If it sounds like we hate Skate 3, quite the opposite – functionally, it’s the series’ best, and the complex, but rewarding, Flick It controls leave you flush with satisfaction every time you nail a 60ft blunt slide, flipping seamlessly to a manual roll. Now, you even get rewarded for ‘clean’ landings, so style is as important as reflexes. Myriad tiny, powerful tweaks nullify fan gripes, enabling untold freedom and creativity – from the improved off-board movement and flexible replay camera controls (added as DLC in Skate 2), to the trick analyzer (visually representing your stick movements to gauge mistakes), manual roll balance meter, and ability to skip songs.
It’s friendlier for newcomers, more demanding for veterans. The Skate School explains basic grabs, flips etc, even freezing your skater in mid-air so you can experiment. Equally, you can ‘Own’ or ‘Kill’ objectives – either counts as success, but killing them (by performing a more precise, demanding, task like late flipping over a rail, rather than just leaping it) earns more points. Again, we almost miss the maddening ‘No way!’ tasks of old,which frustrated before yielding huge satisfaction – owning Skate 3’s tasks is relatively easy for good players, and ‘killing’ them for points isn’t enough incentive.
Skate 3’s best when you, or the game, enforce precision onto its rambling world. We’ve spent 45 minutes in one spot just trying to blunt slide a football goalpost, using objects we dropped into the scenery. The new park editor and object dropper tools are intuitive, allowing you to drop ramps, rails, blocks, etc. into the world at will – the limit is your imagination. With this review written before the serverswent live, it feels like reviewing the world’s most exciting playground before anyone else turns up – as much as we can appraise Skate 3’s functionality, scope and invention, we’ve no idea how the community will develop.
Part of us fears being slightly overwhelmed, in an LBP-style, with thousands of user-uploaded skate parks. Or intimidated by having our scores decimated by top players, echoing the sadness of playing SFIV’s online gods. On the flip side, played with equal-skill friends, and given the friendly Skate community, it could be this console generation’s most inventive, ever-evolving online game. Imagine joining a crew of real-life friends online, with accurate likenesses; and throwing d-pad gestures at a rival team, before owning them in a spot battle.
Skate 3 isn’t to be consumed and disposed like God of War 3, but acts as an evolving. dip-in, dip-out, playground; as you self-medicate your level of involvement. You might not have the energy to build a 600-piece skate park based on Super Mario World, but nothing stops you from playing someone else’s. Empowerment or not, Skate retains its essential democracy, where everyone can share in the community’s hard work – though some may be more equal than others when the inevitable raft of premium DLC hits.
Above all, few games offer such liberating, deep and rewarding controls as Skate 3; and new city, Port Carverton, is the series' most varied, vibrant urban canvas yet. The score below reflects that we played previous Skate games to death, hence some ennui, and that we’ve no idea how the community will develop. For committed online players with like-minded friends, the score could easily tip into the early 90s, and throws into question the very nature of our review process if this is a sign of things to come.
It might only be a short time since Skate 2, but it’s testament to Skate 3’s quality, flexibility and potential that the issue of whether it’s a revolution, or iteration, will likely take at least as long to discover.
May 11, 2010