Tony Hawk 3 made it in time for GameCube’s launch. Come find out how this surprise launch title turned out.
Being a huge fan of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, I was definitely anticipating THPS3, but my overall impression after playing the game is one of disinterest. That’s not to say that THPS3 is bad, because it is a very, good game. It expands on the previous game with new stages, more tricks, an excellent and varied soundtrack and more. It just doesn’t have much in the way of innovation, and it does have a flaw or two.
The first thing I noticed upon playing THPS3 is that it's much faster than THPS2. It feels a lot more like the first game in terms of speed. This should be very pleasing to the few THPS fans that didn't like the second game, but for the rest, what this means is that you will spend the first hour bailing--a lot. Don't worry though, you'll get the hang of it quick enough. However, in terms of gameplay, the newly increased speed doesn’t go well with the frequent framerate stuttering.
The framerate problems range from non-existent to bad depending on what level you’re playing. The first level is the only one that runs flawlessly throughout. The rest of the levels tend to stutter when you skate up certain ramps and in same cases when you simply look around the level. The ramp stuttering will be the bane of a vert-skater’s existence. Still, the framerate doesn’t make the game unplayable at all. It’s really just annoying more than anything, and many of you with less sensitive eyes may not even notice it until you get to Tokyo. I suppose you can always just beat the competition there and avoid it for the more playable stages.
Moving right along. The THPS3 control scheme translated to GameCube’s controller effectively. The action button layout may feel weird at first, but I was able to adjust after a few minutes. A jumps, and your trick buttons are all very accessible from there (kick flips on B, grabs on X and grinds on Y). The only complaint I have is the D-pad. Like the Dreamcast version of THPS2, I find my thumb starting to hurt after a couple of hours. The Dreamcast pad has sharp edges and hard plastic, but GameCube's D-pad is just so small it's hard to get a firm hold on it. I often find myself switching to the analog stick from time to time to alleviate thumb pain (and the analog stick works surprisingly well for those of you who prefer using it).
The gameplay is basically the same as before. Instead of collecting cash for completing objectives and buying your way into a new level, you open new levels by simply completing a certain number of goals. With no cash, you can't buy stat points anymore either. Instead, they are distributed on each level and show up as icons that you simply have to find and pickup. Some of them are harder to find than others, and some are easy to find but hard to get to. At the end of the level, the stat editor is brought up and you get to add it wherever you like at that time. You can even remove your old stat points and replace them elsewhere if you like. Still, the gameplay remains largely unchanged. There really isn’t a difference between collecting dollars and stat points. For those of you hoping for some new gameplay, there isn’t much to be found outside of the multi-player modes.
I do want to quickly mention the movies awaiting those who beat the game (or those who use the cheat code). THPS2 simply showed footage of the appropriate skater doing their thing, but THPS3 ups the ante in this area by including mini-interviews and such into the mix. The Tony Hawk video is especially impressive as they follow him around his house (his very expensive house) on a sort of tour asking him questions. The other videos aren’t quite as in depth as Tony’s, but still much more interesting than those in the second game.
Overall, the game is faster and the levels seem to be even more packed with things to interact with than ever before. I'm having a lot of fun with it, and if you're a fan of the series, this is a fine sequel indeed. However, if you've played a THPS game before, you should ask yourself whether or not you want some more THPS action before you pick this one up. If you’ve never played a THPS game, this is a fine way to be introduced to the series.