Review: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

Review: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

Nostalgia’s a wonderful thing, but, in the case of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, sometimes the past is better being left alone rather than being tarnished by a game that doesn’t quite hit the mark as well as the original titles did.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD

Xbox 360 Version Reviewed

If you had to pick one game title I was clinically obsessed with as a child, it would be Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. Me and my circle of chums  played the game absolutely to death; we knew every secret, scoured the world for every single gap and played more runs than is ever possible to count.

It’s a game I remember incredibly fondly. When they announced they were about to bring it all back with a new coat of shiny paint earlier this year, my inner child whooped with joy and re-invigorated my suppressed desires to actually play a Tony Hawk game again.

Then I played it, and my inner child died slightly. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD isn’t nearly as good as it could have been, and has severely let me down by dumbing down the old experience of the Tony Hawk games, incorporating some really dodgy physics and making the skateboarding experience more of a frustrating one than an old-school nostalgia love-fest.

For those who grew up with the titles and played them to death, you know exactly how the game should feel. The HD version of the game feels similar in certain ways, but something about it is inherently off. One such example of the constant problem is the physics of the title itself – while it used to be easy to perform wallrides, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD version of wallrides will only work the vast majority of the time if you approach from exactly the right angle. It’s exceptionally frustrating, particularly since wallrides are basically an integral part of combos and completing objectives.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD

Just to compare the differences between the titles I actually went back to Tony Hawk’s 2 and compared the style of the games. While 2 has some incredibly dated physics, it still feels right. Tony Hawks Pro Skater HD, meanwhile, doesn’t seem altogether correct, and I generally find it far too hard to perform simple tasks I can do on the PS One classic.

Another bizarre element of the game is the placement of game objectives. As you might remember, Tony Hawk games usually had various objectives strewn around the map, many of which required some intricate skating to reach. This is still true of the HD version, but THPSHD seems to always put the items you need to collect completely out of reach of your character. The good news is that this doesn’t matter because you can still collect things even though you haven’t touched them, simply because the physics are off and the game will let you collect stuff even when your jump was several metres short. It just feels incredibly silly, and sticks out like a sore thumb when you blatantly know you completely missed the item.

The game has also been significantly dumbed down for the modern gaming world. Where on Tony Hawk you originally had no clear indication of how to do objectives and had to track them down yourself, THPSHD will handily give you a map available constantly in the pause menu that tells you where everything is. From a new gaming standpoint it’s probably something that’s incredibly useful, but it really hinders the whole ‘explore and skate’ mentality of the original titles where you feverishly completed massive skating lines in order to break high scores and collect everything within two minutes.

If you’ve been playing the more recent Tony Hawk games (basically from 3 upwards) the decision not to include the revert manoeuvre (used to string vert combos into manuals and so forth) can be exceptionally jarring at first. It harkens back to the original two games where the move wasn’t present at all, but it is a mechanic that really opened up the games further and allowed for better combo strings.  Whether you agree with the decision to get rid of the move or not there is DLC coming in the near future that will add the move to levels from Tony Hawk 3, so that’s some saving grace.

The Divide Between Nostalgia and Modern Society

The overall tone of this review has – unfortunately – been relatively negative so far. From my fond memories of Tony Hawk I’ve somewhat found my enjoyment of the game hindered by a sense of ‘wrongness’, but I also think that the title will be a fun one for those new to the series.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD

While there’s all the stuff I’ve referenced that can be annoying, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD harkens back to the arcade gaming scene. You’re basically given two minutes to pull off absolutely crazy skating tricks, collect lots of stuff, break things and generally cause a bit of havoc.  It’s a mentality that worked extremely well in the past and still does today for those wanting a quick thrill; but I truly believe that your opinion of the game will be based upon whether you’re new to the series and are judging it against nothing else, or whether you’re a seasoned Tony Hawk veteran who grew up with the titles throughout childhood.

For those nostalgic people, I am delighted to report that much of the original soundtrack returns, including ‘Superman’ and ‘When Worlds Collide’. I really did get a bit excited hearing those songs again – it’s been years.

Level Selections

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is basically a ‘best of’ compilation of classic levels that have been totally remastered. There are some true classics in here like the Warehouse, School 2 and Venice Beach, but others – such as the disastrously awful and annoying Downhill Jam – really don’t feel like they should have any presence in a ‘best of’ title.

Where’s Skate Heaven? Where’s Roswell? Where’s the top levels we all used to love? They all seem to be mysteriously absent from the package, and to me it really feels less like the best levels of the past and more like a random string of levels thrown together randomly.

That said, some of the levels are pretty fun and will have you smiling as you remember the objectives of a long age ago. A particular favourite of mine was always ‘Ollie the Magic Bum’ from Venice Beach and I’m glad to report our smelly hobo friend has once again returned to be jumped over by skater folk from around the globe.

The structure of the levels themselves has basically been retained from the classic titles. School II, in particular, is basically an entire carbon copy with new and shiny HD graphics. Honestly the graphics are pretty good (especially considering the low price the game is retailing for) and it’s pretty cool to see classic levels refreshed for the modern world. It’s just a shame that the actual gameplay is slightly off, otherwise this would have been a pretty robust package for such a small price point.

 The Verdict

I’m torn, I really am. There’s a few things to like here and I feel the game is a pretty decent title for such a low price point, but I’m also concerned about some the level emissions and the generally wonky physics. For new gamers, this is certainly a title worth playing, but for those who grew up with Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD may dissapoint you more than it will reinvigorate your interest in the series.

Score: 6.5/10


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