Skate 3 is back for its third consecutive year, with a new city, new challenges, and amped up gameplay. With the franchise being annual, there have been questions about what EA Black Box can do to keep it fresh, as everyone is aware of the pressure the Tony Hawk's franchise had and where that ended up going. Does Skate 3 continue to build without compromising the game's integrity, or is the novelty starting to wear thin?
The most obvious difference with Skate 3 is that it no longer takes place in the skateboarding hometown of the player - San Vanelona is completely out of the picture here. Instead the player is taken to the seaside town of Port Carverton which offers a lot of new areas and is surprisingly explorable. There are still a few locations that will feel a little similar, such as the initial school area players start in, but all in all, a lot of the changes are for the better.
The new areas promote a sense of freedom, as players will constantly be trying to find intresting new lines to work with so that they can pull off some awesome combos. To enhance this, Skate 3 also adds a new park editor, which lets players really show off their creativity. Progression in the single-player mode unlocks new locations and pieces which can be used to create a completely unique skate park. It's a vast improvement on the basic tool which as featured in Skate 2. The park tools even tie into the main game's story and can be adjusted online as well to share with friends.
Players take control of a custom created character who arrives in the new town of Port Carverton to put on a show for the residents. This time around, the main character's goal is to build his own skateboard company from the ground up, and to do this, the player must complete photo shoots, take videos, and win competitions in order to sell boards. Boards act as the game's currency and dictate when unlocks become available for new competitions as well as new clothing and boards. The other aspect of gaining more board sales is to have a team of skaters to help support the company. This multi-skater team is also tied into the online play of the game, where real life players can take the place of team members in the single player story. The only real problem with the story is that some of the challenges can get a little frustrating since an occasional glitch will come in making a certain task incredibly difficult. The points of frustration are much less than that of earlier titles though, making the game move along a lot easier and more stress free than before.
The multiplayer modes that tie the single player together feature a constantly updating online connection between players to track progress, as well as shared board sales for the company. This system works really well, since almost all of the challenges in single player can also be played with up to four other friends at the same time in multiplayer. There are also a bonus number of boards rewarded for using the online system to play the story. All of the skateboarders on the team will also share skate parks, and can hop online at any time to practice and skate with one another in these custom parks. This is a huge new step in the series that is really cool and changes the way many would want to play the game. Of course there's also the standard fare of competitive online modes that are familiar to the previous titles that range from 1up competitions, which is where players perform higher and higher score tricks, to jams where players compete for the highest score within a time limit.
Of course there are also a lot of smaller technical additions to Skate 3 as well. These include a couple of new moves such as the darkslide, which consists of flipping the board upside down to grind on the top of the board. Of course all of the original moves from the first and second game make their return here, and overall the controls feel almost identical to those of Skate 2, using the same unique right stick flip system. It's actually pretty surprising the number of tricks that are available, and still the controls don't seem to get too confusing or over-complicated.
There are also new visuals that upgrade the look of the game overall. The colours are much more varied without having a really blurry colour filter over the whole screen. There are also a slew of new animations for bails that make the game seem much more fluid. For example, instead of the skater falling after being in a stationary grind too long, the skater will now lose balance and stumble away from the board. There are still a few odd glitches and animation issues here and there, but it is very easy to overlook most of the small graphical glitches in the game. Skate 3 also has strong audio. Different parts of the board make different sounds as they strike different surfaces, and bails have that sort of grotesque bone snapping sound when skaters bail hard. The soundtrack is one of the best featured in a Skate game with tracks ranging from indie, to rock, to hip hop. There are even some fairly odd songs involved in the game, but they are really funny to hear from time to time while skateboarding.
So, does Skate 3 justify EA's stance of having a new Skate game every year? Absolutely. Not only has it further improved the gameplay, but there has also been a huge update to the online play of Skate 3 that should not be overlooked. The ability to have a bunch of friends hop online, play everything together, or even to help each other out in game progress is an awesome new feature. There never seems to be any slack coming out of Black Box with their Skate series, and if they have pulled it off again this time around as well. Sure, Skate 2 was good if not a little lacklustre, but Skate 3 has polished the series to a whole new level. There are still a few glitches and moments of sheer frustration, but gamers who're craving a great skateboarding title should look no further than Skate 3.