Tony Hawk’s name is synonymous with everything extreme sports, from events to shoes to appearances in Jackass. But almost every gamer knows the sad story of his video game series, falling on hard times after the miserable diversions, RIDE and Shred.
Tony Hawk is back with a vengeance in 2012 with some classic tricks. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is the best thing to happen to the old franchise in several years, sure to make some new fans while pleasing the old alike.
If you’re looking for a deep adventure of a down-on-his-luck skater, doing whatever it takes to get noticed, persevering through rough betrayals and a difficult life that takes him to the streets before desired rise to stardom, you’re way out of luck.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is completely absent of any plot. Instead, it incorporates the goals of the classic games of the franchise, focussing on pulling off the biggest combos and collecting random items in each stage.
Players start off by picking a skater from eight available, each with their own stats, special moves and style. Jumping straight into the Career mode from there, gamers start with a single stage with its own goals for score, collecting cash and other assorted items, and completed stage specific tricks. Each completed goal earns cash to spend on new tricks and increase stats while getting players one step closer to unlocking the next stage.
There are also several other modes to play, such as Hawkman, a Pac-Man style mode where players have to pull off specific trick types to grab icons, and Projectives, a much more difficult version of Career mode. The extra modes will provide good replayability, taking even seasoned skaters several more hours to complete.
The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise has inspired the gameplay of just about every extreme sports game in the last 15 years, so most people will be familiar with the game even if they haven’t played the series before. Players ollie by using the A button and perform tricks by pressing either X,Y, or B with a direction on the left analog stick. Getting tons of points isn’t as simple as pressing few buttons. The most points come from stringing grab, flip, grind and manual tricks together and finding the best lines available in the level. Using the environment well is the biggest factor in determining a skater’s success.
The highest point scoring special tricks are also back and still done by pressing two directions in sequence and a button. Players will begin with only 3 special moves, but can use up to 5 as they earn cash and buy more.
The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater gameplay formula remains tons of fun after all these years, but it does have several noticeable issues. The game has been completely rebuilt from the ground up, which ends up being a double edged sword. The gameplay and physics feel very similar, but the biggest problems end up coming from glitches and balances that were made. Usually combos will hold up until landing or a bail, but there are many times that random bails will occur. Another change was the adjustment of point values with a large number of tricks, leading to some tricks being almost entirely useless. These are things that casual fans might not notice as much, but I know dedicated fans of the past, like myself, will be pretty upset when a million point combo goes down the drain for no apparent reason.
The other big issue is with the level layouts. The seven most popular stages from the first two games have been included in THPS HD (three from THPS and four from THPS2). However, the mechanics of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD are based on the second game of the series, which made drastic changes by adding the manual and wall ride. This causes some big problems with combo lines—the preset lines that players can use to score long combos—because the stages of the first game aren’t designed with the mechanics of the second game in mind. This might not be clear or all that important to new players, but for veterans, it will be infuriating not to be able to trick the way they’re used to.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was well known for its excellent soundtracks in the past, which always perfectly captured skating culture with an eclectic mix of punk, rock, and hip-hop. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD follows in the footsteps of the past games by filling about half of the soundtrack with some iconic tracks of the first two games while rounding out the remainder with new songs. The classic tracks used come from Public Enemy, Bad Religion and more. The newer songs aren’t as interesting or recognizable by any means, but they fit the vibe of the game.
The sound effects seem to be entirely recycled from the old games, which will help old players get into the groove immediately. I still get chills hearing the “BWONG!” from pulling off a special move or the crunching of skin and bone during a bail. There’s nothing realistic about the sound, but then again, there’s nothing realistic about the Pro Skater games either.
One of the best parts of Tony Hawk HD is the visual overhaul that Robomodo has provided. Each of the stages are instantly familiar, but vastly better looking then before. This is no simple up-rezzed rehash of two old games; the graphics have brand new textures with the detail that gamers would expect from a full release today. It won’t blow any minds and it can’t compete with the likes of the SKATE games, but it looks the way a Tony Hawk game should in 2012.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD isn’t the best game in the series, but there’s some good, classic, wholesome fun to be found for the wannabe pro skaters. The new additions have made it a strong choice for gamers looking to try the series without be forced to play the games on an old console or trying one of the half-hearted releases of this generation.
GO Rating: 4/5
Available now on Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 points ($15). Will be available on PS3 and PC at a later date. Screenshots via [THPSHD on Facebook].