Get ready for an intravenous injection of pure nostalgia…
Reviewed on the Xbox 360 by Alex Trotter-Fernandez
Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD is a fully functioning time machine. I forgot how much the original titles were engraved into my childhood, the countless hours I spent completing all the objectives, discovering secret areas and maxing my high scores. I could even sing along to the many awesome tunes that made up its soundtrack. Robomodo’s remake awoke that part of my brain that I thought had become obsolete and written over by the trails and tribulations of a hairy chested adult man-child. The moment When World’s Collide kicked in, and I entered the warehouse for the first time ever, my childhood was instantly revived and I was transported back to my bedroom as my twelve year old self, cross-legged and staring intently at my non-widescreen TV in 1999.
Muscle memory kicked in, there was no learning curve for the game because locked deep in the dark recesses of my mind that information already existed. A flood of memories returned, a total recall if you will, and instinctively I returned to all the spots and secrets that I had previously discovered. The weird thing was, I had not played the original PlayStation titles in well over a decade. Que creepy X-Files music and conspiracy theorists. The fact is the trilogy had a huge impact on me as a child, quite possibly being my most favorite games ever. A lot has changed since then, I’ve played better games, experienced bigger worlds, and improved as a gamer. Yet my love for Tony Hawk Pro Skater still remains, and this HD update is a fantastic albeit flawed fix for something that I never realized I needed.
Tony Hawk HD includes seven of the classic levels from Pro Skater 1 & 2, it may not seem like a lot but there’s plenty of gameplay and re playability to be found here. This is a testament to the mind blowing level design of the available maps, something which has thankfully not been tinkered with. In-fact little has been changed here, other than the graphics, introduction of online multiplayer and a couple of extra bonus projectives that are itching to be completed. Those expecting an overhaul of the formula will be disappointed, but in all honestly the Pro Skater series never needed an overhaul. In my eyes for what they were, the originals are pretty much as near perfect as you can get in terms of gameplay and level design.
Graphically Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD gets a huge update in comparison to it’s ancient predecessors. It’s no Uncharted 3 in the looks department, but the use of the Unreal engine certainly makes it look pretty damn good in comparison to a multitude of arcade titles. Some darker levels may have that muted color depressing Gears of War on skateboards look, taking the gritty aesthetic or Warehouse and Venice perhaps a little bit too far, but on the whole the series has never looked better, with most levels, particularly School II and Maresille retaining the color stamp that made the series so cartoon-ally visually enthralling.
Although the physics have been tweaked slightly, the overall Tony Hawk experience hasn’t changed at all. If you’ve ever played a Pro Skater before, you’ll be breaking combos and pulling of manuals pretty much instantly. As I said before, muscle memory plays a pretty big part here, and those countless hours of practice we had as children certainly provide an advantage. Much has been said about the physics of Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD, a lot of it leaning towards the negative side. Gravity can feel moon like and highly unrealistic – this is a hallmark of the Tony Hawk series. Tony Hawk has always been about wish fulfillment, far more so then the incredibly dull Skate series. It’s fantasy, requiring only a little bit of muscle memory and a dash of skill to pull of tricks ad combos that no human could ever complete. Much like old school SSX, this is what Tony Hawk Pro Skater has always been about. People who knock the lack of realism are the same kind of morons who didn’t like the physics in Crazy fucking Taxi. Some people deserve to be put down. It’s meant to be stupidly ridiculous fun complemented by Jackass physics, and that’s why I have such a love for this series and its anarchic style, unlike most genre games it’s perfectly self aware of what kind of game it is.
Multiplayer is functional, and has a bunch of interesting game modes which can be played solo. The mode with the exploding heads is my particular favorite, appearing less challenging than it really is. The idea is to prevent your head rapidly expanding head from exploding by performing mega combos and tricks. A lot of fun especially if you have masochistic intent towards your avatar. Despite this something fairly big is missing from this release. Split Screen Multiplayer. The thing which made the original PlayStation titles so freaking awesome to play with friends, has unfortunately been removed from the equation. You can’t even play take turns playing H.O.R.S.E… Who plays games in real life anymore? Fuck you Activision, Tony Hawk could have been the perfect party game, complemented with lots of beer and rum. Instead we’ll just have to throw a Xbox Live Party and have a wonderfully disembodied experience, cussing each other on our microphones whilst our avatars have a circle jerk in cute panda costumes. Don’t you just the love future?
That aside, as well as the unfortunate replacing of Chad Muska by Tony Hawk’s Son, Tony Hawk PS HD is a pretty decent release that hits almost every nostalgia box that you’d like it to. It is a shame the roster has been beaten to a pulp, sure some characters are present and encountered for, but were still missing a huge amount of household names. I smell DLC… Some of the original tracks have gone walkies in favor of some modern (Anything post 2005 is shit) music, but its not enough to detract from a genuinely positive experience. A tenner for seven levels seem a bit steep, however there’s plenty to explore and rediscover as well as high scores to beat. Think of Pro Skater HD as a nice kind of inceptionay brain rape, the kind which pulls up some of the best memories of being a kid, and helping you regress back into a child like state… Until work calls, and asks where have you been the past few weeks – whatever you do, don’t say the Hangar.