The first time I saw Tony Hawk 3, it was the original playstation version, which didn’t look all that impressive, but a few months later I owned a Playstation 2 and got my hands on what a lot of people consider the best in the series… and I don’t agree with that.
The third game in the series continued with trying to add something new to the already massive amount of tricks and combos with the addition of Revert, where you are able to continue a combo after coming back down a ramp by turning the wheels and your board 180 degrees. Most call this a monumental game changer, as it allows you to basically rack up insane combos and keep them going seemingly infinitely because you can use the entire level now. While I do agree that the revert skill does add to the overall repertoire of tricks at your disposal, it isn’t the paradigm shift that Manuals were back in 2.
That being said, there is one much larger glaring issue with this game over the second game, the control of the game feels so much slicker, in a way that makes the character feel slippery and way too fast, like a greased pig. At the start of the level, you shoot off and trying to come to a stop nearly impossible unless you bail out. The control is squirrely in a way that just makes me feel like I have very little control at all. I verified this by going back and playing 2 a bit and going back and forth between the two games. The control response is so lousy that I wasn’t even sure I was playing the right game, or maybe there was some sort of emulation glitch that made the game run at triple speed.
Another gripe is the levels and objectives. Each level has more objectives made specifically for that stage along with the three high scores, SKATE and Hidden tape. The level design here in the third makes the game feel like an offshoot or a prototype of a game, where the levels were placeholders. I’m continually baffled when people bring up the beginning level “Foundry” as a talking point in a Best Level for the series. While Foundry has lots of verticality in it, it’s so unbelievably small with not much to do in it. It’s easy to compare it to the first level of the first game, but that was the beginning of the series, it should always expand and build upon the previous game, and this one does not do that at all. Even later levels feel very small, gone are the extra unlockable areas (mostly). What you see is what you get in this game.
Each level also started moving into the more “cinematic” type of objective, where small cutscenes would play out as you completed those tasks. They became sillier and brought in an impractical reality to the world the game created. Sure you can disregard the crazy speed and hights of the ollies, but when you have to cause an earthquake and grind a car to fall to block a cop chase in Los Angeles, or hit a switch to push a guy into a pool of water, or even do tricks to impress some PR Booth Babes… it borders on eyerolling. It just all seems more childish and immature, which is exactly the opposite of where the series should have been heading towards. With each subsequent game, the levels got more cookie cutter, and the objectives became much more outrageous and less sensible.
I don’t hate the game, but I don’t much care for it, nor do I think it’s the best in the series, but that isn’t to say that there aren’t good things about it too. Some of the levels, like Tokyo are just insanely fun and complex with the amount of ramps and grindable areas. The middle skate park competition level is built out really well and offers many different runs that can be put together to allow for some insane combos.
Also there is the inclusion of a couple new skaters. Among them was Bam Margera, thanks to the popularity of Jackass. I was the prime age for that show and it’s often forgotten that Bam was a skater, as he was mostly thought of as a prankster type of person. He’s got some goofy specials, like “The Jackass” flip trick, where he hits himself in the face with his board. More variety with new skaters was always a highlight of these games.
Along with adding Bam in, they also pulled CKY into the soundtrack with 96 Quite Bitter Being, one of the most catchy guitar riffs I’ve ever heard. I always liked CKY, and still do, and adding them to the soundtrack really helped me enjoy it much more. I like the soundtrack overall much more than 2, but there are a couple songs that I can’t stand at all. I’ve never been much of a fan of The Ramones in the first place, and Blitzkrieg Bop stands out like a sore thumb in this game. It just doesn’t fit along the other hard rock and rap songs. Speaking of rap.. I don’t know how or why the song “If You Must” got on the soundtrack, but it really doesn’t belong either.
For all the things wrong with the game, there is still plenty to like, and after I completed Tony Hawk 2x, with all the characters (even it’s secret ones) and the secret levels, as well as the original Tony Hawk 1 game in it… I welcome 3 as a decent game. It’s still fun to play, even if it is the least favorite of mine.