Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD Review
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On 08/12/2012 at 01:04 PM by Nick DiMola
They just don't make 'em like they used to.
Hardcore Tony Hawk fans should stick with the originals. Only those with foggy nostalgia for the original game should bother with this HD conversion.
There's little more important when creating an HD remake than ensuring you've at least duplicated (even better, exceeded) the functionality and feel of the original title. Apparently Robomodo didn't get the memo when creating Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, which represents a remix of the first and second game in the series. The HD "upgrade" is noticeably clunkier and more cumbersome, not quite matching up to the extremely fluid titles on the PlayStation, N64, Dreamcast, and Xbox.
It’s tough to overlook the shortcomings of the core engine as it creates an experience that simply doesn’t feel right. While not unplayable, it doesn't act or feel like the originals. Eventually you will get a sense for the controls, and your scores will continue to improve, but the stiffer handling makes it less satisfying as you can't pull off the once amazing tricks you had in the past. Part of what made the originals so great was the ease in which you could perform gravity defying tricks. This time around, things feel a bit closer to reality, though not so much that it's like playing a simulation.
It’s in the little details that problems present themselves most often. For instance, after you perform a spinning vert trick, even after you line up with the ramp there’s a small delay before your skater is ready to land the trick successfully. This singular change forces you to consistently perform less impressive tricks and creates a huge learning curve if you’re intimately familiar with the more forgiving originals.
Despite the inconsistencies in the engine, this entry is structured like the standbys. In career mode you’ll choose a level and be given 2 minutes to complete a lengthy set of goals that are the same or similar to those in the original titles. You’ll still find the secret room in the Warehouse and Ollie the Magic Bum in Venice Beach and in all the levels you’ll still need to push for high scores, find SKATE, and collect the hidden DVD (once upon a time it was a tape).
Unfortunately, you’ll only be doing this in seven levels that are sequentially unlocked, each of which require you to complete more and more objectives in the preceding level. Not only is the offering scant, but the levels chosen for the remake don’t represent the best of the levels found across THPS 1 and 2. By sheer virtue of Downhill Jam making the final release, it's clear poor selections have been made. School II, featured in THPS2, isn't exactly great for tricks and it too occupies a place on the roster of levels.
There are some other puzzling omissions outside of the level choices, particularly the ability to right your skater after they fly off of a vert ramp. More importantly, there's no revert. While I'm aware that the revert was never available in either of the featured titles, after its introduction in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, it has become a cornerstone of the series. Having logged so many hours with THPS3, it's extremely hard to return to a time when this trick was not available to string together various trips up the vert ramp.
While no fault of Robomodo specifically, the Xbox 360 controller is absolutely horrible for playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD. Whether you decide to use the D-pad or the joystick, you'll find yourself struggling to consistently pull off the right tricks. This holds especially true with double-tap directional tricks, which rarely execute as expected.
Given the short-lived single player mode, Robomodo did include a secondary set of goals called Projectives that help extend the quest for the most capable of players. Unlocked after completing the entire set of base objectives, most hardcore players will find the challenge they were looking for with these extras.
Obligatory leaderboards should also satiate the hardcore for extended play, along with a modified version of the original multiplayer mode. No, you won't be playing locally with friends this time around. Instead you'll challenge a crew online, but performance is spotty at best and the mode lacks the same magic it once had when you and a friend occupied the same room.
It's hard not to be disappointed by Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD. It manages to toss a much cleaner coat of paint on the tried-and-true formula, but it fails to capture the nuanced control of the original. Furthermore, it omits clear improvements to the core formula found in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, which feels like a step back. Only those with foggy nostalgia for the original game should bother with this subpar conversion.