Just as the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise reached its absolute apex with the hellishly addictive masterpiece that was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, EA’s Skate series has similarly leapt from strength to strength, which has culminated in this outstanding second sequel. The plot this time could be considered lightly offensive to some in these recession-led times (you begin the game as a pro and are tasked with building up a business empire) if it wasn’t as disarmingly goofy and charming as you’d expect.

Despite the high-profile shift in the tone of the story, Skate 3‘s fictional world of Port Carverton is enjoyably lawless – with no unwanted appearances from the police or security guards to cut any of your action short, as tended to happen previously. The game is structured around the need to publicize your new creative endeavour, with each mission that you ace earning you board sales, and the opportunity (once a series of set targets have been met) to invite a new member to join your skate team.

The biggest and best addition to the series is embodied by the excellent new multiplayer options. These missions can either serve as an extension of the main single-player mode (with board sales continuing to escalate with skillful play) or simply as hugely enjoyable competitive races or point-based competitions. The brutal but hilarious ‘Hall Of Meat’ mode makes a welcome return, and Skate 3 manages to offer up ample options for those looking to turn everything into a social exercise via the host of co-operative options, as well as those that are just after an opportunity to earn fresh bragging rights.

The skate park builder is another superb piece of the puzzle, and it strips all of the possible options down to a handful of fundamentals, making the process as easy to use as it is near-limitless. Created parks can be uploaded and shared online, as can stylish video clips that you are able to structure and edit yourself. Off-board running has been given a polish too, and you can now alter the position of the camera, helpfully enabling you to see much more of the game’s sandbox world as it approaches.

This is also easily the most accessible title in the series. In truth, the first Skate was conclusively hard-as-nails, and alienated many players with the exception of the hardcore, and those who’s enthusiasm for skateboarding ensured the required amount of perseverance. Skate 2 simplified things in fine style, and Skate 3 takes this one step further, offering up three different difficulty settings. Easy should really be regarded as an option for pre-teens only, Normal is for newcomers, and Hard is definitely where the regulars will want to head.

The comparatively short development time of Skate 3 may have made some fans apprehensive that this wouldn’t be the huge leap forward that Skate 2 was from the first game, and so it proves. But this is an evolution rather than a revolution of the series; a loving, well-oiled progression that represents the franchise (and skateboarding in general) at its absolute best. The real question that needs to be asked is both worrying and tantalising. Where do they go from here?

Watch the Skate 3 trailer here…

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