The feeling of being 15 again really is a joyous one. Back before the Skate series came along with its fancy twin stick controls, the Tony Hawk’s series were the games of choice for skater boys and girls alike. After a couple of mediocre games in the main series and a dip in sales thanks to the success of the aforementioned Skate series, Activision has attempted to recapture its past glory with the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD.
The game attempts to fuse the old and new school by offering a number of classic tracks, characters and songs from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater one and two along with a few of the newer school skaters and some more modern tunes. The graphical update looks nice but never spectacular. The skaters all look great but some of the levels still look very angular and boxy, rather than having smooth edges. However, on balance it is still a good looking game overall for an Xbox Live Arcade release. The mix of songs from the older games with newer tracks works very well, and none of the songs feel out of place in the game.
As for playing the game itself, anyone who has ever played one of the main games in the Tony Hawk’s series will feel right at home, with the face buttons each performing different actions; ollies, flip tricks, grinds and so on. As soon as I loaded up the first level, I found myself reeling off long combos as if I had never left the series in the first place. In order to keep the game as authentic to the originals as possible the revert feature, initially introduced in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, that allowed you to combo straight into a manual after landing from a quarter pipe is not included as all the levels are from Tony Hawk’s one and two. I understand Activision’s logic in doing this, but at the same time it would have been nice to see it included as series stalwarts will see it as a step backwards having been accustomed to the feature for so long. It would also have been interesting to see what new lines and combo’s players could come up with if the feature had been included. Activision have said that reverts will be included with the upcoming DLC, which makes sense seeing as the levels will be from Tony Hawk’s 3, however they have stated that reverts will only be available on the new levels, it is my personal hope they go back on this and make reverts available across all levels.
The career maintains the old school feel of the game, giving you a number of goals on each of the seven fan favourite levels included and imposes a two minute time limit. The objectives vary from simple score challenges to collecting skate letters, finding secret DVDs and other, more oddball tasks and it all feels suitably nostalgic. If you are good enough to complete all the tasks on a level with one character, you unlock PROjectives for that level, which are the same sort of tasks but more difficult, challenging experienced players. After that there are a few other modes but none that hold the same sort of interest as the career.
Once you are done with single player, you can head online in head to head matches. This is a significant inclusion as it is the first time these maps have ever been available for play. However, a somewhat surprising inclusion is that to make way for online multiplayer, local multiplayer has been sacrificed. This is a big blow to the game as one of the main addictive features of the old Tony Hawk’s games was getting a few friends round and having round of local, split-screen multiplayer.
The games main issue is with its longevity. Any semi-experienced Tony Hawk’s player will blast through the career in a few hours and even amateur players will not take much longer. After that the games only real hook is the online multiplayer which really depends on your mindset as to how much you get out of it. Extra DLC is promised, bringing new levels, features and challenges but until they get released this is a fairly small package. There are other, more minor, issues too. More than once I found myself glitching out the map or bailing for no reason. Also, having been used to the features introduced in later games such as the aforementioned revert or the ability to get off of your board, it is occasionally frustrating not to have these features at your fingertips.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD’s biggest draw is the feeling of nostalgia one gets when loading up old levels from days gone by. Any old Tony Hawk’s fan will feel elated for the first few runs on any of the levels and the controls hold true to form, meaning it really does make you feel like you are playing the originals again. I would instantly recommend this game to any fans of the original games and regard it as a must buy for their collections. However, it is hard to look past the brevity of the game and any player who does not share the same sense of nostalgia will probably be left frustrated by how little the game offers.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 1200ms.