At times, it feels like years since Jim and I went out to EA’s Redwood Shores studios to check out an early build of Skate 3. In actuality, it's only been about seven months and in that span of time, Black Box and EA Canada have managed to take the game from an early alpha build to a finished product. While a lot’s been polished, tweaked, or flat-out developed during those seven months, I’m pleased to say that the retail version of Skate 3 controls just as well as those early versions I got to check out. Newcomers to the game should feel right at home with the controls after skating their way through the first few challenges, and returning fans will likely appreciate some of the subtle tweaks Black Box has made to the game’s physics, the addition of new tricks, and the inclusion of a hardcore difficulty mode. So from a gameplay perspective, Skate 3 definitely nails it.
Playing through the game cooperatively, however, can often leave one rather divided about the co-op experience. As I mentioned in my recent hands-on impressions of the game, skating is, at its core, a solo experience. No one’s going to hop on that board with you and share in the skating experience that way. He or she is going to be on his or her own board, doing his or her own thing; which can make many of the challenges that you do with a friend, or five, one of those instances where friendships are put to the test. The most common challenges you’ll undertake in the game in order to increase your board sales are the “Photo” challenges. These challenges usually require you to perform one or more tricks off of, or into, a certain spot, with the pay-off being choosing from one of several pics of your skater doing those tricks to put into in-game advertisements. It’s definitely one of the more fun challenges as there are some pretty crazy places you’ll be taken to around the fictional city of Port Carverton, but it also presents the typical co-op experience you'll find within Skate 3.
Image taken using the in-game replay editor; it's a really great tool that allows you to be even more creative, as seen in the clip below
When you team up with one or more friends, which is made relatively easy through the game’s menus, and take on a challenge, every single one of you and your pals has to complete the challenge under your own steam. That means that if someone’s not good at doing a certain trick, can't quite make that gap, or uses his face more than his deck when he grinds, you will all be retrying that challenge a lot. There is no real direct assistance that any of the other skaters in your group can provide, aside from words of encouragement and maybe the occasional tip. It really is up to each person to be good enough to be able to pull off what the game’s asking of them. This wouldn't even necessarily be too bad if that one player could just keep retrying over and over, but, unlike when you accept the challenges in single player, there's a time limit to completing the challenge. If everyone doesn't complete the challenge within the time limit, you all fail. In this sense, the biggest differences between completing the challenge with a friend and completing it on your own is that there are now more people are getting frustrated at your inability to pull off a Manny Flip Manny, and you also now have an audience (hopefully a sympathetic one) to bear witness to your mistakes. There are a few notable exceptions to this where all the skaters in your group contribute to the achievement of the challenge, like the “reach a certain score” and “complete a list of tricks” activities that you do in the Own the Lot challenges, but these types of challenges are less frequent.
Despite all of this, Skate 3 is still an incredibly fun game to play with a group of friends; and this is where that divide about the co-op experience rears its ugly head. I am not the best skater around, and I am sure that I have annoyed a couple of my skating partners by not being able to pull off what is likely a simple maneuver, but we still end up laughing and having a good time. So what defines the co-op experience for Skate 3? Is it the frustration felt at not being able to help out, or be helped by, your friends in the challenges, or is it the enjoyment of just skating around a large open world full of interesting places to trick off of with a group of friends? The answer, I feel, is one that’s going to vary from person to person as, in the end, Skate 3 is one of those games where the co-op experience is going to be what you make of it. If you focus on the negative, such as the lack of what some may call a "true co-op experience" and the addition of a timer when you take on challenges cooperatively, then it’s going to be a fairly miserable game to play with friends. If, on the other hand, you sit back, relax, and just enjoy the time spent doing all kinds of wacky things with a couple of buddies, then you won’t want to put the controller down.
The Co-Op Experience:
Players can Freeskate together, completing challenges, learning the courses, and creating customs parks.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.