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First look at Skate 3

Typical. Skate 2 was so exhaustive, replayable and feature-packed, releasing a full-blown sequel only 16 months later was always going to look – on the surface, at least – needless and slightly cynical. But in EA’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 – reflexes allowing – hit a narrow ramp, soaring over the team’s mascot… a huge concrete shark. Admiring photos of your leap, using the new zoom, depth of field blur and colouration effects, it’s hard not to appreciate the level of self-deprecating humour.

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

Finding it hard to gauge complex ‘P’ shape flick-it tricks? Toggle on the new Performance Analyser,which shows exactly the motion you traced and where it went wrong. Furthermore, there’s a toggle on/off manual balance meter, plus the ability to skip songs, although the music is authentic and superb. Off-board movement’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’s hosted by Coach Frank – Jason Lee, from My Name is Earl – star of skate company Stereo’s recent real-life videos on YouTube. Informative, authentic and funny – the tutorials are emblematic of Skate 3.

Level editor. The very words strike terror in less committed gamers, but Skate 3’s flexible tools are more powerful – but less intimidating – than you’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 ‘set marker’ menu.

Online, with its variety of spot challenges and team play, plus the ability to ‘drop into’ a friend’s solo game to help him with a tricky challenge, then ‘drop out’, 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’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’s still more-ish, inventive and a game you’ll play mentally long after you put down the pad.

Apr 7, 2010