Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD finally is a game that is filled with obvious passion and more importantly has the same addicting skateboarding action we all loved nearly a decade ago. A few things may be different and there’ll definitely be an adjustment period for those who played the original Tony Hawk games for fifty or more hours, but the end product is still one that’s fun and hasn’t lost its edge or appeal in any way. There may be a few lingering things here and there that will slightly annoy longtime Tony Hawk fans, but in the end Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is a return to the glory days of the franchise.
+ Visuals are perfect and so is how the stages have been refined and expanded upon from an artistic perspective.
+ Controls are responsive so busting out tricks isn’t a problem.
+ There may not be a huge amount of levels in the game, but what’s provided is fun and still presents that same addicting desire to do a perfect run or achieve a 140K score.
- HUD feels a bit cluttered or at least too big during gameplay.
- Not having a direct tutorial mode for any newbies may present a steeper learning curve.
- Multiplayer options are a bit barebones.
The passion gamers have for certain things can be so intense that it’s almost unhealthy and a bit unfair to an extent. Liking something is fine, but obsessing about every minute detail can result in an unhealthy obsession and in turn make it hard for developers to give provide what some people deem as an “adequate” or “faithful” experience. We should definitely hold developers to a high standard but in the case of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD it seemed like some gamers were expecting the second coming of a gaming masterpiece like the industry receives once every decade. With the odds seemingly stacked against them given the expectations of gamers, I was ultimately surprised by how developer Robomodo did indeed give us the goods with the return of classic era Tony Hawk in Pro Skater HD.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is an interesting game since it attempted to do something that we don’t see too often by taking an old game, in this case stages from the first two Tony Hawk games, and essentially reboot them movie style. We’ve all experienced HD remakes at this point like God of War: Origins or the Sly Collection, but what Robomodo did with THPS HD is use the original Tony Hawk games as a source of inspiration to breathe new life and detail into them as opposed to up-resing an ancient game with a result that’s only slightly impressive.
What THPS HD opts to do is offer some of the best Tony Hawk stages from the first two games and slightly reinvent them in a way by providing a few graphical flourishes and unique things in the environment. Classic stages aren’t totally revamped n such a way that it felt like Robomodo was trying to capture the essence of another game, such as the once great Skate franchise, but instead it feels like a natural evolution of the Tony Hawk series while not straying far from what made the series so great to begin with.
The improvements to the stages in some ways are rather huge since a few new trick areas were added or were merely given more emphasis given the things that are technically possible to achieve these days. No one particular stage felt too foreign to me, but in some ways even things that I was used to such as The Hangar or Marseille felt new to me due to the obvious leap in the graphical department and because things just popped out more. The size of the stages themselves haven’t been beefed up too much as they still have the slightly boxed in feel that the first two Tony Hawk games featured, but that’s just what made them so perfect to begin with since it promotes finding the best skating line and trying to score as many points as possible before the clock hits zero.
It may sound like what Robomodo opted to do would in a way take away some of the immediate charm found in the original Tony Hawk games but in reality the end result is brilliant. I definitely had the same joyful feeling skating around the Hangar stage as I did way back in 1999 when I played the demo for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Like I mentioned before the stages are different in a few ways but the core spirit of them are still intact and that’s what matter the most. Of course the other key thing about a game such as this, and in a way what proved to be the source of contention for most hardcore fans, is how the game feels and controls since back in the day the Tony Hawk series was the epitome of the best arcade based skateboarding game ever made.
The best way to describe the general gameplay of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is that it’s like skateboarding in real life after a ten year absence; you know the basics but getting into the groove of things will take a bit so you won’t become an immediate master like Bob Burnquist or the legendary Tony Hawk. Not much has changed in the control department for the game as there aren’t any odd gimmicks thrown in like analog stick controls or the dreaded implementation of a skateboard peripheral, but the game definitely took some getting used to.
