Younger players may not understand why there is so much love for the Tony Hawk series. Their most recent memories involve a “skateboard” that was “filled with technology” that didn’t actually work right with Tony Hawk: Shred. But at the turn of the millennium, Tony Hawk Pro Skater was one of the hottest games on any platform.
It was the height of the extreme sports phenomenon and Tony Hawk Pro Skater and its early sequels helped make Tony Hawk a household name, something completely unheard of for an athlete who wasn’t playing one of the big four sports. Now, almost thirteen years later, the team at Robomodo wants to give players the chance again to relive their favorite moments from Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 for the first time in Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD.
The first thing old school players of Tony Hawk Pro Skater will notice is that the HD remix holds up and ages well. It is still just as fun as it was years ago to hop on a rail, do a kickflip into a manual and then grab some big air with a 720 Superman off a vert ramp. What they will also notice though is the XBox 360 controller’s sensitivity makes it a little difficult at first to get used to the game’s multiple instances where they must balance. Whether it’s a grind, manual or lip trick, the analogs on the 360 are almost too responsive and once a player gets a little bit off the rails, they are going to need to bail or take a nasty fall.
Speaking of nasty falls, there are some physics glitches in Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD that become quickly apparent. There are times what should be a normal fall, like hitting a wall or falling off a rail will send the player flying across a level. There are also a few other levels where the player will find themselves stuck in the level after a bad fall. Remembering back, this isn’t something that was an issue back in the original titles so it must have been some sort of weird conversion issue with the port.
But despite these minor issues, the port still captures the fun of the original even if it is a little rough to control at times. Stringing together tricks in either free play or the game’s career mode while seeking high scores is just addictive. That is what made the original games so popular and will continue bring people back to the series, especially with the over the top and unrealistic combinations that a game like Skate will never let a player do. In coming DLC, the game will add levels from Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 as well as the ability to revert, which allows players to switch the direction the board is facing during a manual which can also be used to extend combinations after going up and down ramps, but strangely this feature will only be available on Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 levels.
Story and Presentation
Unlike later iterations of the series like Tony Hawk Underground, Tony Hawk Pro Skater (and subsequently this HD version) did not contain a story mode. Instead the Career mode consists of ten goals for a player to achieve in each level. After hitting a certain amount of goals in the stage, players can progress to the next area. Each level has three score goals, collecting the letters to spell “S-K-A-T-E”, finding a hidden DVD (which was changed from the original “hidden tape” most likely because younger players would have no idea what a tape is anymore) and various other item collecting or trick specific goals. The only real difference in progression is that the levels now alternate between selected levels from both Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2.
Graphics and Sound
Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD is an impressive visual overhaul of the game with its updated models and smoothed out environments. Because many of us have grown up with the series, the visuals don’t seem drastically different from what we remember because the improvements have steadily gotten better as hardware has become more powerful but looking at any screenshot comparisons, it is amazing to see that they are even the same game. You can tell that they have not just put a fresh coat of paint but rebuilt the game in order for it to survive in the current market.
The soundtrack has always been and remains one of the best parts of the THPS series and Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD is no exception. There is a well chosen combination of classic songs from the first two games as well as some new tracks to round out the soundtrack. Let’s face it, Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD wouldn’t feel like a real Tony Hawk game if you weren’t grinding through levels and hitting 900s to the sounds of “Superman” or “No Cigar”.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD is a good history lesson for new players and a nice revisit for the series for players who don’t have access to their original copies anymore, whether they sold them back or they just don’t have a TV that still supports non-HD inputs. But, it isn’t flawless. Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD has some control and glitch issues that weren’t present (as far as we remember with our nostalgia covered glasses) in the original versions of the game. On paper, Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD isn’t a perfect game but there is still that special feel that the game gives players that puts a smile on their face and keeps them hitting the “Retry” button over and over again in a level. Keeping the players coming back is what made Tony Hawk Pro Skater special in the first place and that’s what it continues to do in its HD form.
XBox Live Arcade (also coming to PlayStation Network and PC)
$15.00 (or 1200 Microsoft Points)