Has it really been that long? Regardless, releasing today is the remastered (more like a remixed) Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD for XBLA with further plans to release it later for the PSN and PC respectively. This new HD remaster comprises the best of both worlds from the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 both classic games that essentially jump started the skating sports games into what we have today. The Tony Hawk games of long ago are a much different beast than the ones of today and I’m not sure today’s gaming skater crowd, the ones who never played the originals, will know how to respond.
For those that are only familiar with the newer Tony Hawk titles (think American Wasteland and beyond), the original lineup is vastly different. Instead of any type of storyline or anything, or trying to really explore the world and climb around, you pick your skater and your board and then go to town in a relatively small map. Each map has a collection of objectives to try and complete, but it’s not necessary if all you want to do is skate around and try to do sick combos. However, if you’d like to progress in the game, you have to take the time to complete at least a few each stage to unlock new levels, new boards, and get money to upgrade your skater. Some of the objectives for each level usually include collecting the letters of SKATE, hitting a target amount of points, finding a hidden dvd (it used to be a VHS tape), and some general level related shenanigans as well.
Hitting some of those objectives aren’t necessarily difficult – collecting SKATE is easy as hell if you know where the letters are located. Some of them, like getting a high score, are a bit more difficult since the game feels so stiff with the controls. It’s essential to rack up combos and perform a string of tricks in order to hit those high score goals, but if you’re still picking up the controls, it’s difficult. Expect to spend some time tooling around the first level, the Warehouse, crashing into the ground and flattening yourself into various obstacles. There’s a lot to learn too – manuals, all of the flips, grabs, grinds, etc etc. Getting those controls down is absolutely necessary if you would like to ever pull off a sick trick combo and rack up points. Managing to complete all of the objectives for each level with a certain skater will unlock some bonus stuff, and completing all of the objectives within the game will unlock the “projectives,” which is just a fancy way of saying “really hard stuff to do.” With how frustrating the normal objectives can be, I’m not sure I want to imagine these “projectives.”
However, while I spent a long time on that first level, the flood of nostalgia hit me hard while booting up Warehouse. God I can remember the hours I poured into this level alone, mostly because I sucked at the game then just as much as I do now (I didn’t bother looking at the control scheme. Ooops). It was the same Warehouse level that I remembered, but beautifully redone from the ground up from the looks of it. It had the same feel and overall aesthetic the original THPS contained, but it looked infinitely better with redone visuals at every level. The game goes for skaters – Robomodo sat down and reworked everything. It’s all so new and flashy!
There’s a downside to that “new and flashy” part of the game though. Like I briefly noted before, the game is more of a remix than a remaster. Classic skaters from the first games, like my favorite skater Bob Burnquist, Bucky Lasek, and others are all missing from this new release. In their place are more current skaters, including Tony’s own son Riley Hawk. Each of them even has some background information if players are interested, but I’m a little upset they didn’t include the entire original lineup. There’s also no option to create-a-skater – instead your avatar takes that spot. While it’s a cool mechanic and fun to have them in the game, their bulbous heads make for a bit of a joke when they’re skating around. The most depressing part of the game is the absence of the create-a-skatepark” mode. This was the only other piece of the game that would capture my attention since it’s just too damn fun making your own skate park. As you can see, they’ve made a number of changes. The last, and possibly most important for some, is the change in the multiplayer. The game used to have only local multiplayer, but that’s been changed around in lieu of the modern age of gaming. Players can now compete against one another online, but it’s still a shame to see the original ways being pushed aside in favor of “the new way.”
One final aspect of the game that has received some attention is the music. Some of you are probably sitting there going “who cares about the music?” Well, let me tell you – a lot of people care about the music in THPS. One of the first games to have a diverse set of real bands with real music, it introduced a number of young, impressionable minds to some great music. Robomodo kept this tradition going and thankfully included some of the original soundtrack, but upped the ante with some new music that meshes very well with the game. Expect to enjoy both old and new with this great line-up.
Many of the older fans of the game might be scratching their heads at some of the changes, but I can safely say that great, core gameplay of the Tony Hawk series is there and worth giving a try. The game is fun, challenging, and brought back a lot of memories. Now if only Robomodo will bring back some of the old modes I’ll be set – though expect to see DLC for this game that will include new tricks like reverts and others.Note: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD was reviewed on Xbox 360. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.