Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD Review

The latest Tony Hawk outings brought us Ride and Shred and an almost immediately redundant peripheral that not even the legend himself could defend. So maybe to re-catching the gameplay lighting in a bottle we should look to the past.

The original THPS game came out in 1999 so the fear of redundant gameplay and the crushing of fond memories are a very real danger for remakes like this one. Tony hawk’s Pro Skater HD (THPSHD) is strangely absent the impaled eyeball logo of Neversoft. Instead this Xbox Live Arcade remake is developed by Robomodo and running on the Unreal Engine 3. Not every top rated game from yesterday belongs in our current collection but I am here to tell you that this one does.

When 900° you reach, look as good you will not.

 Gameplay

The 12th Tony Hawk’s title features seven levels from the first two Tony Hawk’s games. Warehouse, The Mall, The Hangar, School II, Marseille, Downhill Jam and Venice Beach. The levels are remade using the original code so you can rest assured the gaps you could make in the original are inch perfect here.

Mechanics such as flat ground tricks and verts have been omitted and my initial feeling was that this cut back moves list would reduce the quality of the experience. My feeling was wrong, the gameplay hits the spot the same way it did all those years ago.

Spamming flatland tricks after the timer hits zero to rack up high scores is a thing of the past. If you want a big score you’re going to have to earn it within the two minutes. THPSHD keeps you honest. The game is feature rich with extremely clear instructions on how to play. A particular feature that will surely impress is the ability to use your own avatar. Seeing myself pull off tricks in my downloaded clothing is a treat (until I came off my board, ouch!).

I always new buying avatar clothes would pay off someday

The game offers three modes on the outset: Free skate, Single session for achieving the highest score in a timed run and Career.

The career mode follows the format of the original games: collect S-K-A-T-E, find the secret DVD (updated from a VHS tape) etc. Thoughtful inclusions such as removing objectives you have already completed in successive runs as well as fully comprehensive maps breaking down gaps as well as the locations of all collectables are welcome touches.

A further three play modes are unlocked as the game progresses: Big Head survival mode sees your skaters head inflate to the point of exploding unless you continue to perform tricks. If you play as your avatar a balloon takes the place of your head.

The second unlock-able mode is called Hawkman, originally seen in 2007s TH: Proving Ground. This mode sees you following lines laid out by collectable spheres.  This mode is particularly helpful in teaching you how to make extended runs around the levels.

The final unlock is called Projectives which as the name suggests sees the player attempting to complete all the objectives in a reduced time frame of one minute.

Sound

Seven new songs and seven from the original games have been included here; one track from THPS and six from THPS2 is included. The song selection is the standard fair for a Hawk’s game and the old throwback tunes definitely help keep the nostalgia flowing. I have however, noticed the same songs repeating over and over and soon switched to my own songs via the Xbox media player. As for sound effects: The audio design cleverly recreates the key sounds of the original games while adding a fuller soundscape to bring the game up to speed with what is expected of a modern day release.

Graphics

The menus all sparkle with a tight user friendly interface. The player instruction pages found in the help and options section are especially well laid out making learning the finer aspects of the game a breeze.

The in-game graphics are solid with crisp textures and the guest skaters are well represented with accurate character models. The lighting is lackluster in places making the surfaces seem bland. Some levels also seem to overuse the same textures. The Mall level in particular appears to be made entirely of marble including hanging pipes. And the food court now set indoors is also made completely of marble.

Marble pipes, marble floors, marble, marble, marble.

Despite some jarring artistic design decisions the overall quality of the graphics is tight and polished. Having recently played the original THPS games I can assure fans of the series that the integrity of the levels are intact throughout.

Online Functionality

The online functionality is modest but robust. The classic multiplayer modes from past games are present in the form of Trick Attack and Graffiti as well as Big Head Elimination. The online proceedings are rounded off by a free skate mode so you can just rip up your favourite spots with friends. The online experience I had was smooth and the net code seemed lag free. It seems a shame no split screen was included but it’s not a deal breaker when you consider the overall package.

Sharing your score on Facebook. Meh.

The ability to upload scores to Facebook is a nice touch but an option to upload runs to YouTube would have made more sense. It is an understandable omission when considering the feature presents a much wider challenge to developers who tend to shy away from the transferring of large quantities of data from inside their game engine.

Summary

There’s certainly enough in the title to keep players busy although I wonder if everyone will see seven levels for 1200 Microsoft points as worth it. Terminal, Los Angeles and Canada from THPS3 will be incoming in a matter of weeks for 400 Microsoft Points. It remains to be seen whether you can employ the new gameplay features of the third game on the original maps.

Canada, Los Angeles and Terminal are all set for the HD makeover.

I for one feel this package is not only worth the money but is a classic remake that supports itself triumphantly against newer titles. What really impressed me is how quickly I fell into old habits of jamming restart the moment I bail too soon in the run, the addictiveness is still very much in the games DNA. Playing pass the pad with my mates as we cheer each other on (while secretly hoping they fail so I can have another shot at glory) kept us all transfixed for hours. Classic, good times.

I gave this game a score of 4.1 out of 5 stars (82%)

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