Point Review: Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD (360, PS3, PC)

July 27th, 2012 by

Developer: Robomodo
Publisher: Activision
Genre: Extreme Sports
Players: 1 (2-4 online)
Console: Xbox 360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN), PC
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Hours Played: ~6
Progress: Unlocked 6/7 levels in Career mode, tried all other modes including a few online matches

The Tony Hawk Pro Skater (THPS) series has a long and sordid history.  Entries in the THPS series have earned everywhere from a 98 to a 44 average score on Metacritic, and it’s no secret to anyone that their scores have been steadily trending downwards over the years.  Taking elements including levels, music, and move-sets from the first two great entries in the THPS series and mixing in modern graphics and music as well, you’d think that an HD “best of” collection would hearken back to the series’ hey-day and remind us all why we fell in love with it in the first place.  Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you?!?!? Read on to see where the downloadable THPS HD belongs in the wide spectrum of Tony Hawk game scores.

  • In a word, frustrating.  In two words, very frustrating.
  • I understand that THPS HD is a mash-up of the best levels and features from the first two THPS games, but the THPS series has evolved in meaningful ways over the years and it just feels like you’ve played an RPG for years and then have to fight the final boss without any of your gear. 
  • Moves that have become a very solid part of the THPS series like wall jumping, double-tapping face buttons to switch tricks during combos, using the shoulder buttons to level yourself out mid-air to correct jumps or reach areas, being able to hop off the board, and more are all very sorely missing from the game. 
  • The lack of any good control features certainly brings back the heavy-handed challenge of yore, but would it have been so hard to include them (even as a cheat or toggle) for us poor saps that want to enjoy our time with our video games?
  • The (both old and new) modes available include: 2-minute a pop Career mode, Single Session, Free Skate, Hawkman (where you are tasked with collecting multicoloured orbs around the level that can only be collected while performing certain actions like grinds and ollies), and Big Head Survival (where you are tasked with continually pulling off tricks to prevent your head from inflating to the point of explosion)
  • Both the Hawkman and Big Head Survival modes, which I had not encountered before in a THPS game, seemed tailored to very hardcore players, as I almost always failed to reach even the lowest level of achievement in either one.
  • Through Career, as well as other modes, you earn cash and unlock levels for the specific skater you’re using that are non-transferrable to other characters that can be used to upgrade the character and buy various gear.
  • Unlocking new levels gets progressively harder to the point where I was so beat into the ground by the game’s near-impossible challenges that I opted to not even unlock the final level.

  • No split-screen multiplayer, what the pfargtl?  Surely a modern game can’t be outclassed in its multiplayer options by a game 13 years its senior!  Why, yes.  Yes it can.
  • The multiplayer in THPS HD functions well on a mechanical level, but lacks many of the matchmaking nuances/conveniences that make online multiplayer more seamless and fun.
  • My initial search for a “Quick Match” quickly told me there were no games to join, so I created a match and was pleased to see that it filled to its 4-player capacity almost instantly (as I assume no one else feels like creating matches).  The player who created the match, though, gets all of the power regarding what level is selected and what mode is being played, the other players can’t even vote on anything.  Good matchmaking involves auto-creating a match if there are none found and then allowing players to vote on modes/maps or at least choose from a randomized list, but I guess no one told Robomodo that.  (To be fair, maybe they just haven’t played any online multiplayer games since 2006 or so.)
  • Options for online multiplayer include Trick Attack (where whoever gets the highest combo wins), Graffiti (my personal favourite where objects around the map get coloured/controlled by whichever player performs the highest-scoring trick on them and then whoever controls the most pieces wins), Free Skate (with no apparent point), and Big Head Elimination (mirrors the rules of Big Head Survival mode, but the last player with their head intact wins). 
  • I never came close to winning a single match, but had some retro fun playing good old THPS multiplayer with people online.  It’s bad to think, though, that if the host gets frustrated they can just put it on Free Skate until everyone else drops out.
  • One notable exclusion from multiplayer is the perennial favourite HORSE, where players would try to one-up each other for the highest score in a single combo.  There’s no good reason why this is missing, kind of like how split-screen is missing too.

  • All-in-all the graphics are good and what you would expect from a modern-day THPS game.
  • Blood animations when you fall are still very basic and cartoon-like, but that can be considered part of the THPS charm.

  • 50% classic THPS songs (primarily from THPS 2) and 50% new songs (of a total of 14).  Aside from the 3 or 4 that I recognized, I couldn’t actually readily differentiate the classic songs from the ones added in, so song selection carried on this time in the same vein as it always has.
  • Some people may be offended by the tampering with the classics, but I for one welcome our new song overlords as they are more or less the same punk-rocky things they have always been.

  • THPS HD will have you playing levels repeatedly, if only for the fact that you need to complete a certain amount of each level’s challenges to unlock the next one. 
  • With only seven levels to choose from, and no way to play around if your friends happen to be in the same room as you, THPS HD doesn’t have much Usagi Factor to speak of.

If you’re a die-hard THPS fan and can get over the multitudes of things that were cut/added to make this HD compilation, then you’re about the only gamer that I would readily suggest this game to.  A game that was supposed to take the best elements of the first two THPS games and be a pleasant trip down memory lane ends up having the exact opposite effect by and large.  The control and level limits make one wonder why they didn’t just re-release the first two Tony Hawk games replete with all of their features on XBLA/PSN, even with their old graphics, as that certainly would have offered a more complete and satisfying experience than the weak entry in the series we got instead.  What I hope that THPS HD does for the series is tell Activision that if they want to save the series, or at least capitalize on it in a meaningful way, that they either have to release a properly HD-updated (ie. not remade) collection of the classic Tony Hawk games (perhaps a Tony Hawk 1-4 HD pack and then a Tony Hawk Underground through Project 8 collection) or go crawling back to what’s left of the old Neversoft gang and put them at the series’ helm once again.  Until such time as this, I’d suggest breaking out whatever old copies you have of THPS for a much more fun, albeit much more pixellated, trip down memory lane.

Rated 6.7

A review copy of this game was provided to us by its publisher.