Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD Review – PS3September 3, 2012
It’s becoming quite the trend to remake things these days. Whether they’re full-fledged, built-from-scratch updates like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, or simple gussied-up HD collections, it seems like a month hardly goes by without mention of a new classic getting the hi-res treatment. It makes sense from a business standpoint: take a tried and true formula that’s proven to sell millions, put a small amount of effort into some upgraded modeling and texturing, and voila. A license to print money. Some of these games are best left to our memories, as age hasn’t been kind to them. But sometimes, a game is so classic that even the hands of time can’t blemish its greatness. Considering that PlayStation gamers have had backwards compatibility yanked out from under them, Tony Hawk HD is the best (and only) way for fans to relive a late-90s classic.
You can think of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD as a compilation of the best levels from Tony Hawk 1 and 2 (DLC levels from Tony Hawk 3 will be available later). TH3’s Revert move is missing, which allowed you to continue combos after landing a trick on half pipes etc. But luckily the devs threw in TH2’s Manual move, which lets you tie together tricks all over a level. The gameplay still feels fast and smooth after all these years, although Neversoft’s original code is left largely unchanged. The addictive quality is definitely still here, and you’ll often be hitting the instant retry button in an attempt to build the longest possibly chain of tricks and multipliers. As you make your way through the game’s Career mode, you’ll be able to upgrade your skater with new boards, tricks, and upgraded stats, allowing for even longer combos. Since the game punishes you for reusing the same tricks, it encourages creativity. Watching a master THPS player at work is like a ballet of 90s nostalgia.
However, unlocking levels in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD still feels like a grind, as you’ll need to collect a ridiculous amount of items to unlock the next level. I feel like a good compromise would have been to include a really high score for each level, which, when attained, unlocked the next environment. That way those that just want to skate can just have fun and deal with collection later. The collectible items’ locations are even shown on the start menu map, so what’s the point? It’s just a cheap device to extend the game’s longevity, and while the controls may still hold up when busting tricks, they fall apart when trying to navigate through complicated terrain trying to find floating cash or DVDs. It would have been nice to at least include the ability to get off your board and look around, climb, etc., like in the Underground games.
If you’re old enough to remember the originals, you’ll appreciate the polished, updated graphics. While nothing jaw-dropping by today’s standards, the skaters are well-represented with accurate facial modeling, flowing hair and physics- affected clothing. The environments are vivid and have a grittier, more realistic feel than before. It’s a far cry from the blocky, blurry, foggy visuals of the PSone and N64 versions. The animation in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD looks better, but it still feels a bit wonky at times, especially on bails. Also, the Unreal Engine 3-powered visuals have the trademark texture pop-in upon loading a level. Still, it looks markedly better than the originals.
The levels in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD are ever so slightly different than before, but most won’t notice. As stated before, there is now a map included to show you where all the collectibles are, and when you 100% all levels, you’ll unlock new modes. All together, there’s Career, Free Skate, Hawkman, Big Head Survival, Graffiti, Trick Attack, and the final unlockable mode, Projectives. These are insanely hard objectives that only the best of the best will achieve. There’s online multiplayer, but sadly split screen isn’t included. The $15 price point is justifiable, as there is a solid amount of game to be had here. That price point also means some cutbacks, however, and there are some noticeable omissions- only half the original music is here, there are missing skaters (Chad Muska and his boombox, and Bucky Lasek), and there are only seven levels. There are new skaters included, however, such as Tony Hawk’s son and some female pros. Some of this of course comes down to licensing issues; 13 years is a long time. If THQ wanted to remake WWF No Mercy today, there would obviously be a completely new roster, replacement music, etc.
The irony of it all is that the most successful Tony Hawk title in years is a straight-up port of the original two games. This franchise strayed too far from its roots (as the landfills full of Tony Hawk: RIDE peripherals can attest to), and thus slowly became an unplayable mess. As Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD shows us, sometimes going back to your roots is the best way to move forward.