Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD
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Tony Hawks Pro Skater HD
Sports
Xbox Live Arcade
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Robomodo
Release Date: July 18th, 2012
During the popularity of the Sony PlayStation One (PSX) days, a good number legendary franchises had been established. Many of which have gone on to lead successful, if not critically failing lives. Such is the case with the Tony Hawk themed games. While some of the later editions did a decent job at holding true to the original versions fun and casual gameplay style, as the consoles began to grow bigger, so did the games, leading to a lot of disappointments along the way to where the series is at now. Many gamers from the nineties and early two thousands, of all ages, can look back fondly on the earlier entries into the series, so it’s no wonder why Tony Hawk’s Pro skater got a nice new HD coating and makes its way to gamers on the Xbox Live Arcade as part of Microsoft’s “Summer of Arcade” series. But, does this version have what it takes to earn the hardcore fan’s money?

First of all, this isn’t just a lavish coating of new paint then sent on it’s way. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD does look a lot better, though still maintaining some of the graphic atmosphere that some places had in the original. The Warehouse stage still has a gritty look to it, though now more of a crisp and stylish one, and the Mall stage still feels like a slightly dimly lit shopping mall from the eighties that hasn’t quite gotten with the times aside the elevators in the middle of it. Each stage has it’s own visual glories, and in that respect the title has held up pretty well. Thankfully, this isn’t the only element of the game that received an upgrade.

While objectives aren’t anything new, there seem to be more new ones available than I recall from the original. You can still build up your skater’s stats, buy new boards, and earn sick scores easier by completing these and earning the associated money. You can olley over the bum at the beach five different ways, you can collect all the spray cans there, or in the Warehouse find new ways to earn hang time over the half pipe and gaps while finding the five shipping manifests and the hidden DVD among the S-K-A-T-E letters that appear in every stage, all to earn excess cash to buy better things. These objectives are only unlocked per character though, and there’s still a decent amount of them to unlock as the game forces you to get better and learn your moves in order to advance to the next stage. There’s also some enjoyable additional modes such as “Big Head Survival” which has you pulling tricks to keep your head at normal size until it explodes, as well as the typical “Free Skate” mode where you can just spend as much time as you want in one stage just riding around and perfecting your moves without having the respectable scores marked down the more you pull them off.

One of the biggest let downs, however, is that, while the visuals have changed for the better, the soundtrack hasn’t. This is still limited to the largely MTV Pop-Punk style material the original had, and while not all of it is bad, such as “When World Collide” by Powerman 5000 and the Anthrax / Public Enemy collaboration “Bring the Noise” still being present, many of the songs end up just repeating themselves at times, or just sticking to the same loop that plays over and over. There aren’t a lot of tracks to begin with, maybe eight total from what I managed to count (though could be wrong) and seem to be a little less than the original, perhaps not having the clearance for all the tracks anymore, so hearing the same ones over and over can become tedious no matter how much you like them. The glory of this generation of consoles, however, is that you can just hit the explorer button, choose music from your hard drive, and make your own soundtrack to kill the repetition.

This also is suiting for the avatar gameplay, as the music will better reflect your digital persona than perhaps the others already programmed in. One of the additional features to this title is that your avatar becomes a playable character, and in the long run it’s just as enjoyable an experience for people who don’t really care about the skaters in it. Sure, devoted skateboarders will want to play as Tony Hawk, Hawkman, or the other available and hidden people, but you can put your digital Xbox self into the game for a bit, alter your own stats, and make the character your own entirely. It was rather interesting to see mine going up half pipes, knowing full well the version in reality lacks the balance to stand on it for more than a few seconds, let alone pull three to four tricks off in one shot. In addition to this, you also get a new on-line mode. Instead of just having a second player join in, you can now go on-line with friends in the various modes available in single player, as well as Trick Score mode to see who can get the biggest score before the two minute timer runs out. This was some of the most fun you could have with the game, though it all operates on the typical “Quick Match,” “Create Public Match,” “Create Private Match” idea that many on-line modes have. This isn’t too much of a problem, as it does link you up to people and friends quickly, but the biggest problem was that anyone I invited in who had the game failed to join the lobby after accepting countless invitations. This could have been a pre-release issue, but its definitely one well worth noting. It’s nice that you can have a full viewable screen while there are up to four players involved, and that just makes it both a lot more fun, and a lot more chaotic.

Unfortunately, that chaos stems from the controls, and how they have not been updated to the dual analog stick abilities of today. While the movements are still rather stiff, it’s not too hard to get adjusted to piloting your character around the terrain and pulling off tricks. After a few minutes of scraping the rust off your fingers, you’ll start pulling off bigger tricks and earning larger “sick” scores to earn some of those challenges to unlock more stages. However, the biggest issue is that there is still no camera control. Much like the original, it’s a fixed angle right behind you that does change, but often not for the better. It couldn’t be too hard to add this element in, and it definitely would help with the multiplayer, as running into one another, or crashing on someone, really does start to take the fun out of Free Skate mode.

Of course, there are additional achievements in the game, and much like the level unlocking concept, they push you to better yourself to unlock them. Many of them are just for unlocking the next course, but you do have some such as earning two hundred thousand points in the Warehouse without performing a single manual, or doing Big Head Survival in the Mall and reaching the end three times that can really test your skill at the game. Obviously long time players of this title will have no problem, but if you’re new, it gives you a nice challenge in order to keep you playing, but thankfully achievements are not the only reason you’d come back to the title after you might have completed it, or unlocked most, if not all that there is.

But, in the end, this title does have a few new tricks up it’s sleeve, and for casual skateboarding enthusiasts, it’s still a great way to just kick back and kick flip with your friends. The additional goals (again, per my memory) will push you to continue to better yourself, as do the unlockable stages that require you to learn your character and the move lists, as well as the location of ramps, poles, and anything you can do a trick off of in general. The additional on-line play modes really make it easy to just have fun in multiplayer mode without being crowded around the same screen cut up into little blocks, though the inability to invite people at this point definitely was a very frustrating experience. Overall, if you liked the original, then Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD will pull you back in. It’s easy to see why this title is one of the better entries into the series, and aside the controls really not living up to modern standards too well, this game holds up as a casual, fun experience any new or old fan will waste plenty of time with again on those slow days when you have nothing to do, or you do and need some kind of excuse not to do it.

Overall Score: 8/10


Digital review copy of this title provided by Microsoft.