Game Review: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD
I have had something of a love/hate relationship with HD re-releases. What annoyed me is the idea of paying for something old- something you payed for in the past. Right now, however, I think something deep down inside has changed… Maybe, just maybe these re-releases could be a good thing?
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD definitely lives up to the last half of its name. It takes levels and skaters from THPS 1 & 2 (and according to official documentation, Ollie the Magic Bum from THPS3). In addition, the game includes new skaters like Chris Cole and Riley Hawk- and there’s plenty more new stuff to go around. Regarding the old stuff, though, it’s so shiny. If you played the warehouse level on the PS1 version of the game, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s now gorgeous– the lighting has improved, the textures look, well, textured, and the whole thing’s beautiful. It’s amazing, really, what you can do with a gigabyte or two, and I’m pleased to say that the environments you’ll be skating around in look excellent. The school level- every level, come think of it, has been made pretty. I think the first level, though- the warehouse- that really hit home. The way the light seemed to gently pour in was semi-poetic. The skaters have improved too- they look a fair bit more photorealistic, and I remember cringing the first time I wiped out (which, if I recall correctly, happened very quickly).
While we’re focusing on aesthetics, I’d be a very bad person to fail to inform you about the music. The songs from the original games are in this one- songs like Bring the Noise.
It’s incredibly beautiful in so many ways. I can’t say enough about the soundtrack- it’s like MTV (the old MTV, not the one about depressing stuff like really tall oompa-loompas) just took an already awesome skateboarding game and ran it through their magical factory full of rock & rap. Raprock? I don’t know what to call it. It’s just insanely awesome and if you’re playing this game for the first time on the Xbox 360, make sure you’re not using a custom soundtrack. It’s not too often I hear a soundtrack in a video game that makes me want to get down with my bad self.
Moving on to another (very) important part of the game, the gameplay is absolutely excellent. I’m going to have to be brutally honest here: I don’t really go for sports games. At all. I never really thought I’d get that much into skateboarding, but- surprise- I was pulled in. What was it? The aesthetics? The music and lights and sounds and… Of course. The addictive gameplay. I always feel the urge to score just a little higher, and before I know it, midnight’s here. There’s so much fun in this game that comes from just looking for new combos and tricks to pull off. It’s unbelievable what I’ve done (that I’ll never, ever, ever, ever do in real life). I could spend hours on a single level, and I often did spend plenty of time just learning new tricks and uncovering new areas in the game’s different levels. Pulling myself away to write this review was… Difficult, to say the least. You unlock new levels by playing in career mode, during which you’ll run through a level and, in two minutes, achieve a goal or two. Or four, depending on how good you are. You can try collecting the letters “S-K-A-T-E”, which will be scattered throughout the level, you can find a secret DVD, achieve a certain amount of points, do the right trick in the right places, etc., until you’ve unlocked the next level. Each level feels infinitely replayable, and I just kept going through levels trying to beat my former scores into a pulp. Typically, this resulted in my boarder being beaten into a pulp, but that’s a discussion for another day.
I really enjoyed the game’s “Big Head” mode, which has a simple, cruelly difficult premise: your head is expanding. Rapidly. If it reaches 100% of its ordinary size, it pops, and confetti flies out (that’s what fuels your greatness!). Your goal is to score points that’ll prevent this from happening. Otherwise, pop, game over. The longer you survive, the closer you get to the coveted first place.Something else I liked about the game was the way it taught me tricks. It didn’t. Rather, by placing useful stuff hard-to-reach places, I would wind up learning how to score thousands of points all at once. There’s always that aha (or is it a-ha?) moment when you manage to pull a new trick out of your bottomless hat, and I’m pretty satisfied with the gameplay in THPSHD. Overall, this is an excellent remake- while there’s the occasional graphical glitch, it’s typically very (very!) minor. It typically occurs when you wipe out; you’ll go flying about fifty feet in the air, which is pretty funny (especially if you were falling). It’s nothing that affects the game. This is definitely a game worth having, and even though I’m not really into sports games (at all!) I just couldn’t tear myself away from THPSHD. Give it a shot- you won’t be disappointed!
The game is available for Xbox 360, and will (hopefully soon) be available for the PC and PS3.