Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is a serious nostalgia burst, but is a burst all we are seeing in this HD makeover?
Tony Hawks Pro Skater HD on Xbox Live brings the first two (and arguably best of the franchise) games together in a small package which has been created with the pure aim of hitting the player hard with the nostalgia expected from the smash hit series.
Following on from 1 + 2, it seemed that Activision and Neversoft were churning out these games with more interest in the profit gained than the player experience, so it makes sense that these two should be the ones featured in an HD revamp.
Everyone who spent countless hours playing these games, of which the latest was released 12 years ago, will be confronted with everything they would expect. The well-known career mode is present, the 2 minute time scale where the player must find the SKATE letters, beat high scores, find the secret tape (which has now been changed to a DVD) and perform specific tricks at certain spots, are all there in HD glory.
n addition to this version is that now, instead of struggling for hours to find that last spray can or the secret tape that doesn’t seem to exist, the player can now simply press start and view a map which shows where all the objectives for that level can be found. Good for the game? I don’t know. I used to revel in searching for all the items for the sense of achievement I got but I can see why it would suit the gamer who doesn’t fancy pulling their hair out trying to locate certain items for 2 hours.
Several game modes are available, one being multiplayer. The difference in multiplayer this time round is that it is purely online with no option to play locally in split screen mode. Within the online multiplayer mode there are a variety of different games that the player is offered including old classics such as Graffiti, Trick Attack and Free Skate, and a new addition called Big Head Elimination Mode (also available in Single Player) where the players must break out as many combos and high scoring tricks to stop the hilarious inflation of their own character’s head. If you fail to do this your head will simply explode and you will be eliminated from the game, although you are still able to continue skating! One massive shock to this section is the removal of the game HORSE. To me this suggests that it may be included in future DLC as in my opinion it would be disastrous to leave out such a popular feature from the game.
Another addition to the single player mode is “Hawkman”. In this a number of coloured pellets are placed around the level and the objective is to race against time to collect all of them by grinding, using manuals and getting airborne. The quicker you collect them, the more money you receive.
There are 10 pro skater characters available to choose from, plus you can also skate as your own Xbox avatar. This is a decent selection to choose from, although only 4 of these characters were featured in the original two games with the other 6 being modern pros. For a game which is more of a touch up than a remake, it’s confusing to see that big names such as Bob Burnquist, Rune Glifberg, Bucky Lasek and the like have been left out. I know that I was looking forward to using Chad Muska to work my way through the career mode like I had 13 years ago, so I can only imagine that this will also damage other old school players’ experience in one way or another.
Within the character selection the player is given the option to use the money they earn through the career mode to buy a variety of different things like a good selection of tricks to enhance their high scoring chances and a “Board Shop” where you can select what deck you would like to use.
Moving onto the levels, there is a selection of 7 handpicked from the original games. Nothing new here, every level is one that the player will have played to the death: Warehouse, School 2, Venice Beach, Marseille (a personal favourite of mine), Hangar and what seems to be odd for such a small game, the less popular Downhill Jam and Mall.
The former 5 hit every spot that they did before. School 2 still featuring the infamous “Leap of Faith” and Venice Beach is still a street skaters paradise under a silky new HD skin. Nothing has been changed in the layout of any of the levels which after the character issue, is very pleasing.
In saying that, of the three levels of the first game, 2 have left me somewhat miffed. “Downhill Jam” and “Mall” are both predominantly downhill racing levels which were not popular. In saying this, a couple of poor “choices” in levels in the original options opens up better choices for the upcoming DLC? More money to be made? Paranoia from me? Probably.
In the Tony Hawks games the game play is what kept us enthralled for hours on end; the simplicity of the flip, grind and falling on your face are things that everyone loved, and it’s all still there. Not much else to say on the gameplay, it was and still is fantastic. The only issue I have had is that with this being released on the Xbox first (where I and many other mainly use the analogue stick to play games) it seems undeniably difficult to have the same control over the characters and tricks as you would using the d-pad, which we all know is not the best on the Xbox. The d-pad is available to use though, so its not a major issue, just something to look out for.
The visuals in the game are stunning. The lighting has been improved and everything from the characters to the ramps has been given an HD makeover. New players probably won’t notice this much as compared to most other sports games, but if you were to go back and look at the games from over a decade ago, the changes are astounding.
Now, onto the part I personally was the most excited about, the soundtrack. THPS 1+2 were games, in my opinion, absolutely stacked with brilliant songs to skate to. They kept bringing you back for more and actually added to the overall experience of the game. Whenever, Goldfinger’s “Superman” came on at the start of the run, I knew some high scores were being broken! To my own delight (and hopefully yours too) this song features as the one song taken from the first game. There are six taken from the second and 7 brand new tracks. Again, as with the characters there was slight confusion on what constituted the essential greatest hits and for many the soundtrack was as important as the gameplay, so why change it? That’s not to say the song choices were bad (they are actually pretty good) but it’s when you’re skating the “Warehouse” and you just wish “Police Truck” by the Dead Kennedys was blasting that it really sinks in that something is missing.
In terms of unlockables for this short instalment, there are 4 characters that are available uncluding “Ollie the Magic Bum” and “Officer Dick”, both of which were available in the originals. Also, once the player has completed everything with one character, “Projective” mode is opened which is essentially some harder tasks within a shorter 1 minute time limit.
It has been announced that DLC will be available in the form of new skaters and more levels from THPS 3.
Overall, this game gives everything it was expected but lacking in some areas. I just feel that it could have been expanded much more to really give the old fans something to rave over and feel that complete nostalgia they were searching for. In saying that, after 3 hours I am still playing the game as I write this so they have obviously done something right! It’s sell worth the small price tag of 1200 MS points.
If everything from the originals were there in all their glory it would have been a solid 10/10, but due to certain issues mentioned I have to go with…
8 snapped decks out of 10