When the Tony Hawk franchise got the axe a few years ago along with Guitar Hero and True Crime I don’t think anyone thought it would be long before we saw the birdman in a video game again. Rancid’s 1995 song “Old Friend” says, “Good morning heartache. You’re like an old friend. Come and see me again.” And while the Tony Hawk series has put gamers through some heartache with disappointment with later installments this remake reminds us of why we spent so much time with it growing up.
We’d heard horror stories about Tony Hawk Ride’s development and the personal hell that consumers unlucky enough to purchase the peripherial based game went through. Ever since this last crop of consoles came out and brought EA’s Skate with it the Tony Hawk video game series had been stuck in a perpetual downhill jam in terms of quality.
While this HD remake doesn’t fix the issues the last few traditional Tony Hawk games had it brings everything back to basics. It turns out those basics are pretty fun.
It’s still over the top in all areas. You’ll get insane amounts of hang time and be using the manual to string together trick combos just like the old days. One of the best things about THPSHD is that it brings the manual into the courses from the original Pro Skater.
And that is ultimately going to be the part of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD that divides players. It feels superior to the originals in some ways while feeling unwhole in comparison in others.
The game is a mash-up of the very best content from Pro Skater 1 and 2. While you will be taken back 10 + years when Goldfinger’s “Superman” pours through your speakers you will try to recreate that moment where you had an epic combo of tricks on a course that isn’t included in this remake.
Not all of the levels from both 1 & 2 made it in. Activision is already planning to sell content (such as the revert) from Pro Skater 3 as DLC so I would not be surprised if they sell us the remaining levels that we thought we would get with this downloadable game.
Seven levels and a handful of modes come with your purchase. While this sounds like it should be unsatisfactory on paper you will forget about whether you agree with being sold a smaller amount of content than expected once you start playing.
Controls are spot on and the graphics are a huge leap over the originals. Small details like birds flying away when you get near them are a nice subtle touch. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is one of the bigger leaps in visual fidelity over the original game it is based on since Ocarina of Time 3D.
It says something about the original core design of Pro Skater that the gameplay is addictive to this day. Unlike Proving Ground and Project 8 I never found myself wishing I was playing Skate.
This is good because the original Tony Hawk games make themselves stand out as something different than EA’s new, more realistic skateboarding series.
Linear levels and no story mode help this. Most people would say bigger is better but the simplicity and minimalism of the original Pro Skater design shines through as unparalleled.
That simple charm of hearing 90’s pop-punk and pulling off crazy tricks even for those with poor timing is what made Tony Hawk games stand out before they expanded the games in ways that made them look inferior to their main competitor. I hope that if the Tony Hawk series returns to retail in the future that they keep this style intact.
If players felt like a superhero with the simple yet challenging combat of Batman Arkham Asylum than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater makes them feel like they can fly off ramps with ease. Hopefully Activision chooses to do what Pro Skater is known for doing best for future games and that is making you feel like the most insane, best skateboarder in history.
That said the lack of content can be ignored during the seven levels but once you get to other areas you’ll be scratching your head as to why certain things weren’t included.
Certain skaters don’t make the cut and the soundtrack isn’t a complete replication of the originals. While Powerman 5000, Goldfinger and Public Enemy (featuring Anthrax) are present there are some tracks missing. But like the Guitar Hero series you will likely discover a song or two you’ve never heard before and look up that band. Pegasus XL will likely get a great boost from this game. But be prepared to hear the same 4 or 5 songs loop in over and over again despite the tracklist being greater than a dozen songs.
There is no create-a-skater or creating a skate park. Xbox Live and PSN’s online communities could do wonders with a skate park creator but sadly it isn’t included. You can bet your money that it will arrive as paid DLC at a later date and that will leave a sour taste in your mouth regardless of how much you enjoy the main game. After years of having a blast playing user-generated maps in the Halo series the opportunity for online play on user-made levels is a missed one.
Another gripe of mine, and it is a small one, is that the original music for the main menu of the game is missing as well. I can’t imagine that generic tune had copyright issues but I suppose it could have. As silly as it sounded in 1999 it did set the mood for the awesome skateboarding you were about to do and its omission is a small but annoying one.
With all this said you will lose track of time with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD. It feels new while being old at the same time. It doesn’t quite achieve being the superior version of the originals with missing levels, songs and characters but it does have a place on your video game console. It fills a void for unrealistic, highly addicting extreme sports that only the Pro Skater series could ever fill.
Online multiplayer is a welcome addition. I did have trouble finding matches when I used the quick match function but the wait time is much shorter if you create a lobby yourself. Playing free skate with friends is a fun way to lose track of your entire day and big head elimination mode is horrifyingly amusing and panicking. Some may find Big Head Elimination mode to be too gimmicky but I enjoyed the most out of all the modes.
In this game type your head continues to get bigger and bigger until it reaches 100% mass and pops. To keep your head on your shoulders you have to pull off good trick combos without being repetitive. The last man or woman standing after a few minutes is the winner. As time goes on your head grows at faster rates and the match becomes tense as you try to pull off increasingly risky moves while trying to prevent bailing which causes your head to grow even more.
You won’t regret investing in Pro Skater HD at all. You will lose track of time as you try to accomplish every objective on each level. The music is awesome and the addition of online multiplayer should put this in your rotation of online games alongside likely mainstays such as Call of Duty, Gears and Halo.
Its like an old friend who just moved back into town. You’re hanging out again after time apart and you’re both different than who you were when you were younger but you still have a lot of fun. That is something that no one else in the gaming industry has or can provide for you and despite this old friend’s flaws they are irreplaceable because of this ability to simply have a blast every time you get together.
(Copy of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD was provided by Activision for review)