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Skate 3 Jumps the Shark! Is the series past its prime?

I bought this game new, when all the online stuff was still working, but I’m going to review it as if you’re playing it new today. And you can, because it’s backward compatible on Xbox One and it’s still in stores because of that. But I’m going to focus mostly on the offline stuff.

You get a choice of camera perspective, which is something a lot of people complained about. I didn’t mind the low camera that much, but given the option, I went with the higher one. It’s less authentic, but it helps you line stuff up a little better, so it’s worth it.

You can also pick your difficulty.

The hardcore mode is what a lot of you guys would probably want to go with, and it does a few things. First it makes flip tricks harder. You have to flick the controller a lot more just to get enough air to get off the ground. It’s actually possible to bail something as simple as a varial kickflip on flat if you don’t flick it enough. So it’s a lot more work to do advanced flip tricks into grinds, and out of them too. A 360 flip out of a tailslide is actually pretty tough because it has to be perfect. This slows you down in contests a lot. My usual strategy in the last two games was to do a 360 nollie 360 hardflip into a grind and then flip out, but it’s much harder here. I actually have to respect how high some stuff is and plan for it.

Another big change is the fact that you don’t stick to rails anymore. In the first two games, or the lower difficulty levels in this one, you just have to get close to a rail and you’ll snap to it. It helps, most of the time. But sometimes, if you’re trying to ollie up onto a ledge or manual it, you might have gotten stuck doing a grind every time.

Now, you have a lot more control, but you also need to have the precision to manage it. Here’s an example. This is a best trick event where I have to grind this rail. But the game doesn’t set you up perfectly straight. Even if you don’t touch the left stick, you’ll still be a little bit off and miss the rail. I had to restart this event probably ten times before I just so happened to get my aim right. In times like this, where you’re skating enormous obstacles, having the hardcore control is kind of a pain. And you have to skate this particular rail in at least 3 separate events. But you can always turn the difficulty down in the menu if you have to. I never did.

Hardcore mode is great for the filming stuff though. Your footage will look more natural and gives you a lot more of a challenge on regular sized stuff, instead of having to do bigger and bigger gaps. I’ll talk about filming stuff a bit later.

The story, this time around, is a little bit different… but not really. The intro is a long look at logging and manufacturing, and it’s not really obvious why for a while. But it’s showing the process of making a deck from start to finish. Then it cuts to a skater about to do a trick over a shark. And he bails. As it turns out, this is you, and Reda approaches and says this.

“What are we doing this for somebody else for? Let’s do our own thing. Let’s start our own board company.”

So that’s the goal of the game. Get coverage, win contests, and all the same stuff you always did. But this time, you get paid in deck sales, not in money. And you unlock more events as your company gets bigger. That’s a really good way to go. In the other games, I had hundreds of thousands of dollars by the end of the game, and nothing to buy with it. I didn’t care to buy every single deck and wheel, so it just went to waste. But the deck sales feel more meaningful.

You get to pick your company name and pick a pre designed logo. I wish you could actually design a logo, because it ends up being stickered all over town and on your posters and stuff. Supposedly, you could go to skate.ea.com and do that kind of stuff back in the day. But it’s not really available anymore.

Another big change – Reda is no longer your cameraman. And the game makes it really clear that it’s because people complained too much.

“Number one: Don’t talk too much. People don’t like that.”
“OK.”
“And the most important thing: Don’t talk too much!”

So he passes the torch to Shingo, who is the guy you might remember from the first two games that you always beat in SKATE. He doesn’t have a lot of personality, and your skater doesn’t ever speak a single word, so I found myself missing Reda’s comments as I skated around. But he’s still in the game. You only hear him when you hit business milestones though.

Something else that has changed is the focus on building skateparks. You have been able to tweak spots and put up extra ramps and rails and stuff like that. But this takes it to another level. You get this warehouse and eventually other spots, and you can build whatever you want in it. As you play the game, you’ll unlock more types of ramps and stuff that you can place here. I never had a ton of interest in doing this, since there’s so much stuff to skate as is, but it’s a cool option at least. I’ll show more of this later.

