When Tony Hawk 3 came out on PS2, I got it the day it came out, just like millions of other people. But I’m actually going to be playing the Xbox version for this review. For this whole generation of games, the Xbox version is better. The graphics are better, there are more effects, and there’s usually some kind of bonus. For Pro Skater 3, there’s a bonus oil rig level, and you can check that out in my impressions video I put up. There’s also surround sound and 480p resolution. Tony Hawk 4 is actually 720p. So if you’ve got the choice, go with the Xbox. But I’m also going to be taking a look at the PS1 version too – which I never bothered with back in the day since I had a PS2. But it’s actually shockingly good. I had a really good time with this. Ok, let’s get started.
So with the new hardware, the engine of the game was remade, and Neversoft made quite a few changes and upgrades. This always has the potential to ruin the series, kind of like the new engine for Project 8 did.
The biggest change is the reverts. This makes a huge difference in the gameplay. Being able to link tricks from transition to street is big change, and it marks a new direction in the series. The level design from here on out will be more hands-off. Everything links with everything else, and it’s more about hitting as many buttons as you can while keeping your balance meter centered. You still need to find and collect things, but that becomes less important in future games. But Tony Hawk 3 is a good balance between the old style of Tony Hawk games and the new style. I think that’s why so many people say this game is their favorite – It’s got classic gameplay, but nice, upgraded graphics. There’s more vertical depth to the levels, and there are more characters on screen. So far, the only other moving things on screen were cars, and a bull. It’s pretty cool, because it opens up some new options for challenges, like stopping the pickpockets at the airport and impressing the other skaters in Canada. These things fit pretty well in the Tony Hawk universe without having to really mess with the style of the games. Another new thing is the different goals for vert and street skaters. Knowing that you’re starting out with stats that are more geared toward one style more than the other, you’ll be given different objectives – like doing a cannonball over the vert ramp versus doing a 50-50 on TC’s rail in the Foundry. The locations of the SKATE letters are also changed based on the type of skater you pick.
Stuff like this bumps up the replay value, and I would say that this is the most replayable Tony Hawk game in the series. After 3, there are cutscenes and videos all the time, and you don’t really want to sit through that stuff too much. Pro Skater 3 is a really tight experience. There isn’t nearly as much wasted time as earlier entries. In my Tony Hawk 2 review, I talked about how I would beat the whole game without ever upgrading my stats – and the reason for that, aside from the extra challenge, is because I didn’t want to sit through all the load times. In Pro Skater 3, everything can be done from the menu between levels! That’s a huge upgrade. The reason this works so well is because there is no more cash in the game – you collect stat points and decks directly, and you unlock new special trick slots periodically as you beat levels.
Another thing that changed is how dynamic those levels are. You could knock things down and unlock areas in Tony Hawk 2, but 3 takes it to a new level. You can knock snow out of a tree and build a ramp, and you even cause an earthquake in Los Angeles, which rearranges the level and gives you some new stuff to skate. The levels are all varied, and well designed. Look at the airport. One of the challenges is to take tickets to your friends at the gate. But the X-ray machines will void the tickets, so you have to ollie over them on your way to the gate.
This kind of stuff breaks the monotony of the goals. In Pro Skater 2, there was always something to collect, but it made no difference what it was – subway tokens, liberty bells, spray cans – they didn’t act or feel different in any way. It was just a theme. But that changes here. You have to find the ax in Suburbia, the tickets I mentioned earlier, the valves in the Foundry… or sometimes you don’t collect anything and you have extra trick challenges. The variety and design of these levels helps the game rank as one of the best in the series.
While we’re talking about the levels, let’s take a quick look at the Oil Rig level, exclusive to the Xbox. So, this version of the game was actually ported directly by Neversoft, and this level was designed by them. So it’s not a weird add-on, it’s probably an official level that they just didn’t have time to finish when the PS2 version came out. You unlock it after you beat the career mode with any character. Unfortunately, there are no goals here, but it’s still a cool bonus to have. I played this more on my impressions video if you want to see more.
In addition to the upgrades in level design, they’ve also added a lot of new tricks, and hidden combos. Now there are more double taps, giving you a lot more tricks without getting into specials. This system was expanded in further games, but it works well here.
Just like in Pro Skater 2, there are a lot of unlockables here, from bonus characters to unlockable levels, to videos of the Neversoft team. There’s tons of content to enjoy for weeks.
All in all, this version of the game is a masterpiece. But I’d also like to take a look at the PS1 version.
The original Playstation version of this game is actually really good. I’m glad I got it out for this review. It’s quite a bit different from the next gen version, and it’s worth playing through. There are a lot of different challenges, like starting the press in the Foundry, and Icing the Ice Cream Man in Suburbia. A few of the levels are reimagined too, like the Canada level. Not only do you have different objectives, like smashing the totem poles and blowing up the tree, but you can skate around past the fence and get up on these buildings.
It’s cool after all these years to actually get some new challenges in a classic game. It almost feels like DLC for the PS2 version. In Los Angeles, which you get to much earlier in this version, you don’t have to stop the police chase, but you do have to find and grind the elevator rail. I haven’t had to actually figure anything out in one of these games in 15 years.
Not only is the career mode a bit different, but there’s actually a bonus level. Instead of getting the cruise ship in the career, you get a downhill level in Rio De Janeiro. It’s nothing special, really, and having the Big Drop makes it a little tough to play, but it’s cool to have a brand new old level.
The fact that it uses the old engine has a few issues though. The reverts are really hard to pull off. If you hit R2 and try to manual, there’s a slim chance that you’ll do it, but most of the time you’ll do a revert and a manual, but it will restart the combo. I was able to beat all the high scores and get golds in all the contests though, so it’s just annoying, not game breaking.
It also doesn’t have the hidden combos either. Again, not a big deal.
Tony Hawk 3 on the Playstation is a hidden gem. It was developed by the same guys who made Grind Session, and it definitely shows, because they did a great job. The N64 version is probably good too, but I didn’t give that a try. It’s actually the LAST game ever released for the system, a year late, in 2002.
OK so what can I say about Tony Hawk 3? It’s a classic. I still give the edge to number 2 as being a little bit better, but I’ll admit that there might be some nostalgia there. I just think that it feels a little more true to skateboarding without the reverts. But with that said, this is PROBABLY my second favorite. I’m replaying all the Tony Hawk games for review purposes now, and when I’m done, I’ll be able to rank them all better.
What did you guys think of Tony Hawk 3? Were you even skating yet when it came out? What do you think about the engine of this game, with reverts but no spine transfers and no walking? I think it’s kind of a sweet spot in the series.