Tony Hawk HD: The Kotaku Review

In 1999, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater showed millions of people the world over that their fingers could talk. There's a language that comes built into certain video games. Buttons become verbs, launching virtual figures into new landscapes. Combinations of inputs string together whole sentences that make you fluent in physics, aesthetics and sometimes even ideas. And the whole while, you're learning how the subjects and the objects of gameplay grammar inter-relate, what they do to each other and what you can do to them.

All of this happens because you're having fun. And Tony Hawk HD is an ungodly amount of fun. It's also a lumbering Frankenstein of a game, sewn together from old parts and forced to shamble out into the light.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD

Developer: Robomodo Platforms: Xbox 360 (version played) Released: July 18

Type of game: Third-person extreme sports skatebording. What I played: Unlocked five of the seven levels in about eight hours. Sampled various modes for about two hours and tried multiplayer (mostly unsuccessfully) for about an hour.

Two Things I Loved

  • The sense of discovery that comes with finding new trick lines and opportunities kept me playing levels over and over.
  • The soundtrack delivers nicely sweeping cinematic accompaniment to all the Spider-action.

Two Things I Hated

  • The jitteriness of the experience will make you wish that THPS HD was a full remodelling of the source games.
  • Trying to play an online match that went smoothly felt like an exercise in futility.

Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes

  • "Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD makes me feel better about getting rid of my original PS1." -- Evan Narcisse, Kotaku
  • "I can too get a Sick score on the Hangar level. It'll just take hours and hours." -- Evan Narcisse, Kotaku

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD reminds you that the legendary skateboarder's first video game efforts were the kind of experiences that ate up whole chunks of your time. Hours will go by as you grind the rails in the Mall level or collect the S-K-A-T-E letters on Venice Beach.

The appeal here is that the gameplay consists almost entirely of reflex responses that, when knitted together correctly, reveal the expanse of the experience to you. Get enough speed to power a mighty leap and suddenly you're on top of a ledge you barely could see before. Tie a flip trick, rail grind and lip trick together with manuals and suddenly your score balloons. Modes that weren't in the original releases, like Big Head Survival -- where you need to keep pulling off tricks to prevent your head from exploding -- add some replayability but feel gimmicky compared to the purity of the core game.

Yet, when you compare what's on offer in HD with the original versions of THPS 1 & 2, this week's release feels slight. Pulling only seven levels from the first two THPS games comes across stingy and swapping out tunes from those titles' beloved soundtracks for a bunch of new songs adds insult to injury. Part of what's being offered up with this remaster is access to your nostalgia, so it stings when fondly remembered elements or levels don't show up.

The online multiplayer experience so far with Tony Hawk HD hasn't been a smooth ride, either. Matches have been hard to find and, even when I hosted sessions, glitches hobbled their stability. Other players would spawn in mid-air and drop onto my head, making me bail and ruining combos. And then when some matches ended, I was stuck for nearly a full minute before I could click into a menu.

THPS HD still succeeds in delivering a sensation that games specialize in: letting you feel creative in a hyper-fast, amazingly intricate way. Putting together an incredible thread of tricks and nailing the landing that will make them count continues to be a emotional high like little else. Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD isn't a best-in-class remaster like Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. The areas where the game could've used more polish practically scream out at you. Nevertheless, there's no denying how much fun there is to be had in playing THPS HD. I've stayed up very late for the last few nights with it, denying myself precious sleep not because I had to but because I wanted to. None of the flaws can stop me from recommending it. Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD may be a Frankenstein but it's one with a very good skeleton.


Comments

    "The soundtrack delivers nicely sweeping cinematic accompaniment to all the Spider-action."
    Looks like the article was a half-assed port as well. =]

    I have been fiending this game and quite liking it as a massive old school THPS fan, but you are right with some of the polish issues. The game definitely doesn't run 100% right especially in the School II level there are some loading issues that can cause stutter which can kill combos :S At it's core it still plays like THPS though so that's enough for me :D Also online has been fairly decent for me so far.

    Changing the music is yet another example of developers forgetting the importance of nostalgia and music in games. They should have splurged the extra money to get the original songs, it's half of the nostalgia right there!

    It's exactly like when Microsoft remade the first two (or three?) Crazy Taxi games on Xbox... but, again, it had different music, changing The Offspring to crappy generic rock - and made the games rubbish.

      I don't entirely agree with this for 2 reasons...

      It would be nice to get all the same music again, but at the same time I have loved games like Tony Hawk, Burnout and anything with licensed music really.

      You have the chance to hear songs from bands you may not have heard of before and/or probably never would of it weren't for the game, I've posted here before that I found one of my Top 5 bands from a game (Freezepop from Frequency) and I know I would never have known about them without it.

      and the 2nd reason... custom soundtracks! ;)

      The Crazy Taxi rerelease was technically Sega's fault, not Microsoft's. The songs themselves needed to be re-licensed, and the claim was that it was now too expensive to do so, as the price for such has increased exponentially. That being said, Sega seems to have learnt their lesson on this (for example; the updated port of Jet Set Radio currently has all but two of the songs from both the European and Japanese versions confirmed, with Sega claiming they are working on getting the licensing sorted for the last two songs before release).

      You're completely right though; nostalgia is completely important to the success of a re-release. The music from THPS 1 and 2 might have been enough for me to look at this re-release as an option, even with the lack of levels, but without them it just has no draw for me.

    Only 7 levels..? Seriously? I was actually going to get this game.

      DLC Cash Grab other Jake.

        saw this a mile away.

        shame on you Activision.

    Eh. I grabbed THPS1 from eBay a year ago - obviously not as pretty, but decent controls and split-screen co-op. Might just stick with it for now...

    I played THPS 1, 2 and 3 years back when we first got our Playstation 1 and I had an absolute blast on it. But then I discovered EA's Skate series. THPS vs. Skate is like going from Matchboxes to real cars. THPS is fun in that you can belt buttons and pull of a wicked combo over a building and grind for ages (3 minutes and counting on THPS2, no cheats) but Skate takes a long time to master and is more rewarding when you finally do land that double front-flip rocket grab off the factory roof into the abandoned courtyard.

    What?! No Superman? I replayed that sonng over and over again.

      Yes, Superman is still there and thank god! that was my favourite track from the game! :)

    Really enjoying this remake, but need to download original soundtrack and play it in the background...

    I'd just make a custom playlist with the old soundtrack if it was possible.

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