Aside from these additions, there are still some new events, but the old ones return too. Let’s talk about them all.

The photo events are slightly updated. I’ve complained about the photography of these for both of the last games. The shots are basically never set up right. You can’t see the landings most of the time. It’s just you in the air, doing something and going somewhere.

But they do give you a little control now. You can zoom out, aim the camera, tweak the color and focus and stuff like that. It helps, but it’s not great still. There are some other events that are better though.

One thing I want to point out is the “Killed It” feature. This isn’t new, but it’s definitely updated. In the past, it was pretty much just a higher score total. But here’s how it works now. When you start an event, you can just clear the gap and it’ll count as “Owned It”. But if you want to take it to the next level, the “Killed It” challenge is harder, or just more specific. You don’t just have to do a grind, you have to do a specific grind or slide. Don’t just grind this, do a tailslide to late flip out. I like this. It’s helping train you on the controls, but it’s giving you more of a challenge, and rewarding people who have more skill with the game. Killing film challenges in hardcore mode can be genuinely difficult and rewarding, which is cool. When you kill an event, you get more board sales, helping you unlock stuff sooner. This is a really nice tweak. But it would be nice to see what the extra challenges were when you pick the event. As soon as you start, you have to pause and go to the objectives screen to see what you actually have to do. And the list at the bottom of the screen will be wrong, since this is just the regular objectives. I wish there was a way to switch this over to show the Killed challenges, but I never found a way to. So that’s kind of annoying, but it’s not a big deal. Another minor issue is the fact that certain kinds of events don’t have a “Killed” option. So you’ll beat it, see “Owned” on the screen, and wonder if you missed something. I restarted events a couple times to try to Kill it, only realizing that there was nothing to Kill.

And they also tweaked those really annoying countdowns from the last game. Some types of events have countdowns, but for the most part, you just wait a second and it says ‘Go’. In a lot of the events, you can jump back to your markers, and if you bail, it’s just a quick fade to black. All these things make the career mode play so much smoother.

As does the updated running control. It feels a lot more smooth, and you can sprint, then hop on your board. You can go from zero to 60 in a second instead of having to push a bunch of times. It feels a lot better. I’m really glad they updated this.

Another update is the ‘dark catch.’ If you tap R1 while the board is flipping, you’ll catch it upside down. The only real purpose of this is to do darkslides. But I also like to do dark catch shove it outs as kind of a casper flip.

Oh, let’s check in on the spin directions. This time, half cabs have been changed to make them wrong, but they added in spin directions for every other stance, and it seems to be right now. But there is still another weird issue. If you do a big enough spin, like here on the megaramp, it will call it a cab. My character is goofy, so I don’t know why it’s doing that.

Unfortunately, follow challenges are back. You start the game following Reda around so he can show you some spots. And even though you’re running your own company, you still skate with other pros to try to get shoe sponsor hookups. But just look at this list. Most of them are just following them. Since I hate doing that, I just skipped them. You can still beat the game if you do, luckily.

The next returning event is the death races. I skipped all of these too. I hate them. See my other Skate series reviews to see more about these. You can’t make me do them again.

Also returning are the Own the Spots. You just have to get a high score on a certain thing. Nothing too crazy here, but it helps encourage you to explore.

But in addition to owning spots, you can also own lots.

This is kind of cool. You get a location, like the campus or a skatepark or something, and you get a bunch of smaller challenges. It’s simple stuff, like accumulating a certain score amount, hitting all the marked obstacles and stuff like that. But it feels like you get a feel for that location and that you do own it when you’re done. These are a pretty cool addition.

They also added games of 1UP. The games of SKATE in the past couple games were horrible, and almost unplayable at times. So you’ll be playing 1UP now. Basically, someone sets a line, and you take turns trying to outscore each other. You only need to win 3 rounds – for 1, U and P, so it’s a lot shorter, and much less frustrating. Another good addition.

