Giant Bomb Review

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Skate 3 Review

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  • PS3

Skate 3's offline portions feel flat and sterile, but its deeper online focus helps bring more meaning to every facet of the game.

 Thrasher is once again represented for some of the game's photo goals.
There's a bit of a tug-of-war happening in Skate 3. The game has a lot of new online features that feel like they were built to cater to the series' most fanatical supporters. Things like teams and the new online challenge system are things that will keep fans of the series engaged for months to come. At the same time, most of the game's career mode challenges are much easier when compared to the past games in the series. Things like playing games of S-K-A-T-E and forcing you to do extremely specific tricks are practically gone from the game, at least until you set out to start "killing" the game's challenges by performing more than the bare minimum. The whole game feels like a big funnel, designed to get players onto Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, where they can mix it up in a ton of different ways. But that funnel has left the game's story and career feeling stripped and more insignificant than previous Skate career modes. The gameplay is as sharp as ever, but depending on what keeps you coming back to the series, you might not be as thrilled with the direction in which the series is headed.

Like Skate 2 before it, Skate 3 opens with a huge accident that leaves your skater horrifically mauled, justifying the game's create-a-skater while still essentially putting you in the shoes of the same skater from the previous game. This time around, you're trying to start your own skateboard company, and each goal you complete translates directly into board sales. There's still a flashy, well-produced live-action intro sequence, but once the company premise is established, there isn't really much of a story. The game gives you sales targets, you meet those targets by completing challenges, which opens up more challenges. Once you hit 1,000,000 board sales, the career is effectively complete, though you'll probably have plenty of goals left to try by that point. It took me around seven hours to sell a million boards. Along with setting up the company, you'll also form a skate team, ostensibly to further promote your line of skateboards. As you hit sales milestones, you'll customize more skaters for your team, and some of the goals have you skating as these guys for billboard photos and the ever-present team video.

The idea is solid, but there's little followthrough on the career mode's team concept. Most of the photo goals for your team are simply "take a picture of your skater." It's up to you to decide what the photo looks like, so if you want a shot of your guy standing there, looking dumb, that's totally fine. The filming parts for your team video are similarly empty, with simple goals like "perform any five tricks." The billboards show up around town, but the skate video you're supposedly shooting along the way never seems to surface. Also, even though you're building a new and huge skate company, you never really directly see anyone buying your boards. The sales number just increases every time you complete a task. It all feels like it would have benefitted from more of an actual story. Instead, playing the game alone feels more like a lengthy tutorial. You'll meet pro skaters along the way, but even these interactions feel a little flat, and the only justification for performing their tasks is to unlock additional shoes and other custom gear for your skate team to wear. But if your skate team is representing you, then why would you want to ride someone else's board, right?

 The controls will feel very familiar to fans of the series.
Most of the game's challenges are broken up into two levels. The default completion state is to "own" a goal, and these tasks are awfully easy when compared to some of the tasks demanded of you in Skate 2. The deathraces, though more varied this time around, feel way easier. Playing S-K-A-T-E against the pros--by far the most frustrating part of the previous game--has been replaced with a more lenient game called 1UP, which trades turns back and forth as you try to outscore each other in a brief session, rather than being called upon to perform specific tricks. If you played Skate 2 and cheated your way through the S-K-A-T-E sessions there, you'll welcome the change. "Own The Spot" returns in the form of 16 various places in the city that you can trick off of, and you must reach a certain trick score to complete these. Photo and film goals are also present, but the filming side of the game has become more like the photo goals, rather than giving you a list of tasks that you can attempt to complete anywhere. 
 
All in all, "owning" the goals is way, way easier than it has been in the past. If you want to get trickier, you can attempt to "kill" most of the game's goals. The criteria for killing a goal gets way more specific than the owning instructions, and this is where you'll have to be able to pull off blunt slides and other specific tricks to proceed. Even these feel a bit easier. If you've been banging your head against the past two Skate games, you might find that the game is a bit too easy now, but it really feels well-tuned and designed to make sure that you're always making progress. The game never really restricts how you attack the goals, so you probably won't get hung up on one specific goal and have nowhere else to turn. Of course, if you're really stuck, you can always turn online.

