Having once been the go-to franchise in sports gaming, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series has fallen upon tough times in the recent decade. One central criticism by fans, including myself, is that the more recent titles have seen Activision growing increasingly detached from what made the series such a success. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, an Xbox Live Arcade release (PSN and PC soon to come), is an attempt to bring the series back to its roots, meshing the nostalgia of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 with the graphics of modern gaming consoles.
The first notable aspect of THPS HD that catches the eye is the character list; we’re not only given some familiar faces like Tony Hawk, Eric Koston, and Andrew Reynolds, but we’re also seeing the likes of Lyn-z Adams Hawkins, Nyjah Huston, and Chris Cole in the mix as well. Although the overall list of characters leaves a lot to be desired, there are some classic unlockable characters (we all remember Ollie the Magic Bum, right?) that add some fun variety to the game. Then there are the actual levels themselves. Tony Hawk 2’s levels are fantastic, some of which (Venice Beach in particular) really benefit from new lighting and attention to detail. The levels from Tony Hawk 1, however, like the Warehouse and Mall, still feel cramped and inferior, not featuring as drastic of improvements as the levels from the second game. All the levels feature familiar goals and the same quirks as the originals, helping to boost the game’s nostalgic factor for the hardcore fans of the series.
The gameplay is meant to mimic that from Tony Hawk 1 and 2, but for those who are used to stringing together ridiculously long combos like in Tony Hawk 3 and 4, it may take some re-learning before being able to master your moves. There are minor inconveniences, like not having access to the character’s special combo list on the pause menu, but those are offset by some nice shortcuts, like a quick retry button. Many of the bails and wipeouts are a bit ridiculous, but this hardly affects the game negatively.
All in all, this is a complete reminder of why the series was a hit in the first place. Levels are two minutes in length (as they should be), gameplay avoids being presented in an overly theatrical manner, and even the original soundtrack is featured (yes, Goldfinger’s “Superman” is in the game). The only issues I have are what the game lacks, not what the game is itself (and even those issues are rather minor). Hopefully, character add-ons will be available in the future, which would be a great way to keep the game fresh. For what it is, however, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD serves as an awesome trip down memory lane, and at the price of 1200 Microsoft Points ($15), it’s definitely a great buy for the gamers that grew up with the Tony Hawk franchise.
8 out of 10