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Skate 3 Demo Review

In Videogames on April 18, 2010 at 3:56 PM

In 1999, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater released and changed the landscape of gaming for years to come.  The Pro Skater franchise put developer Neversoft on the map, helped revive a struggling Activision, and dominated the extreme sports genre for nearly a decade.

Conversely, 2007 saw EA Black Box release Skate, a redefinition of the skateboarding videogame as revolutionary as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was for its time.  Skate delivered an unparalleled control scheme and level design, but delivered far from a complete experience.  However, Skate appeared to set a perfect foundation for a franchise that could have long lasting dominance on the same level as Pro Skater.

With the release of Skate 3’s demo last week, it’s apparent that the potential greatness of this franchise will never come to fruition.  Instead of leaping forward with the momentum of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, Skate 2 fell ridiculously short of expectations.  The sequel tweaked the game in all the wrong directions, suffering from mediocre environments, dumbed-down physics, and clumsy off-board mechanics.  EA Black Box steered Skate 2 to the unrealistic and slapstick laden direction that drove Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater to its eventual deathbed.

Skate 3 does manage to improve the formula in a lot of ways.  The introduction of hardcore mode marks the game’s biggest adjustment, distancing itself from the “magnet mode” of Skate 2.  In the demo, the game once again felt challenging, requiring increased precession to line up grinds and execute flips.  Skate 3’s color palette also takes a step in the right direction, adding a lush and colorful world that a majority of Skate 2’s brown-filtered environments lacked.  Whether the entire map features this same vibrancy won’t be known until the game’s full release, but the demo provides evidence for hope.

Skate 3’s major addition comes in the form of fully customizable skate parks (three in total).  The concept bears resemblance to Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland but fused with the freedom of create-a-park that the series also incorporated.  Unfortunately, the demo featured almost none of this feature’s elements, so only the full release will disclose if this feature came to fruition or if it ultimately fell short like in the Pro Skater franchise.

Preordering through Gamestop gives you access to the extra Black Box skate park

The demo just hasn’t shown the type of progression Skate 3 needed to bring the franchise back to relevance.  While the improvements are certainly welcome and appreciated, EA Black Box focused on the same types of additions and design choices that eventually doomed Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.  Rather than expanded career modes, corny laughs and create-a-parks, Skate needs to expand on what differentiated it from the Tony Hawk series to begin with: intuitive, fun, challenging, realistic skateboarding.

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