I donít think itís much of a stretch to say I majored in Tony Hawk in college and in my spare time took some mechanical engineering classes. Tony Hawkís Pro Skater 1 and 2 still find spots in my top five favorite games of all time. Heck, the series is the reason I bought a PlayStation 2 just weeks before the Xbox I had on reserve (to play THPS 2X) launched. My future wife didnít even blink an eye when I told her Iíd have to wait almost half a year to play THPS 3 if I hadnít impulse purchased a PS2 that very day. (Thatís probably when I knew I should definitely marry herÖ itís hard to find that special someone that understands your addiction to videogame skateboarding.) And as the years passed I continued to eagerly anticipate each game in the series. I was on board even when they added so many unnecessary and convoluted mechanics like the Matrix-inspired ďNailing the TrickĒ. I could look past these misguided additions to the games because the core mechanics I got so much satisfaction from were still tightly packed underneath. Then Activision decided I literally had to be on board with Tony Hawk: Ride AND, inconceivably, a sequel Ö and, well, that was not what I wanted from a Tony Hawk game. But like the hawk of lore rising from the ashes (that would be a better analogy if this was a Rivers Phoenix game), a remake of the first two games has emerged in the form of Tony Hawkís Pro Skater HD. Does it take me back to my fraternity house days, can it still hold up after all this time, and, good God, did the studio behind Tony Hawk: Ride actually make this?
Yes, Robomodo did make the Ride games, but I forgive them because Tony Hawkís Pro Skater HD has saved the future of the series by going back in time. (As a side note, that Pitbull song was playing on the radio when I composed that sentenceÖ so that guy really shows up in everything. Okay, back to the game.) This is the Tony Hawk that had me obsessing over every goal, every gap, and every high score with every skater. The visuals have been given a bump up to HD, but Iíd say itís probably the equivalent of how your mind assumes the old games look at this point. Itís not a graphical powerhouse, but itís clean and has been updated to run in widescreen. Most importantly, itís really nice to get back into stringing ridiculous combos together in levels that faithfully recreate environments that are forever burned into my subconscious. And just like the confines, the controls are instantly memorable and do an excellent job of recapturing what made the early Tony Hawk games the most addictive two minutes in gaming. It controls wonderfully and is smooth, but feels ever-so-slightly different than the originals. Maybe itís slightly slower or the gravity is a bit on the lighter side, but itís still a joy to play.
Although Tony Hawkís Pro Skater HD is representative of the first two games in the franchise, itís not the entirety of the pair of titles. It is instead a collection of seven levels picked from those original games that can be played with the Tony Hawkís Pro Skater 2 rule-set (ie. You can manual to link tricks). I have to say that itís a bummer the full assortment of levels is not included, as it seems almost criminal to leave out stages like Philadelphia and New York City. As such, the number of levels feels on the skimpy side, but the game has been restructured to remove the Competition levels (which always felt like the weakest concept in the older games). Instead, every level has ten goals to chase down like collecting letters to spell SKATE, hitting high scores, and finding the Secret DVD (formerly a VHS tape). Of course the overall Gap List returns, but it didnít seem to unlock anything other than a sense of self worth once Iíd conquered all the gaps.
Purists of the original games will lament that the full soundtrack isnít included, but seven of the fourteen tracks are from the original games (six from THPS2) and the seven new songs still carry the same vibe. Other changes include the roster of characters being shuffled to inject some current skaters and removing Spider-Man because Iím sure licensing is a nightmare. Most of the customization options didnít make it into this game so there is no Create A Park or Create A Skater (although you can play as your Avatar). At this point I feel like Iím focusing too much on what isnít included for a game I greatly enjoy, so how bout we start focusing on the new additions? Robomodo has smartly included pause screen maps that allow you to quickly look to see where goals and gaps are located in the levels. This is perfect for new players, as finding all of these originally was a big reason why videogame cheat sites exist today. Also, in a Trials HD-inspired move, the Back button has been mapped to let you do a quick restart of the level since youíll invariably want to do that many, many times when your run has suddenly gone face down into the pavement.
There were several new modes added to the game to help in providing fresh content. Hawkman mode challenges you to collect all of the pellets in a level (ala Pac-Man) as fast as you can while requiring you to perform specific maneuvers like grinding, manualing, or doing an air trick to get credit for each pellet. Iím not completely sold on this mode, but Iíll be damned if itís not one of the most challenging modes to ever appear in the series. Maybe itís just because it introduces a lot of trick lines that I never used in the past, but itís tough. Thereís also a Big Head mode where you must do combos to keep the growth of your head to a minimum for as long as possible before it explodes like a piŮata. Again, this mode is okay, but doesnít hold up to the classic two minute style. The mode that really has me excited is Projectives. This adds all new, even more challenging goals to each level and I couldnít be more thrilled. Having new stuff to do in levels that I love and am extremely familiarly with is exactly the type of addition I can get behind. These goals include even higher scores and elements from later Tony Hawk games like collecting letters that spell out C-O-M-B-O. Rounding out the gameís features are online multiplayer (sorry, no local multiplayer) modes like the classic Graffiti and online leaderboards. I briefly tried the online and it was laggy at first, but then smoothed out. I honestly am more of a solo player when it comes to these games, so Iím not likely to play this much for multiplayer.
As a re-imagined or greatest hits title of the duo of original games, Tony Hawkís Pro Skater HD is a great way to get sucked back into the series. There is plenty of life left in the two-minutes of challenging fun model and the five years Iíve waited for a proper return to the series has just made me realize how much Iíve been missing these games. The limited level selection may be a slight downfall of the game, but when you consider Iíve spent over twenty hours in those levels and across the various modes trying to unlock everything in the game I really donít think the $15 asking price is unreasonable. Even though it may seem like thereís not a lot of game here, there is an enormous draw to keep going back and improving. Thereís a reason Iíd like more; they just donít make games like this anymore and Tony Hawkís Pro Skater HD is proof that they should. My name is Shipwreck and Iím addicted to Tony Hawk.
Outstanding | Very Good | Fair | Poor | Awful
Recommended Buy Price: $15.00
Current MSRP: $15.00
Tony Hawkís Pro Skater HD was provided for review by Activision. I played the game for 21 hours accumulating 16 out of 16 Achievements for 400 GamerScore. The game is currently only available for Xbox Live Arcade, but will be releasing at a later date for PlayStation 3 and PC.