The Tony Hawk franchise has become something of a laughing stock in recent years and the releases of Tony Hawk Ride and Shred appeared to be the final nails in the coffin. Is going back to its roots what this franchise needs to rise up once again? Or is it too little too late?
I’m going to be frank with you, the last Tony Hawk title I played was American Wasteland back in 2005 on my trusty Gamecube. It’s the reason I stepped away from the franchise as I felt that it was relying on gimmicks more than the skateboarding. Pro Skater HD acts as a greatest hits of the first two Pro Skater games and it has me back on board and grinding the rails like the last 10 years of the franchise never happened. It’s not without its faults though.
The career mode in is laid out exactly as I remember it from back in the day. Initially only the first stage is available and you have to complete a set number of objectives before unlocking the next stage. I got a lot of joy out of passing the controller to my wife and watching her automatically start going after the objectives in the warehouse stage.
There are 10 objectives to focus on in each stage, but fortunately you don’t have to go after them all at once, you just need to make sure you complete the one you are focusing on before the two minute countdown expires and that will carry forward in subsequent plays. The objectives are fairly straight forward; they range from attaining a specified score to collecting the letters to spell SKATE, also there’s a well hidden secret DVD to find on each stage. It’s a very simple format but it’s what makes the game so compelling. By completing objectives you earn cash which you use these to spend on stats upgrades and additional tricks for your skater. This is a feature of the game I have always liked as it’s really satisfying after tearing your hair out because you can’t make a certain jump to then upgrade your skater and make it with ease.
It’s also worth pointing out that, should you choose a different skater, the next time you go into the game you have to start from the beginning of the career again. This I can see annoying some people but I can also see others grinning at the prospect of having to beat the entire game 11 times to fully upgrade all of the skaters available. One of those 11 is your avatar, a brilliant decision, and from playing online it’s clear to see it’s a very popular inclusion.
There are a total of seven stages to play. This may seem like a low number but there’s plenty to do in each of them. I highly recommend ignoring the objective map as this shows you roughly where everything is that you need to collect. This eliminates a lot of the fun found in discovering everything for yourself so use it sparingly if you feel the need to have a peek.
The free skate option is also available. Whenever I unlock a new stage this is the first place I go as it’s a no pressure environment with no timer, which allows you to explore the level and look for that perfect line before going after objectives in career mode.
This game also has leaderboards, so now I have another game to keep me awake till ungodly hours of the morning trying to beat my friend’s scores! It’s a shame there’s not a ‘send challenge’ option though, a feature I loved about Pinball FX 2.
The online component is equally compelling, featuring a set of highly enjoyable modes. However, if you’re new to the Tony Hawk games I recommend playing with friends first as there are a lot of extremely talented virtual skateboarders out there just waiting to chew you up and spit you out.
There are only a handful of modes to choose from but I have to say this is a case of quality over quantity as I really enjoyed all the modes available. It also allows only four players but to be honest if there were anymore then it would be overcrowded. It’s a shame there’s no splitscreen option though.
The online modes available are Trick Attack, Graffiti, Free Skate, and Big Head Elimination. Trick Attack is your bread and butter mode. It pits you against up to three other players and whoever has the highest score at the end is the winner. Graffiti is all about tagging objects like grind rails and ramps. You do this by performing a trick on them. However if someone else then performs a higher scoring trick on that spot then they steal the tag. The person with the most tags when the timer runs out is the winner. Big head Elimination is brilliant online. It’s the same principal of the singleplayer version but when placed against other players the pressure on you goes up ten fold. Free Skate I can see being a great place for a group of friends to go to cool down after a frantic multiplayer session on this or any other game.
Now onto my gripes, there are only a few but when they bite they bite hard. Slowdown is by far the most frustrating part about this game, both in singleplayer and online. Now it doesn’t happen very often but when it does it can completely throw off your timing and is rage inducing when you’re in the middle of a huge combo. Another problem I have is that when you bail and are respawned and for me nearly always facing directly at a wall, which not only wastes valuable seconds but can also lead to you crashing straight into said wall and respawning again facing the damn wall! Like I said only a few faults I personally found but they are pretty big ones.
The visuals in this game are just brilliant. All the levels look just as I remember them but now have a nice HD coat, which features great new textures. It’s really polished in this respect. The soundtrack is great featuring a lot of the same tracks that were featured on the first two Pro Skater games as well as a mixture of newer tracks to keep the audio relevant to a new generation.
Overall Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD is a very good game. It’s exactly what Tony Hawk needs to be, simple and to the point with a focus on skateboarding and attaining high scores. The franchise lost its way and I really hope that this is the first step in the right direction. It’s not perfect but the minor issues could be easily remedied in a patch (If they are patched feel free to add an extra point to my score).
The amount of time you get out of this title depends on what kind of gamer you are. If you’re into chasing high scores then you’re going to love it but if you’re looking for a more structured setup or are a new player to the series, prepare for a relatively high learning curve and levels of frustration akin to the Trials games. If this is the direction you want to see the franchise going in the future then this is the opportunity to vote with your wallet and then maybe they’ll pay attention.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Platform: Xbox 360 Release Date: 17/07/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD by the promoter for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.