By Bryce Wilson
GAME NAME: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD
PLATFORM(S): XBLA, PSN
RELEASE DATE(S): 18 July 2012
Being an avid skateboarder myself, nothing beat coming home from school when it was too hot to skate outside, and then playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. It didn't matter which one it was (although lets face it, THUG 2 was the best), because the classic gameplay felt reassuring each time we dove into it.
Released in 1999 (that's over 12 years ago), the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was arguably the greatest in terms of gameplay. Critics loved it, fans loved it, and most noticeably Activision loved it. Well, they loved it enough to release 15 titles in the time since its inception. Many long time fans - myself included - felt like the original experience of pro skateboarding had been abandoned in lieu of zany over the top stories and cheap gimmicks.
Today that has all been undone, and I really mean that. Rather than a direct HD clone of the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (THPS from now on), developer Robomodo has instead taken the best parts from the first two games and combined them into one package of sack tapping, air-walking, 900ing goodness.
From the very get go, THPS HD drives home the ultimate feeling of nostalgia, and in a good way. Whether it be the almost identical soundtrack from the first game, or Warehouse being the first level you collect the hidden DVD (bye-bye tapes, DVD is so in right now), it all feels welcoming. The controls are perfect, and before I knew it I was doing 900s over the half pipe gap, hitting all of the SKATE letters in one run, and carving goals constantly.
The high definition level redesigns look simply amazing. The original games have definitely not aged well, and Robomodo has done an excellent job of modernising the classic stages, whilst also giving them a relevant look. Seeing Mall, Warehouse, and Hangar redesigned and reimagined with the more powerful Unreal engine blew my mind. Childhood memories came rushing back, and even my non-gamer did a double take when he recognised the redux.
Another part of the THPS nostalgia pie was the teen angst filled soundtrack. In hindsight the music was monotonous and uninspiring, and now we get to hear it in all its glory... or lack thereof. A few more recent tracks have been thrown into the loop, and while it's easy enough to play your own music through your Xbox 360, I'll admit I was nodding my head to the beat of Goldfinger's "Superman" without even realising I was doing so.
Beneath the shiny graphics and classic gameplay, it's not all fun and games. Well, the game is fun, but you know what I mean. There's a glaring hole in the barren pro skater roster. Sure, the titular superstar is there, and a few other classics are too, but compared to the more recent games it falls flat. You can now buy extra stat points pretty easily, so creating "your" skater is simply done, but having variety would've been nicer.
The lack of local multiplayer is also glaringly obvious, and almost insulting. Players loved talking smack to their buddies while they played graffiti, and I personally loved beating my friend Terence in games of HORSE (or whichever mindbogglingly insulting slurs we came up with). None of that will happen in the great THPS HD environment unless we want to take it online, but even then it's just not the same. I'd happily give up an HD level if it meant getting local multiplayer.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is a fun game for old fans to revisit their PlayStation and Nintendo 64 memories. Sure, the original Tony Hawk games have strayed from what they originally set out to artistically accomplish, but Activision's loving recreation of the original proves they still know what fans want... it just took them a while to catch on. Classic levels, amazing gameplay, and nostalgia through the roof come together well, and while it isn't perfect, the HD remake of the classic title is welcome on my console any time, and I can't wait for the DLC.