The online side of Skate 3 is clearly where the developers spent the bulk of their time. The online play weaves in and out of the career mode, with most of the game's goals being offered in a cooperative online form, as well as their offline counterpart. So if you're really stuck on something, you can always call in a little help. This is most effective during the "Own the Lot" goals, which gives you a list of objectives to complete in and around one specific area. So if you can't pull off a 360 flip to save your life, get a posse together and handle it that way. Cooperating on photo goals also lets you take more creative photos, since you might have up to six players in the shot, if you time it right. All in all, the most interesting thing about the way the online is built is that it really feels like a game that rewards community effort, rather than just setting up a spot for experts to tear your punk-ass apart at every turn. Of course, that side is still in there, too.

 Port Carverton isn't as connected as San Vanelona was, but it still offers plenty of variety.
Plenty of the career goals, as well as plenty of online-specific modes and tasks are available for competitive play. While you can hop in an unranked game by yourself and randomly battle it out with others, the ranked games are way more interesting. Ranked games are primarily built for your set skate teams, and these are built and managed like clans. There's a full system for creating a team, sending out invites, setting a custom logo, determining what sort of roles each player on the team has, and so on. So to play a team ranked game, you first join a team lobby, which matches you up with members of your crew, assuming they're online and looking to get matched up, as well. From there, your party moves into battle against another team, and the stats are tracked for all to see. Board sales are a factor here, too, as you'll sell more boards for wins, and board sales for your online team are tracked separately from your career total. While there's still a ranked solo option for players who aren't into joining things, playing on a team creates a real sense of accomplishment when you're taking out other teams, like you're making a name for your crew online.

For the most part, Skate 3 performs well and maintains a solid framerate. But it's also a much cleaner-looking game than its predecessors, at least by default. From the outset, Skate 2 defaulted to a low, realistic camera angle with a fisheye lens that made the entire game look like a filthy skate video. In Skate 3, that fisheye is off when you first fire it up. While you can turn it on, the framerate feels a lot less smooth, which I didn't find to be a trade-off worth making. The other instance of sketchy frames is in the game's new park editor. You can build terrific skate parks and share them online, but these areas don't run especially well, even when they're empty. Once you fill them up with custom parts, the issues become even more noticeable. Granted, these are pretty limited cases, and unless you get way into the community's created parks, you'll rarely notice any sluggishness.

Though the career mode itself isn't especially thrilling on its own, the online focus makes everything in Skate 3 feel like a bigger deal. If you're strictly a solo player, you'll probably find Skate 3 to be a sterile, temporary environment that doesn't feel as inviting as the previous game may have. But if you've even dabbled in the online world of Skate 2, you'll surely enjoy what Skate 3 has to offer.   Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
55 Comments
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Posted by chmod

Finally. Pumped for this game.

Posted by Turkfinn

Hmm seems good but I might have gotten my Skate fill with the past 2 games.  Maybe pick it up when there aren't 9,000 games coming out.

Posted by Homeslice

Gotta pick it up. Loved the first 2 games, and more of the same with some tweaks...it speaks to me.

Posted by Kraznor

I never really gave Skate 2 much time so probably best to revisit that before I even think about the sequel.

Posted by SuperSambo

Ive never understood the appeal of the Skate games. If im gonna be skateboarding I wanna be doing crazy ass stuff, such as the first THPS games. Sure this is kinda realisitc, but without being on a board itself, there is nothing thrilling about it.

Posted by SalukiJeff

Might have to give this edition a try...we'll see?!?!?!

Posted by Maxery

goood goood

Posted by GeekDown

All I want from the Skate franchise is more stuff to do, so I'm buying this. 

