Game Review: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

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Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, skateboarding was starting to really take off. With things like the X-Games gaining the sport major exposure, Activision started to take notice. They brought in Tony Hawk, the budding skateboarding star who started to work with Neversoft to create what would become the critically acclaimed Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. 13 years later, the original is back in a mash-up of levels from the first two games in the series. Can this download-only title reclaim the audience that the Tony Hawk series once had or is it time to put away the board?

As we near the end of console generations, which seems to be where we’re heading, we tend to look back. Compilations, re-makes, and other nostalgic things seem to come when consoles are nearing the end of their life-cycles. Nostalgia is never really a bad thing, some of the best things were in the past, the problem is when old ideas come back and are not given the proper polish. That was a big fear of mine for the this game especially because the originals were so beloved. I can happily say that Robomodo has done a very adequate job at re-creating the stellar experience found in the first couple of games.

Eric Koston makes his return as does School II. Make sure to wall ride all of those bells!

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD contains 7 levels from the first two games in the series. You’ll get old gems like The Warehouse and School 2 which were great levels for their time. I know the question everyone is asking though: How does the gameplay stack up now compared to 13 years ago? It still feels as great as it did back then, it does help that the manual has been included in all Tony Hawk 1 levels which wasn’t present in the original game. There are no reverts in this one (though they’re coming as future DLC) as this is strictly stuff from THPS 1 and 2 but, you’re left with more than enough moves to keep you busy for hours. I will say that in my experience that the game doesn’t feel quite as forgiving this time around. You have to make sure you nail your tricks or risk falling. It’s just a little bit more realistic with physics which, once you get used to it, feel better than ever before.

Graffiti returns challenging you to trick off anything and everything.

The visuals in THPS HD really take the cake too, the game looks better than it ever has and really looks like it’s received some careful polish. I like the little addition of Monster energy drink logos into the levels which kind of brings you out of the nostalgia when you see them. The levels are pretty close to what you’d remember with a little more detail here and there, but they play very similar to the original. There’s nothing quite like going through the stores in the mall or seeing the security guard cruise around in his golf cart in school 2.

The goals for each level return but, this time it’ll be a whole lot easier to complete them with the addition of an objective map in the pause screen. Don’t worry about running out of things to do though because if you do complete the game 100%, you unlock Projectives. These projectives aren’t for the weak at heart and will result in some frustration but, they will make you want to keep playing over and over again just to see how good you are.

The Mall is back if you feel like Kickflipping through stores.

It isn’t all great though as with only 7 levels to go around, things are going to get very boring, very quickly and there are none to unlock. There are also no character or park creators as well as many missing favourites from games gone by (No Bucky!). Riley Hawk does make his first appearance in the series though. For Xbox 360 gamers, you can play as your Avatar which is a nice perk. The biggest omission is no split-screen though. What a missed opportunity to relive the glory days.

With no split-screen, there must be online right? Yes, there is and it is a welcome addition for levels we never got to play with anyone other than our closest friends back in 1999. The staples, Graffiti and Trick Attack are back to appease the masses but, the most enjoyable mode may be the new, Big Head Elimination. In this mode, you need to score points to deflate your head before it explodes and you lose. The mode is a welcome change that adds a bit of that old humour from the series that we used to love.

Big Head Elimination mode is easily either one of the creepiest or one of the best modes I’ve ever seen.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD brings us back to a series that seemingly everyone used to play. The game has aged wonderfully over the years and I really can’t help but feel I will be enjoying this one over and over again for months. The nostalgic feel was a nice touch instead of trying to build from the ground up and the game overall feels very polished. The DLC packs for the future that have been promised are sure to add even more enjoyment to a very budget friendly title. THPS HD clearly did what few games successfully do and that is create a re-make that can both bring the nostalgia while still appealing to a new generation of gamers.

At $14.99, it’s hard not to recommend Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD. You get 7 levels your probably loved years ago along with the same great THPS experience that so many fell in love with 13 years ago all with updated graphics, online gameplay, and Peojectives if you’re an elite player. THPS HD is well-worth the price and I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the genre or anyone who ever wanted to try it out that never had a chance to. You won’t regret this purchase.

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