September 23, 2012
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was the skateboarding game when it first arrived back in 1999. It took the already wild sport of skateboarding to its furthest extremes, with ridiculous combo chains, and physics-defying tricks. Aside from playing as the Birdman himself, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater had a great ensemble of skateboarders, and secret characters to unlock. Unfortunately, the series became rather stale in this current generation; forcing gimmicks like the motion control skateboards that were a commercial flop, and different game play designs that just weren't hitting the mark. That's not entirely fair, they completely missed the mark.
A lot of this had to do with EA's Skate; a game that revolutionized the way we skateboard on a controller with its intuitive Flip-it mechanics mapped onto the right stick. The Tony Hawk games were desperately trying to find something that could reclaim the throne. Ironically enough, what earned them that spot was not a new invention; it's not a different and edgy style of skateboarding. It's going back to its roots to find themselves again, in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD – a love letter to those who played those incredible games.
The game itself isn't an ordinary HD remastered version of an existing game, but rather a blending of two games, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 and 2. Developed my Robomodo, the game was remade from the ground up using the Unreal Engine 3, and from playing every level, you can tell that a lot of care was given to recreating each map, ramp for ramp, rail for rail. Grinding the propeller of the Hanger level which unlocks secret room, waiting for the right bell to ring to unlock the Gymnasium in School 2, it's all there.
The gameplay is classic Tony Hawk, and I've waited a long time to finally say that again. This is the arcade styled game that it was pre-2000. You can ollie, grab, flip and grind on any one of the four face buttons, manual by pressing up-down on the d-pad or joystick, and wallride if you approach it at a correct angle. The objective is simple and straight-forward: get as many points as you can within the time limit. The best way to do that is to string groups of tricks together. Not only that, but there are other objectives you will need to accomplish should you care to play the rest of the game. These are the same objectives from the earlier games, such as finding all letters of S-K-A-T-E, performing a trick over a specific area, or finding the "secret" DVD.
The ability to play online was a sight to behold when it was first introduced to the series with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. Online play is in this package and it even includes the beloved graffiti mode – tagging certain trick spots with your highest score, and the new Big Head mode, which gradually has your head inflating over time. To keep it down, you must perform combos. The higher the combo, the longer your head keeps from popping. And there's single session if you just want to play around, or even free skate. Sadly, the ability to play via split-screen was excluded, and it is a feature that is sorely missed.
The character selection is diverse, offering a wealth of younger skaters – including Tony's son Riley. The downside to this is that some of the other well-known characters like Chad Muska, Geoff Rowley, Mike Vallely, and Bob Burnquist all took a back seat. This was a little disappointing to see, but downloadable content is going to release soon, giving players the chance to play in three levels from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, and the ability to play as Rowley, Muska and Steve Caballero, along with the much anticipated Revert move, which allows you to continue your chain when coming down from a quarter/half pipe.
The music also suffers the same treatment. Classic songs like Goldfinger's Superman, When World's Collide by Powerman 5000, You by Bad Religion and Millencolin's No Cigar all remain in tact, but other songs like Guerrilla Radio by Rage Against the Machine, Jerry Was a Race Car Driver by Primus, weren't included in favour of new flavours of music from this generation. Like the new characters, it was to establish the fact that this was also an opportunity to not only speak to the veterans of the series and fans of the skaters of old, but also as a way of welcoming players who grew up with Lyn-Z Hawkins and Riley Hawk, or listened to bands like Pigeon John or Telekinesis. That's not to say the new additions are bad, far from it actually. They sound great and some may just stick with me as long as Superman has.
Visually is a bit of a mixed bag. First off, let me first commend Robomodo for the excellent job at recreating famous levels from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2. Seriously, it's like I've taken a sip of nostalgia nectar. That being said, it still looks a little rough around the edges. There are some aliasing issues, instances of clipping, lower-res textures for some of the architecture, and the occasional glitch where you can fall through the map. It feels like, with just a little bit more time Robomodo could have easily ironed out the creases. As it stands, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD isn't going to drop your jaw visually, but thankfully that was never the point of the game series.
If you're a fan of the original series, then it'll be great to re-live those memories of the hay-day of the Tony Hawk's franchise. It's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, back in action, and it's great to see the series back on solid ground. It's not going to revolutionise the skate genre and some fans will be upset about the content that's been removed for the launch, but you can't win them all. Perhaps if the developers had been given a bit more time, this wouldn't be the case. Either way, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is still a decent game and while it may not be a looker, it plays like the series ought to play as.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD was reviewed on the Xbox Live Arcade.