The biggest new addition is the team stuff. As you hit sales milestones, you sponsor more and more skaters for your team, and you get to use them in different challenges. I’m lazy, so I just pick from the list of pre-made skaters. There are no girls on this list, which I thought was a little weird. So my team is all generic dudes. But that’s fine.

One of the things you do with your team is team contests. You pick your teammate, and you do co-op runs. I just picked my first guy every time, because they’re all the same. It’s not like you get a vert skater and a street skater and a tech skater or anything like that. It makes literally no difference who you pick. And it barely matters if you have anyone anyway. Watch my teammate’s scores throughout this footage. A lot of the time, he does absolutely nothing at all. In this event, I almost had the other team beat by myself, but I really needed Bubba to land a trick. Literally anything. And there are times when he just doesn’t. I have no idea where he is and what he’s doing.

On very rare occasions, one of the opposite team will do that too, but it happens to you constantly. He doesn’t keep up with you. He doesn’t play off of you and perform better when you get more points or anything like that. It’s just a gamble. There are also times when I’m not doing very well, and he actually carries me through the event.

I always find this kind of stuff annoying. I want to sink or swim based on how well I’m playing, not having to rely on a random number generator.

But the contests themselves are more varied than ever. There are best tricks, best grinds, longest grinds, highest airs, best run, and all kinds of stuff like that. Sometimes you’re alone, sometimes it’s your team against another team. Sometimes you’re doing real contests, like the Maloof Money Cup or the Goofy vs. Regular competition. Sometimes they’re fake, and sponsored by something like Monster, which you might expect, and Miracle Whip! Which you probably wouldn’t expect. Do you remember when Miracle Whip was trying to be “X-TREME”? They had all these aggressive ads about how they were better than mayo and stuff like that. And their ads are on billboards all over Port Carverton, the new city for the game. And they sponsor this contest. This game really goes overboard with the selling out. If I was more paranoid, I might say that they get you to make your own billboards to try to get you to pay more attention to them in the game, and then you are more susceptible to these real ads placed in the game too.

I don’t know about all that, but it’s hard not to notice this stuff as you play.

Back to the team stuff though. The other big new challenge is to get coverage for the team. This takes kind of a strange turn in the gameplay.

So, to take a picture or billboard shot, you switch to one of your team mates. Then you place a camera wherever you want, do a trick wherever you want, then take a picture.

If you just want to bang these out, you can do them all back to back, just taking pictures of nothing. You don’t even have to land the trick. You just take a picture of anything, and you beat it. In a way, I like this, because you can just think about doing something that looks cool, rather than worrying about getting a high score and doing a 720 gazelle heelflip to method grab or something like that.

So that’s kind of cool. And this finally fixes the photography problems with the game. You can set the camera wherever you want and get something that actually looks good.

There are team film challenges too. Just like the pictures, you just go wherever you want, and just film a certain number of tricks. It can be stationary ollies on flat and still count. But you’ll probably try to at least put something interesting together.

As you do all of this, you hit sales milestones, and you start to take over the city, with your stickers and ads appearing everywhere. At one point, you jump the shark again for a cover. And you do it in front of your own ad. This really helps you feel like you’re accomplishing something.

You finish your video, get the cover of Thrasher, and next thing you know, you’ve sold 1 million decks. This is essentially the main goal of the game – and it unlocks the last event, the Monster contest series.

You can win that one, but the game is pretty much over at this point. It’s kind of strange. It just stops, and there’s a ton of stuff left to do. I didn’t do a single race, and I skipped a lot of the pro challenges. But nothing stops you from doing all that stuff later, or even going back and Killing challenges that you only owned before.

