I was talking to Tony Hawk at a party a few months ago. (I know that's name-dropping, but it happened, and it's relevant.) I told him I suck at skateboarding, because I'm not 20 anymore. Hawk, 41, looked at me in disbelief as I uttered that excuse, staring at me past his midlife crow's feet.
Let me be even clearer. Things I suck at: 1) Skateboarding. 2) Skateboarding in video games. I've always been honest about my skateboarding suckitude. And here I am, facing the same suck-music again, with "Skate 3."
"Skate 3" is clearly a good game. I'm not exactly sure how good it is, since I can't accomplish much in it.
But it seems cool. You portray a skateboarder who rolls across a big city (which was designed and illustrated specifically for this sequel).
You ollie (a basic skateboarding jump, which I can pull off). You rotate and flick the board mid-air during jumps (I can do that, too). You jump the board up onto sidewalk rails and metal edges (I'm cool with that, as well).
But then you face challenges, to combine many wild skateboarding moves across the city. During those challenges, you must skate fast against rivals - weaving through traffic, or pulling off jumps and tricks in skating parks - and you must score more trick points than rivals do, quicker than they do.
Top Ten New Games
Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, according to retailer Amazon. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Most games are priced $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PSP; $30 for DS and PS 2.
1. "Red Dead Redemption" pre-orders for May 18 (Rockstar Games) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, intense violence, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs)
2. "Red Dead Redemption" pre-orders for PS 3
3. "Super Mario Galaxy 2" pre-orders for May 23 (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E" (mild cartoon violence)
4. "Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty" pre-orders for July 27 (Blizzard Entertainment) for PC or Mac; rated "T" (blood, gore, language, suggestive themes, use of alcohol and tobacco, violence)
5. "Pokemon Heartgold" (Nintendo) for DS; rated "E" (cartoon violence)
6. "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E" (comic mischief)
7. "3D Dot Game Heroes" (Atlus) for PS 3; rated "E 10+" (mild cartoon violence)
8. "Just Dance" (Ubisoft) for Wii; rated "E 10+" (lyrics, mild suggestive themes)
9. "Pokemon SoulSilver" (Nintendo) for DS; rated "E" (cartoon violence)
10. "Alan Wake" (Microsoft) for Xbox 360 (blood, language, use of alcohol, use of tobacco and violence)
(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone"; "T" for "Teen"; "M" for "Mature 17+")
I can't do any of that. I've tried. I'm not accustomed to losing. I am The Game Dork L.L.C., a registered Trademark with the U.S. government. But with skateboards, I am a big, stupid loser, the end.
I do have the wherewithal to report "Skate 3" isn't a huge departure from the acclaimed and popular "Skate 2." It just comes with a new city to explore and conquer. "Skate 3" is bigger than its two predecessors, and the controls are even more intuitive (easier to handle).
I love its park-building capability. You can erect your own super-high ramps, like the ones that cause crashes on ESPN. You can build a ramp like Hawk's crazy one in real life. You can upload those ramps online. And you can download other gamers' ramps. That's excellent.
"Skate 3" comes with a new online experience, where teams of three compete against other teams, or against each other.
The thin plot here, so to speak, is for you to build up a skateboarding company. When you beat challenges, buyers are impressed, leading you to sell a lot of skateboards. The game wants you to sell 1 million skateboards, eventually.
What I need in "Skate 3" is my dad. He's a physicist. Over the years, I've asked him to explain the physics of black holes (which I now understand) and the difference between the macro and micro worlds (I totally get that).
Dad is a skateboarder. For real. He ollies. I can't. So frustrating. I've asked him many times to explain the physics of skateboarding. He does. No capice. It is obviously time to move on.
("Skate 3" by EA retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3 - Plays well. Looks good but not great. Challenging. Rated "T" for crude humor, drug reference, language, mild violence, suggestive themes. Three stars out of four.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.