Just like the stages and the general look of the game, the way the skating feels is slightly different as the speed and movement of the skaters doesn’t feel like a 1:1 match of the original Tony Hawk games. Now such a thing may sound like a huge negative, but it actually isn’t when you factor in that Robomodo didn’t develop the original games a decade ago nor did they use the original code to build what’s presented to us today. The slight differences the game has in how it feels does get some getting used to since I was far from an immediate pro upon playing the Hanger stage and subsequently moving on to the classic School II stage. But with that said, the foundations of the tricks and stringing them together are definitely solid and aren’t with any core issues like control lag or things simply being broken. So having to get acclimated with the movement of things wasn’t that big of an issue, at least for me mind you, since it gave me the feeling I had when I first played Tony Hawk Pro Skater when I was a young lad – I was having fun but it’ll take more than fifteen minutes to become a complete master at the game.
Once I did get over the slight speed differences THPS HD, the game is pretty much absolute bliss to play. The Tony Hawk games have always been about finding the perfect line and pulling off an insane combo string and thankfully the same thing applies to THPS HD. Tricks are still easy to pull off but not so much that I could get away with aimless button smashing and earn a 10,000 point trick like it was easy to accomplish. I still had to work for my scores or to accomplish some of the secondary things like grabbing all the Hall Passes, finding the secret DVDs (yes kids, Tony Hawk is now retro given its inclusion of DVDs) and doing all those wonderful tasks which aren’t too easy to accomplish. The game itself is totally retro in the fact that it’s still rooted around unlocking stages by completing a certain amount of tasks in an unlocked stage so it took me a while to get into the groove and bust out enough tricks to unlock things like the Venice Beach stage.
If there’s a dour spot or two in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD it doesn’t lay in how the game performs but how it looks and what’s presented to us. Graphically Robomodo has done solid job at providing some appealing visuals despite being powered oddly enough by Unreal Engine 3. Where my complaints come from in the graphical representation of the game actually lays in the HUD. Yes, I know it may seem like I’m reaching for the bottom of the barrel to complain about something, but the game does look a bit busy as far as what information is on screen most of the time. Certainly things aren’t crowded to the point of parody as there aren’t mass amount of combo multiplier icons, XP bonus points, and silly things such as that found in the MP portion of the CoD games, but the mere size of things such as the trick/combo text and the goal notifications does crowd the screen up a bit much. Obviously such a thing isn’t a game ruining element as it could be easily addressed through a patch if Robomodo opts to do such a thing.
There aren't any totally unexpected guest characters in THPS HD, but thanks to the inclusion of using Avatars as playable characters the possibilities are endless.
The other thing that’s slightly disappointing about THPS HD, at least in the grand scheme of things, is the online mode. Perhaps the expectations gamers may have today are simply too big given how online focused this generation has become, but THPS HD keeps things exceedingly simply in the multiplayer department. It’s nice that Robomodo stayed true to the original Tony Hawk games by providing things like online game modes such as trick attack or things that are a bit more goofy such as Big Head Elimination (land tricks to shrink your head so it doesn’t pop), but beyond that there’s nothing new thrown in the mix. Again, I don’t know if it’s simply a case of me expecting something new, but I was a bit disappointed that the game didn’t strive to do something new or provide unique stat tracking that gamers who adore EA’s Autolog can become enamored with. Technically the game runs buttery smooth on the online front as I didn’t encounter any lag which would’ve obviously made competing in a trick based match a bit difficult. So on the tech front the multiplayer offerings of THPS HD are all good but I’m hoping the series strives for more in future entries.
As the first old-school style Tony Hawk game we’ve received in over eight years, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is a return to form for the series. Things may have been tough in the last few years as the game tried to compete with Skate only to fail and then went in an odd direction with the peripheral based games, but Pro Skater HD is the classic Tony Hawk formula we know and love with a bit of added shine and detail thrown into the mix. With a graphical upgrade that actually makes an impact, responsive controls, and gameplay that evokes the same fun spirit as the original Tony Hawk games, Pro Skater HD is a worthy skateboarding game and more importantly is good enough to carry the Tony Hawk brand into what will hopefully be a new age of skateboarding video games.
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher.