Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD
A shotgun marriage of an old-school classic with a new-school nostalgia money grab.
July 20, 2012 9:57 pmTerry Yates
Version tested: Xbox 360
The term “HD Remake” hasn’t yet established a status quo. For every good HD remake of a classic game that is good (Bionic Commando Rearmed), there’s quite a few that completely and utterly miss the mark (Rush'n Attack: Ex-Patriot). Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD (THPSHD) is an odd duck in that it will frustrate both fans of the series. Relative newcomers to the series will wonder what the fuss was all about, and old timers will wonder why in the hell "Downhill Jam" is in this game.
The biggest problem I had initially was the soundtrack and the inability to access it from any menu. It’s infuriating enough that the soundtrack is woefully short and repeats very often, but the fact that you can’t even get access to it to pare down the garbage songs you don’t want to hear is ridiculous. All I wanted was to jam to “Superman” over and over and rack up huge scores, is that too much to ask? No, I have to listen to that crap ass Powerman 5000 song "When Worlds Collide" for the umpteenth time? Okay….fine. To the younger kids, we, the kids from the 90’s apologize for Powerman 5000. We didn’t know better at the time, honest!
Being a remake from the ground up can have it’s perks: HD textures and the like. But it also means a new engine that has it’s own sets of problems. THPSHD is almost completely devoid of that arcade feel that dominated the early Tony Hawk games. Now you can no longer flatten out if you mess up on a trick, saving yourself from a bail, tricks that you would’ve eked out in the earlier Tony Hawks, now lead to fail. The window between a “sloppy” trick and a “perfect” trick seems razor thin and completely arbitrary in THPSHD.
Speaking of bails, instead of some animation of the skater getting up and back on the board, the game insists on this flash of white…then presto…skater back on board. If you’re having a particularly difficult time with a run this constant flash of white can become unbearable, and honestly leads to me wonder what was so hard about animating someone getting back on the board in a timely manner?
Using the Unreal Engine for your game is wrought with the peril of the bleak brown and gray graphics, that weird texture load in, and general chunkiness that is the antithesis of what a Tony Hawk game represents. Sure THPSHD looks great, but it’s lacking the vibrant palette of the earlier entries in the series, and I’d rather have a cartoony aesthetic than something that resembles a Gears of War game. It’s that general chunkiness that drags on the game portion of THPSHD.
On the general end of the package, the load times are criminal. With how small a lot of the games seven levels are, this is absurd. Perhaps this is also another throwback to the olden days, when a 30 second load time was considered blistering speeds?
The levels are perhaps the biggest sticking point I have with this game. The levels you actually want to play are seemingly pitted behind the levels you have absolutely zero desire to play…whatsoever. Supposedly "Downhill Jam" is Tony Hawk’s personal favorite level. That’s fine and good, but for a game that is being touted as “for the fans”, I don’t think any of the fans wanted to play "Downhill Jam" or "The Mall" for that matter. These levels are garbage and have no inherent fun factor, there’s a reason why they stayed in the first Tony Hawk‘s.
This inclusion of "Downhill Jam" is kind of what I think the current problem the Tony Hawk Series is having: no one’s being the “No Man” at RoboModo. Perhaps at Activision there’s a long hallway with pictures of everyone that ever told Tony Hawk “no” with large black X’s over their faces? Surely there are fans of the Tony Hawk series at Activision at large that remember how good the games were at the time, and could’ve somehow been a better bridge between the old school nostalgia and the modern game mechanics that seems so lacking from THPSHD?
The less said about the roster of skaters the better. No one of note really shows up for THPSHD, I guess Bob Burnquist was still butt-hurt about Tony Hawk’s games crushing his at the market, and who the hell is Lyn-Z Adams Jefferson Airplane Denny’s Grand Slam Jones Albequrque Vert Ramp Burrito Supreme Pastrana? For those who don’t mind, you can also skate as your avatar, which has some charm to it.
Adding insult to injury, the DLC for THPSHD, coming next month, will add levels from THPS 3, and the much appreciated revert that was pioneered with that game. Unfortunately, you can only revert on the THPS 3 levels and not the other earlier games levels. It’s also $5. So all told, your THPS nostalgia will cost you around $20, which isn’t bad considering that THPSHD could’ve been a full fledged $60 retail game that would’ve played about the same as this download only title.
With no split-screen action for the purists, the only multiplayer is online which is wrought with frame rate problems, and nothing really interesting in terms of modes. It’s inclusion is puzzling and lamentable.
The game part of THPSHD is a decent game, ostensibly it’s the same Tony Hawk we all know and love. The rest of the package however is where THPSHD falters and eventually fails to recapture that nostalgia cash grab that is the main thrust for this game's existence. You have to marvel at some of the design choices made with the game, that eventually culminate in a half-baked, half-assed game that serves neither of the Tony Hawk games’ camps.
Brown and gray...but hey it's in high definition!
Skateboard sounds: Check! Abysmal oft repeating soundtrack: Check!
Spongy controls. The 360 controller's d-pad and this game do NOT get along.
Is $15 enough to ease your nostalgia cravings for a few of the most middling of Tony Hawk 1 & 2 levels?
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING
out of 10