Posted by hedfone

i might get dis

Posted by DrinkBourbon

I still haven't beaten the goddamn Rob & Big challenge from the first game so this sounds right up my alley.

Posted by WilliamHenry

Solid review Jeff. Definitely a good read. I'm a little bummed to hear that the career has taken a backseat it seems, but since they added a lot more co-op, its not that big of a deal. Can't wait to play the game.

Posted by Milkman

The career mode being easier doesn't sound necessarily like a bad thing to me. There were challenges in Skate 2 that I never finished because I literally just couldn't do them.

Posted by WilliamHenry
@SuperSambo said:
" Ive never understood the appeal of the Skate games. If im gonna be skateboarding I wanna be doing crazy ass stuff, such as the first THPS games. Sure this is kinda realisitc, but without being on a board itself, there is nothing thrilling about it. "
Most people it seems would rather play a pseudo realistic skate game than an unrealistic game like the Tony Hawk series. Its the same reason people play something like Madden instead of Blitz. And if you play Skate enough, you can easily do crazy ass stuff.
Posted by DominatingFrance

Primarily, this is a game for skaters. Treating it as a sim instead of a video game, you're going to get a lot out of. With hardcore mode and a new city, I couldn't care less about goals and online play. If you like skateboarding, and I mean real skateboarding, you're bound to love Skate 3.

Posted by Robiin

Good read. However, the challenges are what you make them, it seems like. Also, you said it was easy, but didn't mention the inclution of different difficulty levels?
 
I will pick this up. The thing I want from a new Skate game is new places to ride around in.

Posted by Yummylee

Just in time for its TNT.

Posted by zudthespud

I played a shitload of the first game, I played a bit of skate 2 before trading it in for a profit (£7 kaching) about a year ago and haven't really had any motive to get it back. If I ever feel like playing a skate game the first one is there, I don't think they are different enough to justify whole new games. But, it's EA so I guess we get one a year until nobody buys them anymore. 

Posted by X19

I enjoyed the online freeskate challenges in Skate 2 so I look forward to playing Skate 3.
 
All I wanted was a new map, tricks, more realistic gameplay and a better frame rate. From the review it sounds like it delivers on all those points so still a day 1 for me.
 
Thanks for the review Jeff

Posted by welly

COOL

Edited by gike987

You said it was easy, but did you try the hardest difficulty? I got the feeling that the normal difficulty got toned down with the addition of  difficulty levels.

Posted by 234r2we232

I'm off to play Skate 1. Tell me when they start making the game like that again.

Posted by surfrdawg

NEED MOAR VIDEO REVIEWS!!!!!

Posted by Jeff
@gike987: The difficulty settings tweak the physics, not the goals themselves. Just means you need to be more on-point with your angles.
Staff
Posted by Metal_Mills

 "Skate 3's offline portions feel flat and sterile"
 
That's all I needed to know. Pass.
 

Posted by CouncilSpectre

Thanks for the review.  I've been playing for a few hours and I'm getting the same sterile single player vibe (doubt I'll try the multiplayer).  I'll trade this in toward Red Dead when its released.
Posted by oopprraahh

More online is just what I wanted to hear.  Me and a friend sunk tons of hours in Skate 2's multiplayer.

Posted by Skillface
@Branthog: It's out today, hahaha
Posted by Sin4profit

I'm disappointed by the lack of a decal editor...i thought early on one of you're online team mates could be the graphics guy and design yer logos and your decks...what happened to that? that was primarily why i pre-ordered.

Edited by Najaf

Good review Jeff, but come now; no mention of the new difficulty levels? Hardcore is one of the main reasons I will be picking up this iteration. Also, its a bit of a disappointment that the created parks don't run well. This was also a major point of interest for me. I hope it is something that can be addressed in a future patch.

