With a focus on celebrity and big tricks, the Tony Hawk skateboarding games emphasized solo skating. But the root of the lifestyle is social: Skating is a way to connect with others. EA’s Skate series has pushed for realism since day one, by emphasizing timing and movement rather than superhuman achievements. Skate 3 looks back to the sport’s social roots by adding a significant suite of online challenges.
The controls remain almost unchanged. Flick the right analog stick to ollie (jump). Combined with button-presses and trigger-pulls, that opens a massive array of moves. The system remains imprecise, but you will rarely be required to perform specific tricks. When you do want to refine a specific move, a display shows how you’re flicking the stick so you can see just why a trick isn’t working. The game is demanding, but that’s a fine nod toward accessibility.
The action is set in Port Carverton, a new, skate-friendly city. No more being chased by guards when you try to grind a staircase rail. All efforts can be put toward mastering lines and tricks. Choose a hot spot, drop a session marker to instantly go back to your chosen starting point after a bail, and practice a line until your wheel bearings fall out.
But Port Carverton doesn’t entirely feel like a real town—this is no Grand Theft Auto. Challenges are everywhere, but warping from one to the next is often more appealing than skating across town. Skate 3 has the nuts and bolts of skating down cold, but the aimless spirit of exploration could be nurtured. The city is a loosely connected patchwork of skater dreams. (An improved park editor makes creating your own dream areas far easier than before.) All that’s missing is soft concrete to cushion your many ugly falls.
Online challenges make the city more appealing. It isn’t just competition; playing online lets you see how other players are tackling each neighborhood. The game won’t often teach you new tricks, but other players will. The perspective can radically change how you look at seemingly insurmountable challenges, and can reveal hidden pathways in seemingly dull areas. Online play isn’t essential, but it would be a shame to continue skating in a vacuum.