First look at Skate 3

Unwanted sequel flips expectations

Typical. Skate 2 was so exhaustive, replayable and feature-packed, releasing a full-blown sequel only 16 months later was always going to look %26ndash; on the surface, at least %26ndash; needless and slightly cynical. But in EA%26rsquo;s defiantly fresh, fan-led and effortlessly self-aware Skate 3, the only person jumping the shark is you. Literally.

In one of your first objectives, you drop in from a football stadium roof onto a narrow concrete strut and %26ndash; reflexes allowing %26ndash; hit a narrow ramp, soaring over the team%26rsquo;s mascot%26hellip; a huge concrete shark. Admiring photos of your leap, using the new zoom, depth of field blur and colouration effects, it%26rsquo;s hard not to appreciate the level of self-deprecating humour.

This nod and wink approach to potential criticism %26ndash; and the diligent application of fan feedback %26ndash; defines Skate 3%26rsquo;s array of practical and endearing tweaks. Fans hated the whooping %26lsquo;Buttery! Dude that hurt!%26rsquo; guy who filmed you in Skate 2. Result? When you meet your new filming buddy, he%26rsquo;s told to keep quiet at all costs in a cut-scene. Bump into a pro-skater later on, and his first words are %26ldquo;Hey, who%26rsquo;s the new guy? Hope he talks less than that dude who used to follow you around.%26rdquo;

Finding it hard to gauge complex %26lsquo;P%26rsquo; shape flick-it tricks? Toggle on the new Performance Analyser,which shows exactly the motion you traced and where it went wrong. Furthermore, there%26rsquo;s a toggle on/off manual balance meter, plus the ability to skip songs, although the music is authentic and superb. Off-board movement%26rsquo;s much more fluid, too, in line with the Skate 2 DLC fix patch.

Hardcore fans sated, Skate 3 reaches out to newcomers with its new Skate School, with look-then-try basics from ollies, to grabs, to complex combos. Best of all, it%26rsquo;s hosted by Coach Frank %26ndash; Jason Lee, from My Name is Earl %26ndash; star of skate company Stereo%26rsquo;s recent real-life videos on YouTube. Informative, authentic and funny %26ndash; the tutorials are emblematic of Skate 3.

Level editor. The very words strike terror in less committed gamers, but Skate 3%26rsquo;s flexible tools are more powerful %26ndash; but less intimidating %26ndash; than you%26rsquo;d think. You can create towering, fully-themed skate parks, or if you prefer, just drop a ramp, beam or object into the world to make a trick easier; opening even more limitless trick lines. Just use the %26lsquo;set marker%26rsquo; menu.

Online, with its variety of spot challenges and team play, plus the ability to %26lsquo;drop into%26rsquo; a friend%26rsquo;s solo game to help him with a tricky challenge, then %26lsquo;drop out%26rsquo;, promises much. Offline, the focus is on completing challenges, as ever, to earn boards and grow your skate team; creating an AI crew of unique buddies.

However, the real star of the show is the new city, Port Carverton. There%26rsquo;s no security hassle or rail bumps like Skate 2 -just miles of flowing, friendly terrain; from the jutting, vertiginous, industrial quarry, to the grind-heavy University. Above all, it%26rsquo;s still more-ish, inventive and a game you%26rsquo;ll play mentally long after you put down the pad.

Apr 7, 2010

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