Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD Review
Man, we’ve missed Tony Hawk. The retired skater’s digital doppelganger might have spent the last few years languishing in peripheral Hell but things started to go wrong long before that.
The Underground games strayed too far into Jackass territory with their stunts, pranks and half-naked fatties; Proving Ground got bogged down in unnecessary complications; American Wasteland was just too punk for its own good.
In fact, pretty much every extreme sports game after Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 lost sight of what it was that made those early games so amazing: purity.
So wave goodbye to natas spins, spine transfers, reverts and the like, because Robomodo has dialled back the core mechanics of Tony Hawk HD to reflect the simpler time in which these skate parks were first released into the wild.
Veteran players will miss a few such features to begin with, of course. But once you start learning to play by the game’s rules rather than crying over the loss of those that have been established since, you’ll find there’s still oceans of potential for leaderboard-busting scores.
The game’s critics have suggested that this streamlined approach is bad for the combo system, but the opposite is true – it makes you scout for lines that work with your limited toolset and constantly think about what you’re doing rather than just relying on a safety net of ‘easy mode’ features that basically play the game for you.
Hawk’s famous ‘The 900’ move returns, naturally.
Skilled players can still post scores in the millions and find combo lines that span entire levels so for those critics, we have a counter-suggestion – you’re just rubbish at Tony Hawk’s.
And the combo potential isn’t based purely on what tricks you can or can’t do, anyway – it has as much to do with where you can or can’t do them.
The seven levels are the supposed highlights from the first two games, contained skate parks expertly designed to offer countless lines and paths that can be exploited with deft combinations of vert tricks, grinds, manuals and wall-rides.
It’s an odd selection, truth be told – Venice Beach is quite a bitty stage and Downhill Jam is, frankly, a mess but the likes of Warehouse, Hangar and Marseille hold up just as well today as they did back in the day.
Bullring or Roswell would have been nice additions over the weaker levels, but there’s more than enough life in the stronger ones to keep you playing… well, forever.
You’ll have to unlock them all first, mind. A reasonable quota of the ten goals per stage must be cleared to unlock the next, with progression also dropping extras in the form of play modes.
These are as close as Tony Hawk’s HD comes to innovation (not that creativity was ever going to be the strong point of a remake), and all three are surprisingly strong.
There are few purer tests of gaming skill that Tony Hawk at its best.
The obnoxiously-named Big Head Survival curses players with perpetually inflating heads, forcing them to trick and combo in order to quell the swell and score big, while Hawkman lays down paths of coloured pellets that must be collected with the relevant trick types under strict time limits (and ideally in one combo, for ultimate kudos).
But it’s Projectives that wins out, a super-tough encore after clearing all the regular goals that slashes the regular two-minute timer in half and blasts score targets into orbit, asking much more of your fingers and thumbs than anything that comes before it. Much more. You’ll see.
In some aspects of its design, though, there’s certainly an argument to be made that Robomodo has stuck a little too faithfully to Neversoft’s original formula.
Physics are maybe even worse than they were first time around, bail animations often sending skaters on gravity-defying flights or glitching them out of the world entirely, plus the engine is strict as they come – fall just too far or land at a slightly jaunty angle and the game will ruthlessly send you for a tumble, but it wouldn’t be a Tony Hawk game without that kind of risk and potential frustration hanging over every combo.
It’s a game about greed, basically. A game about pushing yourself and taking risk after risk in search of a score to wear with pride. A game about restarting seconds into a run because something wasn’t quite right. A game about restarting seconds into a run even when everything is fine out of habit. A game about showing your mates who’s boss with numbers so high that they sprain their necks just trying to look up at them.
Collectible objects litter each Career lever, often laid out to suggest combo lines you should try.
And while local multiplayer is sadly missed in that regard (Horse mode in particular), online options and addictive leaderboards do their best to make up for it.
Get ready to swear at the God-awful 360 D-pad and work your thumbs to the bone protecting your leaderboard dignity, then – the Birdman is back, baby.