Many of us have found memories of the early Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. It introduced some of us to the star himself and gave us a new appreciation for skateboarding. More than anything though, it was just a fun game to dig into, especially with a few friends over, chasing high scores, trying to figure out where all the letters to SKATE were, where that last box was to smash, where the hell that damn VHS tape was hiding.
Many of us also pined for the glory days of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Pro Skater 2 when our enthusiasm for the progressing series started to wane. Robomodo stepped up to this call and gave us this HD upgrade with what they claim is the best of the first two games in the series. The sad truth though, is that this is a mix of some nice upgrades combined with some poor removal decisions, and a bit of unpolished mechanics sprinkled on top. Fun as it may be, there are definitely some disappointments inside.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD combines elements from the first two titles in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. When you boot up the game and grab your board, you will be met with many familiar scenes and options. The game uses seven levels from THPS and THPS2 and leaves them pretty much the same aside from the HD makeover. Other than that, you will pretty much find the S-K-A-T-E letters, the video tapes (now DVDs), and all the places where you pulled off the best tricks still in the same spots you remember.
It is comforting to know that Robomodo used Neversoft’s original level design while giving everything and nice HD coat of paint. The old favorites like the Warehouse, School II, and the Hangar are all present, along with others you may remember. You won’t have to relearn your way around as the layout of the levels start to come back after a few runs in each. Not only that, but you may hear some familiar tunes during your shred sessions as a few favorites from the originals’ soundtracks made the cut. This, however, is where some of the changes may not have been for the better.
The soundtrack is…(sigh) not what we were hoping for. Much of the appeal for the original titles was the soundtrack and how it fit so well with the games. However, Robomodo used only seven songs from the original two titles, and added seven new songs to the mix. To many peoples’ disappointment, Euro Barge by The Vandals (“I am the ambassador, I’ll kick your assader”) is nowhere to be found. Why they would change such an element that was a big part of why people went back to the older games is beyond comprehension.
The roster also took a hit from the modern makeover. Instead of the original roster, THPSHD consists of today’s top skateboarders. Tony Hawk is obviously here, but the likes of Bob Burnquist are nowhere to be found. If you were hoping to grab your favorite skater and relive the glory days, you are out of luck unless it was Tony himself.
The game modes are still mostly as they were. You can go Career and hit several levels earning points, do a Single Session for just one level and learn how to master it, or go to Free Skate and run wild to your heart’s content. If you get bored tearing it up by yourself, the online multiplayer is a fun addition as now your friends don’t have to be in the same room to chase those scores and break those records. You can join, create, or grab on to a quick sessions and compete against others in high score challenges or completing the tasks. The trophies are a nice touch as well and give you something to shoot for on your own if the objectives weren’t doing it for you. There are also lots of unlockables available from continued play like different boards, skater’s attires, different modes like Big Head Mode, and more.
Some of the new additions are not as welcome as online play. Things such as the “Big Fall” mechanics could have stayed at home. Anytime you fall from a higher than normal height, the “Big Fall” icon appears and you must hold down the ollie button to land it, making this another thing you have to remember to push along with trying to hold and land you trick. Most of the time you will probably manage but it seems an unnecessary addition meant to just make landing tricks harder.
And speaking of being harder to land tricks…while the controls have received an upgrade from the original games making them a bit more responsive, it is in no way perfect. This especially hurts since the game seems more unforgiving than THPS and THPS2, making landing tricks much more difficult and forcing the player to be much more precise. This is in no way a bad move on Robomoto’s part, except the controls don’t seem to be up to handling the slightly higher difficulty. Sometimes it makes it seem like they are less accurate than the original titles’ all together. You will hit rails ready to grind and be tossed aside onto the bloody pavement or crashing and burning even though you could have swore you came off of that quarter pipe perfectly straight. It is safe to say, however, that after a couple hours of playing, things will start to feel more natural again.
Another addition gamers may not be sure about is the new map feature. This time around you can open a map mid playthrough and find out where everything is located; all the collectables, all the gaps and ramps, everything. Helpful? Yes it is, although that seems to take the fun that was had searching for everything. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater never held your hand.
As far as giving us the best of the original titles, Robomoto’s HD remake falls short in content and in the polish department. There is plenty of fun to be had in this title if you are an old fan of the series, and if you have never tried the originals then this is a great way to experience it for the first time. The final product, though, is missing too much content from the sources to truly satisfy the old crowd, and too much fine tuning to please everyone else.