Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD

Players: 1 (2-4 online)

Rating: Teen (Violence, Blood)

Price: 1200 MS Points ($15)

Platform reviewed: Xbox Live Arcade

Back in February, I posted a "wish list" of what should come back in Tony Hawk HD and what shouldn't.  After sitting down in the career mode for five hours straight last Friday, I can safely say that there's at least a few people within Activision who share my sentiments.  Turn it up! Bring the noise!

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is a collection of nostalgia, and it's meant to be that way.  All of the stages are from classic games no later than THPS2, and levels from THPS3 have already been announced as DLC.  All the classics are included: The Warehouse, School 2, The Hangar, Marseille, and even the Downhill Jam.  All the classic goals are included, save for the "Secret Tape," which has been replaced with the "Secret DVD" to keep up with the times.  All the levels look great in HD, and so do the skaters.

To add to the nostalgia, the soundtrack is a mix of classic THPS songs mixed with new tracks.  "Superman," "Bring Da Noise," and "No Cigar" mesh with "Flyentology," "Teenage Blood," and "USA."  All the tracks feel right at home, even the new ones.  Although, after four hours of the same music, it can start to get old.  It might be a good idea to have some songs on the hard drive to switch to when the default tracks get old.

While Tony Hawk HD does away with split screen multiplayer, they added online for up to four players.  There's multiple gameplay modes, including the classic trick attack and graffiti.  In keeping with adding new to the old, there's a new multiplayer mode called Big Head Deathmatch.  Up to four players go head-to-head (literally) in a last man standing survival match.  The player's head will grow continuously, so players have to be doing as many big tricks as they can to shrink their head down.  When the head gets too big, it explodes in confetti and the player is eliminated.  It's a fun game mode, and there's a lot of people trying it out right now.  Graffiti is even crazier with four players than it was with two on the original games.  Players will be working as hard as they can to secure as many locations as they can, and they'll need it.  Having three opponents out to swipe tags can be nerve wracking.

As players progress, they unlock stages in progression.  Now, when players have unlocked all the levels, there's rewards to be had for clearing all the goals.  Rewards like Officer Dick, who makes a shining return to the Tony Hawk series in all his pudgy skater glory.  It's throwbacks like this that really show that Activision has listened to their longtime fans of the early games.

Everyone who remembers the difficulty of the early Tony Hawk games will not be disappointed with this reboot.  All the challenges are back, and stronger than ever.  Getting the Secret DVD in the School still requires that little nudge to reach to roof.  Ollie the Magic Bum still has players running around Venice Beach in a frantic race to find him.  Crashing through the glass in the warehouse to reach the cash and Secret DVD still has that feel to it.  It hits all the right notes, and it does it perfectly.  Not only that, but there are some seriously tough achievements to be had, too.  The "Old School" achievement involves scoring 200,000 points in the Warehouse without doing one manual.  It's seriously tough, but still doable.

Now, Tony Hawk HD is currently only available on the Xbox 360 as a part of the "Summer of Arcade."  According to Robomodo, the developer, they plan to release it for PSN by the end of August.  This is probably a good thing, because the 360 version has a lot of bugs in it.  During my playthrough, I fell through the geometry in Downhill Jam at least once, got caught in a corner twice, and I earned the "Manual Master" achievement with only 14 registered manuals in the combo.  There's some definite need for updates, if not outright bug fixes.

Even with all the bugs in this game, it just felt awesome.  Having played the first three Tony Hawk games for hours on end when I was in high school, THPSHD is a true nostalgia trip that cannot be missed.  Anyone who has fond memories of the "good old days" should definitely jump on the bandwagon here.  And for the young folks that never had the chance to experience it, this is what Tony Hawk should be like.  It should be challenging, hard to complete, and oh so rewarding when that final "100% goals and cash" goal is finally reached.  Even with the bugs, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is worth the experience.

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