Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD: Feelin’ younger in my mind

July 24, 2012

Fans of classic Tony Hawk gameplay put in their order, and Robomodo has cooked and served it up. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD isn’t some design epiphany or revolutionary new concept. You said no pickles so they didn’t include pickles, you know? It makes for a recipe that doesn’t quite have that soul that comes from an original idea, but it replicates the feel of the first two games. It comes in with a few difficulties, but it brings the taste that people were wanting.

THPS HD takes the skating flavor from the second game, bringing the manual but not the revert to the trick-combo table. There are seven stages from the first two games: the first’s Warehouse, Mall and Downhill Jam, and the second’s Hangar, Marseilles, Venice Beach and School II. It’s a fairly balanced set, but with a fan-centered compilation, it’d be nice to see a few more locales here. (And not just in the DLC, which will add some THPS3 levels with reverts enabled.) They’re lushly redrawn and accurately recreated, and most should have no issues with the visuals. The classic objectives return, with “secret tapes” replaced with the now-equally-slightly-outdated “secret DVDs” as the hard-to-find items. Each of the levels’ objectives can be viewed from a map, which cuts out a lot of time remembering the right gaps and item locations from over a decade ago. Is this good, or does it take away some of the fun? Yeah, I’m really not sure.

The soundtrack was always an important part of Tony Hawk, and it’s clear Robomodo did what it could given its budget. The track listing is not that big and half classic tracks, with only one track from the original and the rest from the sequel. (Don’t worry, Superman made the cut.) It doesn’t take long for the songs to go from nostalgic to tired, but there’s not much of a better alternative. (At that point, just play your own stuff.) The skater list is a similar mix, with old favorites like Tony himself and Rodney Mullen are thrown in with Tony’s son Riley and your Avatar. The latter of which has very specific stats, actually. Personally, I miss Rune Glifberg, but I got over it. There’s no create-a-skater or park editor either, so if I were desperate, my only option would be to… make my Avatar look like Rune Glifberg, I guess?

Skating controls feel like you want them to, which is the important thing. Generally, you can pull off the same level of tricks as you could in THPS2, which seems a bit rough for those used to the ease of later games, but the challenge remains. Things get a bit strange around walls and edges, though, as you tend to get thrown off the board and flung out of bounds mid-trick if you aren’t careful. It doesn’t come up much, though. When you do bail, it triggers this horrible rag doll effect that probably shouldn’t exist, then flashes the screen white while you reset. The original had you fall and get yourself back up, which kept the sense of place and realism that HD lacks. At this point, sometimes I want to throw it all away, and thankfully the game uses the back button as a quick-reset function.

The career is a bit troubling, as it points out why those earlier games shook things up with one-way levels and competitions: objectives all the time gets to be a bit rough. You can take your game online for a change of pace, but the single-player component is going to be a rough slog regardless. Once you clear the base objectives, you’re awarded with… more objectives, called Projectives, that are nice and brutal. If you just want more gameplay, you can go through both sets with all skaters. You probably shouldn’t. If you’d like, you can try out Free Skate, but I like doing everything I can within the time limit rather than choosing to just sit and watch time go. There’s also a new mode, Hawk-Man, that has you collecting dots around a level by doing the right tricks at the right spots.

Multiplayer is limited to the online modes, which is unfortunate given the fun of taking on a friend in Graffiti or Horse. Horse isn’t even here anymore, actually, though Graffiti and Trick Attack remain and are joined by Big Head Survival mode, which forces you to do tricks regularly to keep your head from exploding. Um, yeah, that’s not as good as Horse, but all online modes are designed for four, so out it goes. There have been reports of technical issues with the online play, but I generally didn’t have many issues. As the launch period passes, expect Robomodo to iron out the remaining kinks.

Should you get Tony Hawk HD? At this point, it depends on how you feel about the originals. It’s a pure nostalgia piece based on mechanics that are growing older all the time, and coming into the game fresh wouldn’t have the same effect. There’s plenty of time, though, for Robomodo to try and make the answers more than maybe, and those who love the originals and not just the memory of them will find a lot to love in this package.

Pros: Faithful recreation of original levels in a pseudo-modern package, solid skating mechanics
Cons: Light on levels, tracks and skaters; a bit prone to bugs and glitches

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.