Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD|
The years have not proved kind to the Tony Hawk franchise. As the trend seems to go with most of Activision’s core franchises, the Tony Hawk games rose to an outstanding pinnacle of success, and inevitably came crashing down into obscurity due to a lack of innovation and yearly releases. Still, the franchise only took a year off before Robomodo took the reins from Neversoft by releasing Tony Hawk: Ride and Tony Hawk: Shred, the two worst Tony Hawk games to date, in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Now, after another year off in 2011, the once great skateboarding franchise has returned to draw off its nostalgic roots with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD.
This return to form features levels from both Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2, along with updated graphics, new goals, and a mix of both new and old songs and skaters. Each level consists of a two-minute run in which the player is tasked with completing as many goals as possible before the time runs out. The game also uses the usual style of progression by locking the player out of later levels until a certain number of goals are met in the previous level.
Cash earned by completing goals and collecting in level money can then be spent on new tricks, and upgraded stats. Eventually, new modes will unlock like Big Head Elimination, Hawkman, and the new Projectives mode. This new mode provides all new, significantly tougher goals in each level to give more advanced players a greater challenge after completing the normal Career mode. All of this is pretty much plays out exactly as expected coming from a throwback Tony Hawk game, and players who know the old levels and goals will find that the updated versions are as true to the source as possible.
The combination of the first two Tony Hawk games allows them to introduce systems into levels from the first game that weren’t previously there. The use of manuals to extend combos, the increased scoring potential due to the Sloppy/Perfect landing system, and the difficulty of landing large jumps with the Big Drop system have all been taken from the second Tony Hawk game. However, additions from any of the later games, such as reverts in Pro Skater 3, did not make it in. It’s odd that they decided not to include some of the features that were core to the later Tony Hawk games, though it’s easy to understand why they decided to only use systems found in the latest game included in the remake. Some people may really miss the increased combo potential that something like the revert introduces, but I found the manual was enough for me to increase my combos to a point where I didn’t feel the score goals were out of reach.
With a game that hinges on the feel of its controls, the transition from the original PlayStation to the Unreal Engine is generally decent. It’s by no means terrible or game breaking, but there is something about the way the skater moves that simply feels off. I became used to it after playing for awhile, but, as someone who easily played hundreds of hours of the first four Tony Hawk games, I was able to notice slight differences in the movement. However, most people aren’t really going to notice much of a difference when jumping into this game, but there is a more important problem with the port than just a slightly different feel.
Over the course of the game I managed to encounter some glitches that cause the skater to bail for seemingly no reason. The skater would sometimes just bail while doing a grind, and other times the skater would kind of clip through the level when simply skating or attempting vert tricks. This got to be extremely frustrating when trying to pull off a long combo or reach a certain point in the level that requires some speed. My encounter with this was really few and far between, but it happened enough that I felt it warranted mentioning in the review. The game is by no means broken, in fact, I feel the game plays pretty well, there are just some small problems that can get fairly frustrating.
The real problem with the game is the disjointed mix of old and new, along with the very limited amount of levels, songs, and skaters. There are only seven levels in the game, and two of the three picked from the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater are the extremely annoying downhill levels Downhill Jam and Mall. Add the fact that Hanger and Warehouse are practically the same level, and there are basically only four worthwhile levels in the entire game. Truthfully, I would love to have all these levels in the game, as long as there was a bunch of other levels in there to play as well. It really baffles me how limited the selection is, especially considering how core the level design is to the experience. Take into consideration the repetitive soundtrack that really has some questionable new songs, the overly limited character selection, and the practically nonexistent customization, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD really seems like a thrown together mess.
It’s really sad, actually, that this game turned out as middling as it did. When watching interviews with Tony Hawk, one gets the impression he really is passionate about making a good game that fans of the older games will enjoy, but every attempt at renewing the franchise is met with mediocrity at best. The worst part is it’s easy to see how this game could have been a revitalization of a once beloved franchise, but the severely limited, and all around poor choice of content makes Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD something that misses on its attempt to recapture those of us with nostalgia for the older games.