I don’t know what it was back in the late 90′s, but skateboarding made a pretty big comeback. Every kid in school owned a skateboard, including my overweight self. Even though I couldn’t even ollie, I still loved the extreme sport. Due to the popularity, video games based on the sport started popping up. The biggest one was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Now, I’m sure everyone reading this review has heard of that game franchise. It was huge back in the day. To try to rekindle that nostalgic love for the series, Activision has gone back to its roots and released Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD.
When I say it’s going back to its roots, I mean they have taken the most popular levels of THPS and THPS2 and dropped them into a nice HD setting. Everything is just as you remember it. The Warehouse level is still a classic, the School still has that annoying security guard trying to hit you with his golf cart, and let’s not forget about the classic music. Goldfinger’s Superman is there, and when it starts to play, I still sing along. Everything you remember and loved about THPS is here.
The controls are the same, and it feels like a PS1 game in both good ways and bad. It’s stiff in some aspects but very simplistic, so after a few play sessions, you’ll be comboing grinds into manuals into kickflips into grabs in no time. Still, even if you get used to the old controls, they still feel off at times, and when you’re in career mode with only two minutes to complete objectives, you need some more precision.
There are seven levels to play, each with their own objectives to complete. Completing a number of tasks in a level will unlock a new one. You’ll be collecting S-K-A-T-E and finding the secret DVD (yes, they’re DVD’s now instead of tapes. 21st Century!) just like you did back on the PS1. It’s all here and just as you remember. Earning money during play will let you spend it on new boards, upgrading characters, and learning new tricks.
There is no create-a-skater or level creator in the game, which is a big letdown for me. Being able to create your own skate park and sharing it with friends over XBL would have been an awesome feature, but I guess you’ll have to make due with what you have. It’s not lacking in the level variety, but it is something I thought would be a shoe in for an online THPS game.
One thing that really confuses me is the omission of HORSE mode and split-screen play. I mean, even the old games had that and was some of the fun I had back in the day. They counter that with a few new modes as well as online play. Some of the new options include Big Head Survival where you have to complete tricks to shrink your head before it pops, and the new Hawkman mode that is like a skateboarding version of Pac Man where you have to do certain tricks in order to collect dots in the level, offer up some pretty fun times. There is also a free skate mode and a trick attack mode. There’s enough here for players to enjoy for hours. Sometimes, finding an online match takes a while, but once you’re in, it’s pretty much smooth sailing with no real lag.
The HD upgrade looks rather nice. It’s not going to blow your socks off or anything, but it looks good for a downloadable game. Besides, you’ll be too busy trying to rack up combos that you won’t worry too much about how the game looks.
All in all, Tony Hawk still holds up in gameplay. It may take you a few tries, but you’ll get back into that 1999 mindset and have some fun. You may get a little bogged down on the level progression because truth be told, trying to complete objectives and end with a high score in only two minutes is not an easy task. The online is there, and you and some buddies can have a good time while jumping over airplanes and hobos. I had a good nostalgic time with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD. Sure, it may be missing some key elements, but for $15, you can still relive some of your favorite levels while listening to old ska and punk bands (with a little Public Enemy) playing in the background.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.