TONY HAWK'S PRO SKATER 3, Activision
The latest (and inevitable) sequel to the Tony Hawk series brings new levels, new moves and superior visuals, but its most important addition is competition. Even though Sony has yet to introduce an online service -- or even its own add-on modem -- for the PlayStation 2, Tony Hawk 3 already supports third-party external modems and Ethernet adapters. An in-game setup screen lets you enter your Internet provider's configuration info, then connect to an Activision server and start competing against other players. (The GameCube and PlayStation versions lack this online option.)
Among Tony Hawk 3's handful of multiplayer games, the best is Slap -- a death-match-style knockout competition on skateboards. The off-line game also represents an improvement on its worthy predecessors. For gamers bored with the 13 real-life pros featured in the game, Tony Hawk 3 improves its Create-a-Skater tool, even allowing players to tweak hairstyles and tattoos. The new game's levels are bigger and more detailed than before, with an extra dose of interactivity.
In the Los Angeles environment, for instance, players can grind on moving cars and ride up firetruck ladders. When the inevitable earthquake rumbles through, some of the terrain crumbles while other areas open up for exploration.
The game's soundtrack is as all over the map as are its locales -- you'll hear everybody from NYC rapper KRS-One to aging British headbangers Motorhead.
Better pick up some Band-Aids for your thumbs.
PlayStation 2, GameCube, $50; PlayStation, $40.
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