Game Review: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good Tony Hawk game. Tony Hawk Pro Skater made its debut in 1999, and after a few sequels the series quickly did a 180º and went downhill. THPS had always seemingly defied physics and stretched the boundaries of reality when it came to what could be done on a skateboard, but when the series dropped the number title and went to the underground, Activision practically buried what was once the pinnacle of extreme sports games. Now, in 2012, the publisher has teamed up with developer Robomodo to resurrect the original game – and they have breathed some new life into this legend.
Like all the other HD versions of classic games that are flooding the market nowadays, when it comes to the upgrade in visuals Robomodo certainly have not disappointed. In fact, this is probably the best-looking HD version of a classic game I have seen this generation.
When HD versions of games are nearing release I make a point of digging back into my collection to find the original, before playing it through again to compare visuals and other features that will be getting upgrades. Let me tell you, THPS on PS One and the Dreamcast does not look as good as we may remember it. Fast-forward to the present day however, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD looks amazing: with everything from the starting level in the Warehouse to Marseilles shining with its new visual makeover.
There is one jaw-dropping moment in the Hangar level where you grind your board across the helicopter’s blades and its engines roar to life, the hangar bay doors open and it make its way out into the snowy night sky. A moment like that is something that just has to be witnessed in HD glory.
Mechanically this is the same game, and those who have played any of the Tony Hawk games before will feel right at home here. It’s actually a collection of both THPS and its first sequel, so not only does that bring some of the second game’s levels, but manuals can be pulled off in the first game’s levels as well. The only thing that is missing is the revert, which has been promised in future DLC.
With manuals it is possible to pull off some crazy combos, and you will need this to meet some of the insane challenges the game throws at you. All of the challenges from the original series are back, such as collecting the S-K-A-T-E letters to finding the secret DVD in each level. The same two-minute time limit still makes things tense when you are either going for that high score or looking to ollie that last magic bum location, but with the new quick-restart button you can redo your mistakes and begin a new run. All of the classic moves are here and it’s a great feeling to have them back in this remake.
The biggest disappointments come in the shape of the soundtrack and skater selections. Only about half the songs from the original two titles return, including Goldfinger’s “Superman”, but these songs replay over and over again and in the amount it takes to complete one level you will hear every song that is included. It would have helped to have a larger track list, but I’m sure they have to save something for future paid DLC. As for the skaters, we get Tony Hawk (of course), his son Riley, Eric Koston and a few other pros. But why have they left out the greats like Bucky Lasek and Chad Muska, instead allowing players to skate as their Xbox Live avatar?
A few other things are missing too, including split-screen multiplayer. In its place we get online-only competitions and there is a notable absence of the create-a-skater and park modes that were a part of Tony Hawk 2. Along with these missing features there are also some minor glitches: you may get stuck in the scenery and have to restart, or your skater may move too much in mid-air and cause you to bail, which can be very frustrating if you are having a goof run. While none of these are deal breakers, the omission of some of the pro skaters and split-screen multiplayer stings the most.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is a shining example that all it takes to resurrect a dying franchise is to go back to its roots and unearth what made it so great in the first place. Some minor glitches and notable absences aside, it will be exciting to see what levels, moves and other modes we may get in future DLC packs. Indeed, it’s worth the price of admission simply to revisit the fun and nostalgia of years ago.
FMV Rating: ***½
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD will be released on PlayStation Network and PC later this year.