Posted by mrcraggle
@Sin4profit said:
" I'm disappointed by the lack of a decal editor...i thought early on one of you're online team mates could be the graphics guy and design yer logos and your decks...what happened to that? that was primarily why i pre-ordered. "
That stuff is all in it. Go to the Skate website and see. Jeff seems to leave a lot of this review such as details on CAS, CAP, what the world is like, etc.
Posted by Noremakk

All I want is a PC version. Is it too much to ask? Tony Hawk always had a PC version. Where's the love, SKATE?

Posted by Jayzilla

skateboarding is extreme and hardcore. if you can't get hip to that, you aren't a gamer.

Posted by JoelTGM

Argh I want to play this.

Posted by Jambones

"If you're strictly a solo player, you'll probably find Skate 3 to be a sterile, temporary environment that doesn't feel as inviting as the previous game may have."

I was wondering what was 'off' when I was playing the demo. Jeff put into words what I couldn't quite put my finger on. I seem to spend more time in single player with these sorts of games, so I am probably going to hold off until it's cheaper.


Posted by Brendan

I suppose the trade-off for only having a year between releases is that the single player is a little sparse.  Oh well, still seems decent.
Posted by EpicSteve

Where dos Skate go from here? Just iterating on the multiplayer components?

Posted by DavidSnakes

The Skate series seems destined to get 4 stars every time.

Posted by ShaunassNZ

Nice review, sounds like an awesome game.

Posted by Rapid

From a 1 star to a 4 star wow I guess the series is "improving'

Posted by JRoo

Can't believe they took out local multiplayer.

Posted by WilliamHenry
@Rapid said:
" From a 1 star to a 4 star wow I guess the series is "improving' "
When did any of the Skate games get a 1 star review? I think you're confusing Tony Hawk's Ride as being part of the Skate series.
Posted by MaddProdigy

That's dissapointing. I was really hoping they'd go back in the direction of the original Skate, focus a lot on the story, or at least on the campaign challenges and such. I thought the ridiculous challenges of the first two games were fun, if a little taxing time wise. I do appreciate the online, but none of my friends buy the Skate games, so I guess I've just never really gotten into it past trying it out. Good review though Jeff, I guess I'll Gamefly it just to check it out.

Edited by Death_Burnout

The map bums me out, i dont think this will be worth it if the offline is flat.
 
The environment looks amazing again, it's just the connectivity. Or lack of.

Edited by face15

This is not a very good review. Having not played the other two Skate games I still do not know whether I should get this game. You FAIL GERSTMANN!

Online
Posted by PosableActionFigure

Fuck games watering down their single player for the sake of multiplayer. Fuck them hard. 

Posted by xplodedd

the review didnt exactly match the star rating.

Edited by BarbarianCream

I have the game on it's way from Gamefly, and after reading this review (and playing it briefly at PAX East) I am pumped. Why?  Simply because what seems like a negative for Jeff is a huge plus for me:  lowered difficulty.  As a veteran of all of the THPS games up to the last two, I found Skate 1 and 2 to be way too frustrating at times.  I told the developer of Skate 3 at PAX that I was very glad they made / included a manual meter, and that one of my biggest issues was that doing manuals was way too frustrating.  I also love that there are difficulty settings in the game.  If i want to be challenged, let me decide, don't force it on me.  This is a huge  step in the right direction IMO.  The days of playing and beating Mega Man on the NES and throwing the controller at the TV 52 times before I finally beat it are long gone for me.  Bring on the fun.

Edited by Slackitude

I spent  a lot of time on the first two Skate games. I tend to focus more on the single-player than multiplayer though, mostly because my friends don't tend to buy the Skate games. They just come over to my house and play. :-)
 
I'll probably wait until the game hits $30 to get it, since all I really want is a new city to free-skate in. Not interested in much else. 
 
Oh, and let's hope there's less of the $5 DLC packs with new locations. I hate being nickel and dimed to death.

Posted by Derecto
@PosableActionFigure: amen to that !
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