Re­flect­ing on the Bird­man’s great­est hit

Games Master - - Contents -

We take a look back at the Bird­man’s great­est game – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3.


It might have risked be­ing lost in the mix; one of the mid­dle re­leases in the early run of Tony Hawk’s ti­tles, bridg­ing a gen­er­a­tion and with­out a sound­track

quite as good as those of the two games pre­ced­ing it. And yet Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 has gone down in his­tory as the best in the se­ries for many a purist.

The ori­gin

The birth of the Bird­man’s third li­censed game couldn’t have been more ba­nal: there had been two pre­vi­ous ti­tles with Tony Hawk’s name at­tached (and so two pre­vi­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties for Brits to act con­fused as they thought it was a game based on co­me­dian Tony Hawks) and both games had done re­ally well, so Ac­tivi­sion or­dered a third en­try from the team at Nev­er­soft. By this point the for­mula had been es­tab­lished: time-based chal­lenges in arena lev­els, in which you were tasked with a va­ri­ety of goals im­pos­si­ble to com­plete all in one sit­ting, thus en­cour­ag­ing re­peat playthroughs. A straight­for­ward tem­plate for mak­ing sure play­ers would play again and again, get bet­ter as they played, and so want to play even more. Those cun­ning devs…

It wasn’t just more of the same – that wouldn’t be char­ac­ter­is­tic of a true legend. No, THPS3 added one el­e­ment that made sure the se­ries was never the same again, and that no head-to-head con­test be­tween friends would ever be low-scor­ing: the re­vert. A le­git­i­mate skate­board­ing tech­nique, yes, but more im­por­tantly a bridge be­tween land­ing af­ter a se­ries of tricks and jump­ing into a man­ual, al­low­ing the combo to con­tinue. Com­bos – and scores – were once lim­ited by how long you could stay in the air or keep your bal­ance on a lip or rail. The abil­ity to re­vert dumped this lim­i­ta­tion, and with it we ended up with one of the best combo-based mul­ti­player games any­body has ever seen.

The legend

There was more to it than just the re­vert, and THPS3 was al­ways more than enough fun played alone, though the true joy of the ex­pe­ri­ence was play­ing with friends try­ing to outdo one an­other. Still, the mix of real-world skaters and De­vel­oper Nev­er­soft Pub­lisher Ac­tivi­sion Re­leased 2001 For­mat PC, GameCube, GBA, PS2, N64, PS1 Get it From the likes of eBay or Ama­zon lo­ca­tions (al­beit with fan­tasy skate parks; Rio de Janeiro isn’t so friendly to­wards real skaters), spe­cial hid­den char­ac­ters from the likes of Star Wars and the X-Men, and the abil­ity to make your own cus­tom skater – and suit­ably over­power them as you earned at­tribute im­prove­ment points – meant there was a good deal of va­ri­ety through­out. There’s also the fact THPS3 was playable on­line in cer­tain cir­cum­stances. The PC ver­sion of­fered an on­line mode, and it was the first game to be playable on­line on PS2 (THPS3 ac­tu­ally re­leased be­fore the con­sole’s on­line adapter). Ba­si­cally, there was a lot go­ing on beyond the abil­ity to re­vert. But wow, that re­vert was a gen­uine game-changer.

We were suit­ably wowed by THPS3 back in the day, award­ing the GameCube ver­sion an im­pres­sive 92% on its re­lease. The PC, Xbox, and PS2 all saw very slight vari­a­tions of the same game re­leased (which ver­sion you chose came down more to con­troller pref­er­ence than any­thing else), while the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion ended up with a PS1 and N64 ver­sion that, pretty much, just added the abil­ity to re­vert to Tony Hawk’s 2. Even these down­scaled ver­sions were great fun, it has to be said, though the real meat was with the con­soles (and com­put­ers) with more horse­power.

The legacy

While ex­treme sports games cen­tred on other stars never quite cap­tured the magic, the Tony Hawk name re­tained its sparkle and Pro Skater 3 was fol­lowed by 10 se­quels of ever-de­creas­ing qual­ity. Some were good, some mo­ments in

them were great, and some were gen­uinely aw­ful – please don’t ever be tempted to try out Tony Hawk: Ride, even if the skate­board pe­riph­eral looks like fun. But how­ever good, or poor, the Tony Hawk’s games that fol­lowed num­ber three ended up be­ing, none man­aged to cap­ture the sheer joy of THPS3.

So it was that Ac­tivi­sion went back to the well and tried to re­cap­ture that old glory, but with Nev­er­soft tied up in Gui­tar Hero up­dates and work­ing on parts of Call Of Duty: Ghosts there wasn’t much chance of any of the orig­i­nal team work­ing on these at­tempts to bring the past back. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD was a re­make of the first three games in shiny high def­i­ni­tion, and played like a much bug­gier ver­sion of said orig­i­nals, though with the abil­ity to re­vert in any level from any game, while 2015’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was a cyn­i­cal, rushed at­tempt at re­liv­ing past glo­ries that failed spec­tac­u­larly in more ways than one. And so we end up here, to­day, with the ab­so­lute knowl­edge that the great­est game this se­ries ever pro­duced – and one of the finest games of all time – was the third one in a se­quence of 19. Who’da thunk it?

The true masters re­mem­ber staving off dizzi­ness when pulling off this par­tic­u­lar (lit­eral) combo loop.

All hail the bril­liant, new for this game, re­vert-into-man­ual combo ex­ten­der.

The PS1 and N64 ver­sions were fun, but re­ally just up­graded ver­sions of THPS2.

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