But there’s much more to do than that. Like playing the DLC. I have a few purchases on this one that I can show you. First is the Sanatorium, which is a creepy insane asylum that you skate at night. It has a different feel from the rest of the game, which is cool. There are some events to do here, like a photography challenge and some other stuff. The DIY park from Skate 1 is re-created here for good measure.

Look at this challenge though. I have to do a nosegrind, 180 to 5-0. What does that mean? Fakie 5-0 or switch 5-0? It took a while to get this gap to work, and I guessed that it would mean switch, but it meant fakie. So it didn’t count. You get a couple of little issues like that as you go.

But this level is pretty cool. I recommend it.

Next is Danny Way’s Hawaiian Dream. This is the biggest Mega complex in the series. I get tired of all the super gigantic stuff that you skate in the game, but I was pretty desperate for more stuff to skate, so I bought it years ago. There’s actually a lot going on in here, like a street demo, where you skate this big plaza area. You do a transition demo in this area here. I don’t like these ramps. For some reason, it’s basically impossible to stay in them. You just air out of everything.

You also air out of the Mega… tunnel or whatever you’d call this. I wanted to get as much speed as possible to see how big of a spin I could do. I did a couple of 1080s, but you can never actually land back in transition. I did one over here though.

This level is cool, just because there’s a lot of content here. There are photo and video challenges, and a lot of stuff to mess around with.

The last DLC I bought was the filmer pack. And I can finally talk about this! I had it for Skate 2, but I didn’t rebuy it for the review. This time, I just still have my original version, so I can show it off. Here’s how it works. If you have the pack installed, you can go into the replay editor and pick from the advanced cameras. You basically just pick the advanced free camera, and you can place keyframes of what you want the angle to look like at certain points. The game does a great job of stringing those keyframes together naturally and making it feel like there’s a camera man speeding up, slowing down and turning, instead of just a perfect floating camera.

This is a lot of fun to mess around with. You used to be able to save them to the Skate.Reel, as long as you had the sharing pack, and you could even upload to YouTube directly. I know I did this stuff a lot back when it was new.

Here’s some stuff I filmed back in the day. I had these all saved as replays.

Speaking of the DLC, I need to mention the sharing pack again. If you wanted to get online and download other people’s levels and upload your own stuff, you needed to get the sharing pack. The game comes with a code, but if you bought it used, you’d have to buy the code again. As much as I love this game, all the sponsorships and money grabbing DLC stuff like this really sucked.

But if you’ve got all that stuff, you could skate this game for years, filming stuff all over the city and saving it. Especially if you get into the park editing. You could spend weeks tweaking your park and skating around in it. I never got into it too much, but this is how it works. You can place different kinds of items, tweak and recolor them, and then skate them however you want. I asked Valleyboy for some footage of this, like i did for Skate 2, and he sent me all kinds of stuff from the CAP Faction. CAP meaning Create A Park. This should give you a better idea of the kind of stuff you can do if you have the patience.

So which version of Skate is the best? It’s a tough call. If you haven’t played the series and you want to just pick the best, then don’t. Just buy them all, and play them in order. Even Skate 1 is amazing compared to other stuff that’s out there. You’ll love it, and you’ll love 2 and 3 even more. But which one of these is the best?

It’s a really tough call. The gameplay tweaks and the hardcore mode in Skate 3 are really nice. Being able to run and jump on your board in 3 is a nice upgrade. There are more tricks and options all around. You can easily jump to different areas and skate til your heart’s content. If you just want to play the story mode and that’s it, then you’ll have the best time with the third one.

But Skate 2 has my favorite city. There’s a ton of security stuff, but you can always turn that off in free skate. There are a million different little spots to hit, and a lot of variety in the different types of places you can end up in. The realism is a bit better too. You aren’t always jumping over bridges and dropping in on 60 foot quarter pipes to air over a waterfall here.

If I had to score the whole series, I would give Skate 1 a 7.5, Skate 2 a 9.5, and Skate 3… a 9. I wouldn’t go back to Skate 1 at this point, but you can’t go wrong with 2 or 3.

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