GAME NAME: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
GENRE(S): Extreme Sports
RELEASE DATE(S): 18/07/12
The Tony Hawk franchise been stuck in a bit of a rough spot over the past several years. When the original formula started to show its age, the attempts at injecting some innovative ideas into the franchise backfired on developer Robomodo, leaving them unaware of what direction to take the brand in. With the franchise suffering from a frustrating creativity block, what better a move to take than to follow the trend and make a HD remake? Enter Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, a Frankenstein style creation pieced together from the best parts of the first two Tony Hawk games. On the surface, it’s a game that looks to deliver exactly what it advertises itself as, but it quickly becomes apparent that your rose tinted glasses have been slightly smudged by someone else playing with them.
If you’ve played a Tony Hawk game before – and let’s face it, there are more of you reading this that have – you’ll immediately be able to pick up the controls and know exactly what you’re doing in career mode from the get-go. You get a 2 minute timer, you find the collectables, you get enough points to reach score thresholds and you find the secret tape (or DVD, in this case). It’s simple, it works and it’s a welcome return to the Tony Hawk of the past. Pair that with the lack of stereotypical SK8 culture tropes plus the inclusion of some of the music from Pro Skater 1 and 2 and it’s a lovely piece of nostalgia for any Tony Hawk fan.
While Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD may be a nostalgic trip through memory lane for fans of the series, there are some features that start to take away from that feeling of familiarity, most notably the physics engine. The presentation and core gameplay may retain very accurately what was made over a decade ago, but the physics in the game just seem slightly wrong for something that’s trying to recreate an N64/Playstation experience. They make the game feel a lot more weighted, restricted even. The sense of speed that could be achieved in the original games seems lost unless you’re barrelling through Downhill Jam without rolling over a single bump.
Content-wise, the game is a completionist’s dream, offering even more modes alongside the standard career mode such as Hawkman, Big Head Survival and a more difficult variant of the existing career mode called Projectives. While all the content is nice to have, the problem here is that you’re constantly going to be repeating the same levels over and over again, which will eventually get to a point where you just want to put down the controller and walk away.
For the amount of content the game offers, there sadly isn’t a lot of variation in what you’ll be doing either. For those with obsessive compulsive tendencies, it might not be an issue at all, but anyone else is sure to get bored of collecting items and performing the same string of tricks constantly.
Visually, Pro Skater HD isn’t really impressive or lacking; it’s acceptable for a 2012 title. Nobody was going to expect this game to be as groundbreaking as say, Crysis, so that’s nothing to worry about. What Robomodo set out to achieve was a modernisation of what was already there, not to create a graphical marvel.
On the note of modernisation, one thing that Pro Skater HD refuses to let go of is the plethora of bugs and glitches that you’d expect from a decade old game. Nothing is more irritating than encountering one of these many common glitches while trying to do something that requires such intricate timing and precision in-game. For a game entering into the annual Summer of Arcade, there really is no excuse for the amount of bugs. Word of warning, don’t let your batteries run out during play – it will literally crash the game. How something like that got past the bug testing phase is completely beyond my understanding.
Pro Skater HD’s multiplayer is comprised of the generic trick attack, free skate and graffiti modes that have become synonymous with the series, with Big Head Survival thrown in as a fourth mode. All of these modes are, simply put, damn fun – there’s just no other way to explain it. Even in free skate with 3 other people, the game manages to be fun just in the sense that other people are there with you. But in what to me seems like an utterly insane move, there is no local multiplayer – not even in the form of hotseat style controller swapping. For a game with multiplayer this good, I’m genuinely confused as to why it’s not there.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is a strange little package all in all. It acts like a best-of Tony Hawk game dressed in a new skin, but it somehow manages to trip itself up on numerous occasions by altering things that should never have been altered. Regardless of that, it’s still an absolute gem for anyone who loved the games the first time around and wants to experience them again for the sake of nostalgia. The problem with that though is that it makes it so much harder to recommend to people who haven’t played the original games before. While it’s arguably the best form Tony Hawk games have ever been in, not even the HD graphics can stop it from feeling incredibly aged. But if you still have memories of Superman by Goldfinger playing in the background while you skipped from roof-to-roof in a school complex, your 1200 Microsoft Points won’t be wasted.
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