Microsoft kicked off their Summer of Arcade yesterday with the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD. But has Tony flipped his way to another winner, or is this just the death throws of the franchise?
The latest Tony Hawk games are regarded as among the worst in the series, a change of developer and a affection for plastic peripherals meant that Tony undoubtedly lost his crown as the king of the skateboarding game.
In an attempt to reconcile the damage done to the series, developers Robomodo have lovingly remade a collection of the best levels from the first two Tony Hawk games in heavenly HD. These first two titles were originally released way back at the turn of the millennium. With the remake the developers have kept to the original formula and claim to have used the original code from Neversoft, who were the series developer from 1999 until 2007. The result is a true remake, a downloadable title that slaps an HD finish on the gameplay that is now 13 years old, but is that a good thing?
The game lets you play 8 levels from the first two games, with all the challenges and task left mostly untouched. The selection is pretty good, with Venice Beach, School II and Marseille my personal favourites. But there are only 8 levels, which isn’t many once you unlock them all within the first hour of gameplay. The levels do look great, they could stand next to any recent skateboarding game and they look especially good when compared with the PS1 graphics they are based upon. Although if you have dusted off your PS1 and tried to play one of the Tony Hawk games it’s simular to spooning vinegar into your eyes.
Featuring some tracks from the originals really helps to bring back the memories of a misspent youth. There are some new songs, but these are nothing to write home about. A few more tracks from the originals would have been welcome, Rage Against the Machine’s Guerilla Radio is a glaringly obvious exclusion.
The gameplay is the same as it was in 1999, which is great, right? Robomodo obviously had to make a decision as to which era to take the gameplay and tricks from and they decided to stick, very firmly, to the gameplay of the first two games. This is an odd experience, as all the extra tricks you have learnt since THPS 2 don’t work. You might find yourself trying a double kickflip only to kickflip twice and fall on your face, or trying to flatland tricks with no response.
This is certainly not a game for those new to the Tony Hawk’s series. In todays gaming market there are better ways to spend your money if you want a skateboarding simulator. The Skate series has the obvious advantage over the modern incarnations of the Hawk franchise. ‘HD (yes that’s what the kids are calling it) is aimed at the nostalgia market, those who want to revisit their youth and see how it’s getting on.
The problems is that we, as gamers have all grown up, and Tony hasn’t, he’s still the same guy he was in 1999 which makes playing ‘HD a surreal experience. I would liken in to coming back to your home town after you’ve grown up, everything is familiar but feels different and odd. If you’ve played the games first time round you will be able to do most of the tasks within the game from memory and those new to the game will find it very outdated. So it’s hard to see the value in this for anyone.
Perhaps the biggest problem with ‘HD is that there is no split-screen multiplayer! One of the best things about the originals was sitting next to a friend and chatting as you idly flipping some tricks on the screen. There is online support, but it’s not great compared to Skate or even the modern Tony Hawk games. The reason I bought this game was to sit next to my brother reminisce about playing the game 13 years ago, but no.
Some more levels would have been welcome, the 8 available get old very quickly as a seasoned player will find all the secret areas and good skate spots from memory. There will be some added, in the form on the THPS 3 DLC that will appear later in the year, but this will be charge, obviously.
Although this title isn’t the best game available for download at the moment, it’s a gaming experience like no other. It is worth a buy if you want to be taken on a strange journey to your childhood.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is available now.