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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD Review

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  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD Review

    Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD
    The first entry in this year's Summer of Arcade for the Xbox 360 was none other than Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD. Yes, a compilation of classic gameplay, maps, and moves from the first two Tony Hawk games were wrapped up and presented with a small bow to a new generation of virtual skateboarding fans.

    I'm happy to report that the game manages to hold up quite well even after all these years. Absent are some of the innovations and gameplay additions that have been prominent in later versions of the game. If you go into this expecting it to play nicely with your Tony Hawk: Ride peripheral, you will be sorely disappointed. Actually, you may end up pleasantly surprised when you find out that it plays nothing like the recent games.

    Yes, this is pure old-school Hawk here, complete with all of the highlights and unfortunate quirks that have remained from the originals. Don't read too much into that, as those "issues" are not gameplay breaking, just sometimes a tiny bit annoying. Let's just say that if you had trouble with wall rides before, you're still going to have problems now in some spots.

    For those of you old enough to remember playing the original titles on your PlayStation in the late 90's, the sense of nostalgia remains strong here. The game pulls in seven classic levels from the first two games, and includes a sampling of old music tracks and new offerings that fit in quite well with the Tony Hawk universe. Unfortunately, of those seven tracks there are probably one or two that most fans could have done without.

    From the beginning, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD offers up a handful of game modes that you can immediately sink your teeth into. There is the obvious progression based mode that tasks you with completing a few level specific goals, unlocking new levels, and repeating. You have two minutes per run to complete as many of these goals as you can but if you happen to fail, it's easy enough just to replay the level to work for those goals that simply need a bit more effort. More modes will be unlocked as you progress through the game including Big Head Elimination where your player's head will inflate like a balloon. The only way to prevent it from popping is to constantly pull of tricks and combos.

    Manuals play an important role thanks to the gameplay mechanics in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. These let you string together tricks between ramps and jumps that you may not have otherwise been able to pull off. The revert, featured prominently in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 are present but they do not continue the combo. A piece of post-release DLC with some Tony Hawk 3 levels will add this functionality back in but only for those particular levels, so we're led to believe.

    It isn't a direct port of the old games with only a coat of fresh paint tossed on. A few objectives have been changed and some have been added to provide a bit more variety, but the core goals are still present in every level. Collect S-K-A-T-E, beat certain point thresholds, find the hidden DVD's in each level (used to be tapes), and so on. Fan favorites are present in all of their new Unreal Engine 3 glory including School II and the Warehouse levels. This also means a few unsavory levels return including the aforementioned Downhill Jam and the Mall. With a rather limited selection of levels already at play here, you may be a bit more bummed out by the couple of lackluster maps than you may normally be.

    The game is now on Unreal Engine 3, including a bit of ragdoll physics work when you fail to land a move properly. While the visuals won't blow you away, they do feature some nice lighting, crisp texture work, and just a bit of work to bring some of the low poly models in line with more modern titles. However, as this is UE3, you can expect to see some slow texture streaming in certain areas. For the most part it's not very noticeable but it can be incredibly jarring at times, just as the case is with nearly every game built on the engine. Also, as the levels are a near perfect reproduction from the originals, many of the levels feel empty and void of life. Great for purists but even some of those people may be left wishing Robomodo took a few more liberties with level design.

    The old school, low poly player models make a return but they must be unlocked. In their place for most of the game are high-res versions that more closely resemble human beings instead of blocks in the vague shape of a human. Just as the case is with the levels, not every pro skater made it into Tony Hawk HD. Some notable inclusions include Tony Hawk, Eric Koston, Riley Hawk, Officer Dick, and even your own Xbox 360 Live avatar. Continuing with the theme of a mix of old and new, the soundtrack includes notable choices of "Superman" by Goldfinger, "When Worlds Collide" by Powerman 5000, "No Cigar" by Millencolin, and "Teenage Blood" from Apex Manor among others. The new songs aren't bad and while all of the songs fit in nicely with the Tony Hawk universe, they seem to repeat far too often and will end up being a bit annoying during long stretches of playing.

    On the multiplayer front, leader boards will let you see how you stack up against your friends, enemies, or that weird guy that you added as a friend because he made you laugh once while you were drunk. Once you complete all goals in a level, the leader board becomes your next particular goal in that it replaces a level goal with the score of the next highest player to you on the leader boards. It's an interesting addition that tends to give a bit more life to levels you may not have otherwise replayed outside of free skate. Competitive online modes include returning favorites Graffiti and Trick Attack. While there isn't anything particularly special here, it's nice that online play was included for the game. The new addition of Big Head Elimination is a carry over from the game's single player and simply tasks you with outlasting your online opponent and hoping their head pops first.

    Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is an admirable effort on the parts of Activision and Robomodo to provide a bit of old-school gameplay at a time when the skating genre is trying to do silly things for the sake of unwanted innovation. For what it is, Tony Hawk HD is an incredibly fun title and a very worthy start to the Summer of Arcade on Xbox Live. Will it bring back great memories from the PlayStation 1 days? Absolutely, but don't expect the nostalgia to last forever. Some of the changes, additions, and map choices may leave you scratching your head but in general this is well worth the price of entry to see how much fun skateboarding games used to be before silly peripherals or attempts at realistic style controls. It should be noted that while the game controls well enough with the regular Xbox 360 controller, those with the twist-up d-pad may have a much easier, and perhaps a bit less frustrating time at some parts of the game.

    Priced at 1,200 MS Points ($15 USD), Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD can be yours today.

    Overall: 7/10
    Gameplay: 8/10
    Audio: 7/10
    Multiplayer: 7/10
    Controls: 7/10

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