As far as skateboarding games are concerned, Xbox owners can now consider themselves fully up to speed. Last year's release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X seemed almost silly in light of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 already being available on other consoles, but after only a few short months, the latest and greatest that the Tony Hawk series has to offer is now available on Microsoft's console. Anyone who hasn't already played THPS3 on another console is in for a treat.
For those of you new to the series, the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games put you on a skateboard and in a level with goals to accomplish. As you accomplish these goals, which range from simple score targets to more difficult skateboard trickery of the "How the heck am I supposed to get all the way up there?" variety, more levels are opened up. The game isn't exactly the most accurate simulation of skateboarding in the world, as it has some pretty outrageous physics and lets you get away with things that make Tony Hawk's much-lauded 900-degree spin look commonplace by comparison. As the series has progressed, it has gotten more and more combo-friendly, conceivably letting you continually do one string of tricks around the entire level, lasting the entire length of your two-minute run.
Like the previous Tony Hawk game, THPS3 features a collection of professional skaters. The roster hasn't changed much this time around--still on board are Steve Caballero, Kareen Campbell, Rune Glifberg, Eric Koston, Bucky Lasek, Rodney Mullen, Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Geoff Rowley, Elissa Steamer, Jamie Thomas, and of course, Tony Hawk. Bob Burnquist, who was in Tony Hawk 2X, is not in Tony Hawk 3, as he has jumped ship over to Konami's ESPN-licensed skateboarding game. Replacing Bob is Bam Margera, perhaps most famous for his dad-beating antics on MTV's "Jackass" and his self-produced CKY videos. The create-a-skater and create-a-skate park modes have also been expanded quite a bit this time around. In create-a-skater, you can select different faces, skin tones, hairstyles, heights, and weights. Once you've got the base down, you can decorate your skater with different shirts, pants, shorts, shoes, socks, helmets, pads, glasses, hats, tattoos, watches, bracelets, and more. The pro skaters can be edited to a certain extent, so you can add hats and remove or change shirts if you so desire. You can also create female skaters. Rounding out the skater lineup is a collection of wild and, in some cases, completely unexpected hidden skaters, each of whom has a few new special tricks. Additionally, the Xbox version of Tony 3 contains a new hidden skater not found in other versions of the game. While the skaters may look different and start with different stats and tricks, you can configure their tricks (both normal and special) and stat points in any way you see fit. The level editor is more varied and lets you be far more productive.
In Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X, you could combine grinds and other street-style tricks by manualing (in essence, popping a wheelie on your board) just as you touched ground. But there was no way to work vert ramps into the middle of a combo, only the end. As a result, the game became a little one-dimensional, as everyone simply looked for the longest grind lines and ignored ramps almost entirely. Tony Hawk 3 remedies this imbalance by adding a trick called the revert. The revert is a quick 180 spin that is done just as your skateboard touches the ramp when you're coming down from vert or lip tricks. Doing the revert lets you pop up into a manual, after which you can roll over to something else to do more tricks. Just as the manual revolutionized the Tony Hawk world back in Tony Hawk 2, the revert does the same here in Tony Hawk 3. The combo potential of other moves has also been increased. You can now move from one grind to another without actually leaving the rail. Lip tricks also work the same way. Some kick tricks can be doubled or tripled by quickly doing the trick two or three times--holding left and tapping the x button three times, for example, does a triple kickflip. Other less-noticeable combos are also included. Doing a kickflip and immediately hitting right and grab afterward gives you a new trick--in the eyes of scoring, anyway--called "kickflip to indy."
In addition to all the new trick enhancements, the game's levels have improved. Some of the levels are based on actual locations, like Skater Island, an indoor skate park in Rhode Island, which serves as the game's second competition level. Most of the levels are rather large and significantly more interactive. The most dramatic example is the Los Angeles level, where you'll start an earthquake that rattles a freeway apart, giving you new places to skate. The game is packed with tiny cutscenes that play with the completion of some goals, showing you dumping snow onto a bully, making a car fall off a freeway onto the surface streets below, causing a cruise ship to deploy its safety nets, or activating a satellite dish by clearing away branches from its power lines. The Xbox version contains an exclusive oil rig level that isn't in other versions of the game, but it can be used only in the game's noncareer modes.
The goal structure in the game remains largely the same, with each noncompetition level containing nine goals. Three of those goals are score based, one involves finding a hidden videotape stashed somewhere on the level, and the rest involve collecting items, breaking items, and doing specific tasks. For example, in the Canada level, you have to "get Chuck unstuck." Poor Chuck has his tongue stuck to a frozen pole, and skating into him is the only way to rip his tongue off the pole. Some goals have two parts: In the airport, you have to deliver plane tickets from the counter to the gate. So first you have to grab the tickets; then you have to make it all the way down to the gate to deliver the tickets. Two goals change depending on your chosen skater. Each level has a trick-specific goal. So with a vert skater, you might have to do a cannonball over a half-pipe, but a street skater will have to find a specific rail and do a 50-50 grind on it. The letters that spell the word "skate" also must be collected in each level, and there are a handful of different configurations for these letters in each level, which change depending on the skater you're currently using.
In addition to the standard goal-based levels, Tony Hawk 3 has three competition levels that score you based on how well you can do on a one-minute run. Doing well here gives you a gold medal and opens up the next level. Every level has a few optional items in it as well. Five stat points and a new deck are in every level, and their placement changes from skater to skater. Earning stat points is crucial, because certain level goals later in the game will be significantly more difficult if you haven't become powerful enough. Stat points can be placed in any category and can be rearranged at any time. Stat categories include rail, lip, and manual balance, as well as ratings for your ollie, air, hang time, spin, switch-skating ability, and speed.