I still fondly remember my time with the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater. It’s the game that allowed me to live my dream of landing perfect 900s, and mix it up with other kids in the neighborhood as we battled for high scores and bragging rights. Most importantly, I simply remember it as an amazing game.
Yet, I was apprehensive upon first booting up Robomondo’s HD remake. I wasn’t sure if the gameplay held up 12 years later, or if the soundtrack was as good as I remembered. Thankfully, my worries were laid to rest when Goldfinger’s “Superman” blasted from my television set–I instantly became a kid again. I’m happy to report that this HD remake plays almost identical to the classic Hawk titles, which, in my opinion, is a great thing.
You’ll instantly notice the graphical improvements upon selecting a character; this isn’t just the classic title given a HD skin. The graphics are redone and the characters and levels look fantastic. Textures are dramatically improved and colors absolutely pop–even in the gloomy warehouse. There are also new lighting effects which display shadows in better detail; gone are the jaggy shadows from the PlayStation generation. Animations, particularly bails, haven’t aged well. They drag on longer than they should, and at times look odd. Some trick transitions look rough and outdated, too. That said, clinging to the past isn’t always a negative. The remade levels are nearly exact replicas of the originals, and it’s incredibly satisfying to discover that the level goals are exactly the same as they were over a decade ago. Ah, nostalgia.
That’s not to say that there aren’t gameplay improvements. The skating action holds up extremely well thanks to Robomodo lifting elements from Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. Lip extensions are here, as are manuals, which keeps your combos running long and the score racking up. The best levels from THPS 1 and 2 are included (Mall, Phoenix, Warehouse, School 2, Venice Beach, Hanger, Marseilles), but that only accounts for seven total–and they do become dull after extended play. Luckily, Robomodo and Activison have announced DLC in the near future that offers maps and tricks (reverts, please).
Gone are the days where you found yourself scrounging the interwebs searching for the hidden VHS locations or secret areas. You can use the in-game map to find all the nooks and crannies each level has to offer, which includes gaps, hidden areas, and objectives locations. Speaking of hidden VHS tapes, Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD has matured with the times: You now collect DVDs. It’s a comical reminder that pokes fun at the original game.
As for the levels, many fan favorites return, and they’re almost identical to the originals except that some ramps are wider and some corridors are larger. The alterations don’t drastically affect runs, but it is worth noting for the veteran Hawk players. Now, when you complete every objective you unlock “projectives.” These “projectives” are tweaked, brutally difficult objectives. One projective demands you land a 50,000 point combo and this is actually an easier one. It’s a welcomed addition that adds extended life to the game.
The controls are in tact. X perform board flips, Y performs lip extensions and grinds, and B can be used for board grabs. Recent skating sims (like the Skate series) have you using the sticks to perform tricks. If you’ve spent some time with those you’ll go through a brief acclimation period. Using the left stick to perform tricks in Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD isn’t as responsive as using the d-pad (such as when you need to press left then right). There are still deep combos possibilities, and perfectly landing tricks perfectly still feels great.
Half the soundtrack makes a return along with seven new tracks. Overall, the mix fares just fine minus a few weak additions like “USA” by Middle Class Rut and “Please Ask for Help” by Telekinesis. A few skaters are missing including Buckey Lasek and Elisa Steamer. The shock wore off after I took my Xbox Live Avatar out for a skate. During campaign you’ll earn money to unlock new boards, tricks, and improve your skaters abilities. There are also four unlockable characters, Roberta, Ollie The Magic Bum, Officer Dick, and as an ode to the games of yesteryear: A low-res Tony Hawk.
The games shortcoming lies in the missing split screen multiplayer. It’s a bit disheartening and non-authentic to the original. All multiplayer is online, but the varied game modes help ease the pain. They include, Graffiti which has players tag specific spots on which they trick (these spots can only be claimed by others if they beat the score placed on that spot). Time attack, a straight forward mode where players compete for the high score while being timed. Free Skate, a relaxed mode where players can skate freely as the name implies. Then there’s the new Big Head Elimination– the name alone prompts laughter. Here players perform tricks to prevent their heads from inflating and eventually exploding. Last man standing is the winner, of course.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD easily warrants the $15 price tag (you purchase it now on XBLA, but it’s coming to PC and PSN at a later time). Older gamers who want to relive memories of shooting for the ultimate grind will get a special dose of nostalgia that will time warp them back to more carefree days. But the arcade skater isn’t just a nostalgia-trip; it’s legitimate fun.
See you on the half-pipe.