most of the city. You could simply argue that no one forced me to do so and I was free to explore at will, but it’s hard to go around traipsing with your board when there is a faster way to do it.
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As mentioned earlier, throughout the story’s progression, you get the chance to add new skaters to your team, but it’s an aspect that’s never really played off to its full potential. Every now and then, you end up doing certain objectives with your team, but aside from that, they might not exist at all. There is no effort made to give them any personality or make them feel like a part of your story. In fact, this is a common complaint I have with the single player side of things. There really is no point to the story. Granted that asking for an involving storyline in a sports game is a bit too much, but it would have been nice if I was a little more involved in my skater’s career. Combine that with all the teleporting you are doing and it often feels like you are doing micro challenges in small isolated spots instead of being part of a big story in a giant city.
If you do get bored of the single player career mode, Skate 3 also has an online mode which is a welcome enough distraction if you want to mess around with friends. You can try certain challenges and races online. You can even form a team to take on other teams. The problem is that not many people are playing it, and quitting is quite rampant. It’s hard to blame the developers for that, but as things stand, online is at best a good waste of an hour or so if you play with friends.
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Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that you can also create and edit your own skate parks. These are usually small areas in the city, where you can add, delete and move objects to create a skating area of your taste. It’s probably best left to the truly devoted though. The city is huge and full of some amazing skating spots, so you never really feel like you need to create something of your own to get more out of the game. It’s a nice addition, but again, a bit redundant.
The game has a long list of tracks in its soundtrack, but the quality isn’t quite as good as the variety. You can make your own playlists from the game’s soundtrack and that is a nice feature, but sooner or later, you will probably end up looping on the same 6 or 7 songs that you liked. It also has lots of cameos from people I am assuming are famous skaters, plus Jason Lee (from My Name is Earl), who does and excellent job as Coach Frank (probably the only memorable character in the game). Visually, the environments are bright, vibrant and colourful and the frame rate also seems to hold up pretty well. All in all, it’s a fairly competent job graphically and aurally.
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If you played and liked either one of the previous two Skate games, then I can whole heartedly recommend Skate 3 to you. And even if you have never played a Skate game before and only have a passing interest in the sport, its still worth a look as its easy enough for a total skate newbie to get into even if you don’t know an Ollie from a Nollie. Its one of the rare games that is tough without being unfair, challenging without being frustrating, utterly addictive and wonderfully rewarding.
(+) Great difficulty curve
(+) Superb city design
(+) Deep, addictive gameplay
(+) Hardcore mode
(-) Weak off board physics
(-) Iffy music
Title: Skate 3
Developer/Publisher: Black Box/EA
Platforms: PS3 (Rs 2,499), Xbox 360 (Rs 2,499)
Reviewed on: Xbox 360