Lasting First Impressions of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD
Developed by Robomodo | Published by Activision
» Nostalgia is big in the video gaming arena right now. Everyone wants to go back and relive the joys of an old game they remember so fondly. Not every game holds up years later however, and players are left wishing they’d let the memories remain unhampered by replay. First introduced on the Sony PlayStation 13 years ago, in 1999, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater defined the skateboarding genre of video games and went on to spawn 14 sequels, with all development overseen by Tony Hawk himself. The final two titles desperately tried to go where no game had gone before and used an actual skateboard peripheral to attempt to mimic real life, but both Ride and Shred failed to impress fans. Instead, die-hard fans insisted they just wanted to play the original Tony Hawk games but on the current generation of systems and both Tony Hawk and Activision complied with a compilation of fan favourite levels from both Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 and the promise of more levels from other titles with future DLC.
As someone who had never found himself a huge fan of skateboarding games and having never played a single Tony Hawk game, I was looking forward to experiencing what others have been so fond of for the last decade. I also wanted to approach this review from that point of view. How does Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD present itself to a brand new player, someone who has never played a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater before? In short, not very well. As the forerunner Summer of Arcade title, THPSDH is banking solely on the nostalgia and muscle memory of the series’ fans and, while I’m sure that is enough to find a few Brinks trucks backing up the offices of Activision, it’s not going to win any new fans to the series.
I chose to play through the Career mode (other modes include the typical Freeskate mode, single session, and several Multiplayer modes), and was presented with a list of skaters to choose from. Tony Hawk, of course, headlines the roster along with his son, Riley, and a host of other skaters from the original games as well as some new additions. An entirely new addition to this edition is the ability to play the game as your avatar, which I quickly chose to do. There’s nothing quite the same as feeling like it’s actually you inside the game. From there I only had one arena to choose from, The Warehouse from the very first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater so I chose it and was unceremoniously dumped into a room with a skateboard, a 2 minute timer, and absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do. No introduction to the game, no instructions, and no guidance.
I spent the next hour trying to understand the controls, how to perform tricks (of which there are numerous) and what I was supposed to be accomplishing. Two. Minutes. At. A. Time. With my 12 year-old daughter beside me, who has played a few older Tony Hawk games on the original Xbox, she told me what I was supposed to do. Smash 5 boxes of crates, collect the letters to spell S-K-A-T-E, collect the manifest letters, and a slew of other objectives including achieving high scores based on successful tricks. Each objective must be completed within the two minute window or you fail and start it all again. And again. And again. I was unable to move on to another arena until I had completed a minimum of four objectives, which was a frustrating endeavour in and of itself. Near the end of my one hour review time, I finally unlocked the second arena, but seriously had no desire to play it.
Graphically, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD lives up to the HD moniker as the levels look great. Robomodo has certainly done a wonderful job upgrading decade old levels to current generation standards and fans will love it. The levels included here are exact replicas of the original, but with a complete, and successful, overhaul of the visuals. The controls are also maintained from the original source but still feel tight and precise. I had no trouble learning how to move around the arenas and gain speed to perform tricks. Robomodo has even gone so far as to include music from the original games in this remake along with new songs never before found in a Tony Hawk game. The music, however, I found a little grating and ended up turning down the volume partway into my playthrough.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is a remake for the fans and not necessarily for the newbs so it’s hard to fault Robomodo and Activision for that. Fans have been begging for an HD version of their favourite TH arenas to play again on the current gen systems, and Activision replied in kind with this Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD and I’m sure fans will be delighted with the results. New fans, however, are out of luck. Whether the original titles had tutorials or relied solely on a dead tree manual to understand the games and controls, I am uncertain, but there’s little here to help newcomers to the series other than persistence and trial and error. As the premier title in such a high profile promotion as Summer of Arcade, however, I would have expected the game to appeal to more than just fans. As someone who never played the previous titles, I found this game unappealing, confusing, and simply a frustration with no reason to bring me back for more.
Robomodo, I gave you an hour and I am NOT IMPRESSED.