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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD [XBLA] Review

Posted on July 23, 2012 AT 05:53am

The Tony Hawk series has strayed far from it’s original roots; years of story lines, alternative gameplay modes, and yearly expansions and revamps have burnt the franchise out; while Tony Hawk himself might still fly high, the franchise has seen better days. Activision has decided to return to their roots with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, a “Best Of” compilation of the first two games. Did Activision bring the original titles back to the present appropriately, or did they mess with the original formula too much?

For the forgetful or uneducated, this is not the first time the first two Tony Hawk titles have been bundled together. The original Xbox saw a combination title, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2X, include all the levels from the first two games, plus new ones and other additions, such as females to the create-a-skater mode, 4-player split screen and LAN multiplayer. By the numbers alone, this long-lost title has more to offer, but the new title has some items to offer as well.

Visually, the game is a hybrid. For the most part, character models and graphic skins are incredibly updated; basically, everything’s brand new in that aspect. Once you start racing around, you’ll notice the the skeleton of the game remains the same. All the surfaces appear to be untouched, and the game feels undeniably blocky. It’s a necessary feature to keep the gameplay the same, but it’s a part of the game that shows its age. Audibly it’s the same; some classic music joins the new tracks. Theoretically, you could always use music from your Xbox 360′s HDD to fully simulate the original.

A host of real-life skaters are playable, but for Xbox 360 players, you can also focus on playing as (and upgrading) your Avatar; this is probably the preferred route for most players, as it allows a little more customization. The only disservice playing as an Avatar has is “Big Head Mode” does not allow for an Avatar’s head to explode (presumably due to Microsoft’s internal restrictions regarding the usage of Avatars), but forces the player to carry around a red balloon that will explode instead. Additionally, depending on your personal style, you could have some unique skaters in the game; I personally have a skater with a Power Ranger helmet at the moment.

Speaking of leveling up, the game is all about repetition. Higher scores are always aimed, but repeatedly playing a level, going for each and every goal, acquires and earns money that can be spent on improved stats, boards, and moves. It’s fun, but it is repetition, and if there’s a level you don’t particularly care for, you’ll be stuck on it for a fair length and hating every minute of it. Venice Beach might not be as fun or iconic as the Warehouse, but it’ll be there taunting you every second you spend in it.

New modes, Big Head and Hawkman, are new additions to the game that some will find challenging and fun, others annoying and disinterested. Big Head is effectively a trick challenge mode, making players constantly perform moves at an ever-increasing rate to stay under the radar and not explode. Hawkman is effectively Tony Hawk‘s version of Pac-Man, featuring your player chasing multi-colored dots, forcing players to capture, ollie, wall jump, or nollie through them to earn them. Big Head is a fun challenge, and almost akin to Crazy Taxi‘s way of keeping the game going; as long as you’re successful, you can continue, but you’ll eventually run out of time trying to accomplish tricks. Hawkman is an annoyance, being more of rote memorization of the perfect path and maneuvers to win. Old modes, such as Graffiti (players perform moves on certain items to mark them as their own, until someone performs a stronger trick) stay in multiplayer. Unlike the original titles, multiplayer is sadly limited to online only, and such niceties such as a level creator are missing. A level creator was fun in the past, but a level creator that would allow uploads and downloads, a social feature, would have made the game the definitive Tony Hawk title. In comparison, Activision has opted to outright announce that DLC from later titles, primarily Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, will be available. This DLC will include new moves, but only playable in levels they were originally available in, not allowing scores to be skewed from those with the DLC and those without.

It’s a fine game, and for it’s price, it’s fully acceptable in the content. Still, there could be much more to the game; a complete inclusion of all levels (even if they were “retro graphics” or such to justify not spending time on updating the visuals) would greatly expand the title, and even a simple create-a-park mode would have been nice. Custom skaters are limited to Avatars and upping the skills on the various real-life skaters who, despite different stats, only differ in visuals.

SUMMARY: It’s a valiant effort with solid, time-tested gameplay, but leaves much to be desired. Activision’s got a good board here, but the wheels need a little more finesse.

  • The Good: Unencumbered classic gameplay.
  • The Bad: Much of the extra content is abandoned.
  • The Ugly: The levels are visually new, but physically flat.

Score: 7

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