EA Black Box's Skate series was remarkably successful in taking over the Tony Hawk series' long-lasting dominance in the skateboarding game genre. Its added emphasis on realism over the increasingly goofy arcade gameplay of Tony Hawk immediately resonated with gamers. Two games later, Skate 3 tries to keep adding improvements to the formula to keep their spot above Tony Hawk, a series now seeing some resurgence under the helm of the Robomodo team. What does the recently released demo reveal about EA's next title?
The first thing to hit you upon entering the demo is the new Coach Frank Skate School, a tutorial with enough comic relief thrown in to make it still worth doing as a Skate veteran. The tutorial is better than any in either of the previous games, with its own devoted concrete area. The tutorial is also a nice place to help out those trying the new difficulty levels.
Skate now has three difficulty levels, with Easy and Hardcore being the new ones. Easy eases up the game physics and is generally more forgiving of small mistakes. Hardcore makes the physics more realistic and, in perhaps the most jarring change, does not seem to help your skater land grinds at all. You may have thought you were hitting rails on your own before, but you weren't close. It took me about half an hour of practice to start hitting grinds consistently again, now that I had to aim jumps so much more precisely. It had previously been a bit too easy to land those Nollie 360 Hardflips, so hardcore is a very welcome addition to keep the game grounded, so to speak.
The most touted new feature, team play, is almost entirely absent from the demo. Marketing for the game has demonstrated the cooperative gameplay capabilities and emphasis on skate teams the final product will reportedly have. However, this is only barely touched on in the demo, through a very limited online multiplayer feature not too unlike those of the previous games. There was no sign of players cooperatively tackling main campaign missions, but those will presumably appear in the real game when it comes out on May 11th.
The game world presented in the demo is rather small, but the world design still looks promising. Everything in the demo is arranged attractively and, especially with the new object dropper tool to add in new obstacles and other objects anywhere the player wants, could produce some interesting skating ideas. Online, the Skate.Reel video collection is already filling up with videos of in-game accomplishments.
The Skate 3 demo keeps the gameplay fresh with a few new tricks and the new difficulties, and the promised team gameplay and skatepark creator to come provide plenty of novelty to play around with. Not since Thrasher: Skate and Destroy have I enjoyed a simple demo of a skating game for such a long time, which has got to be a good sign.