The Tony Hawk franchise was once a proud crown jewel of Activision but it began to quickly lose its luster when the decision was made to pump out titles faster and the terrible idea to try to include a peripheral skateboard in order to jack up the price. What began as one of my favorite game franchises eventually became a game series I only had a passing interest in.
With the release of Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD, I’ve been reminded of my love for the roots of the franchise and the realization that I really miss playing these games. Part of that is obviously influenced by the nostalgic music and levels presented in the collection that bring me back to my childhood.
The team at Robomodo did a great job of recreating each level exactly how I remember it. Looking back at gameplay of Tony Hawk 1 and 2 on either the N64 of PS1 it is clear that my memory of these levels is much prettier than they actually were. The updated graphics do not seem out of place but instead seem to bring these classic levels to 2012 without sacrificing their soul from the 90’s. There are also many small notable improvements to the originals, such as the way clothing seems to flow when you pull off a trick that just demonstrate the care taken with updating this title.
This is not a complete update of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 & 2 with only seven levels making it into the game and about half of the original soundtracks. More levels and perhaps songs will definitely be added through downloadable content but for now playing through the same seven levels repeatability does get a little old, regardless of how much I love The Warehouse.
Future DLC is also supposed to add the revert mechanic that is sorely missing from this collection. The ability to manual from Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 does make its way into the game creating the ability to string together insane combos.
Another update to the original formula that may be a godsend to some but sacrilegious to others is a map showing the location of every collectible and objective. It is a welcome addition that prevents me from either spending hours trying to track down the secret DVDs (damn the original had secret tapes!) or resorting to looking up their location online.
Once all the hidden DVDs are found and you hit 100% for the entire campaign, Projectives are unlocked. Projectives are a new set of incredibly hard objectives that will challenge any fan of Tony Hawk Pro Skater. These objectives can be very frustrating but at the same time super rewarding once completed. As a fan of the series I found these challenges to almost justify the game’s price tag.
While Projectives are unlocked after hitting 100% there are no unlockable secret levels which were always one of the best parts of beating the original games. There are a few other omissions from the originals including the roster of skaters. Many notable fan favourites such as Bucky Lasek and Bob Burnquist are missing, reminding us that this isn’t the exact same Tony Hawk experience. You can however play as your created Xbox 360 avatar. The largest omission is the lack of split-screen play that is arguably the defining feature of the original titles. Before there was a console infrastructure to play games online, we would all take turns playing Tony Hawk in front of one TV.
There may not be a split-screen mode but online multiplayer is present in Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD. Familiar game modes like Trick Attack and Graffiti are joined by new series entrant Big Head Elimination which may be my new favourite way to play Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Each player has a giant head that will slowly deflate as they rack up points. Bailing often or failing to get your score up results in your skater’s head exploding.
The limited levels and lack of split-screen are the two main areas of contention in Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD. While the game does feel different that it did over a decade ago the team at Robomodo nailed what made these games click with so many fans. Jumping back into familiar levels with music from the 90’s really is a nostalgic trip. I think this collection is also a good introduction to new fans who perhaps haven’t played a Tony Hawk game or whose only experience has been with the dismal Tony Hawk Ride. I hope that the release of Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD signals Activision’s renewed faith in the franchise and perhaps release a new peripheral free Tony Hawk game in the future.
This review is based on a downloadable copy of the 360 version of Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD.