Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD Review
Playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is like listening to a really bad cover of a classic song.
The original lyrics are intact, though not delivered with the same force or inflection; the melodies are discernible, though many are well out-of-tune; the singer's voice and the band's instrument tones are modernized and overproduced in the worst way.
Essentially, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is the video game equivalent of watching Miley Cyrus sing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
From a technical standpoint, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD attempts to transplant original source code from the first two Tony Hawk titles into Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3.
This gives Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD's gameplay a Bizarro World feel of not being a full-on remake, but not being an exact replica of the original games, either.
After putting the Dreamcast version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 side-by-side with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, it feels like the new engine's physics are much floatier, with lots of weird bounces and wonky collision detection. The skating animations appear choppier and the controls in general are a lot less responsive.
Trying to play Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD with the stock Xbox 360 controller is about as futile as trying to grind a bench made of rotting, splintered wood. The button layout is an ergonomic nightmare, and trying to get Microsoft's poorly designed d-pad to read the right inputs will have you wanting to throw the controller out the window and all the way back to China.
Even when using a MadCatz Fight Pad, which features an elevated d-pad and buttons that are designed for rapid-fire, precise inputs, I was still unable to perform special moves reliably, which leads me to believe that something is just fundamentally wrong with the command input coding in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD.
Having seen what the Unreal Engine 3 is capable of in games like Bioshock, Mass Effect, Gears of War, Borderlands, et al., there are zero excuses for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD's numerous graphical issues.
Screen tearing, stuttering, and framerate drops are frequent. You will commonly miss jumps and landings as a result of the framerate stuttering right before the moment of takeoff or impact.
The camera is haphazard, constantly jerking around like the invisible man holding it is having a seizure. Because the game's camera cannot properly track or keep up with your skater, you are often forced to make blind jumps and turns, which can screw up your lines.
Something is awfully wrong with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD's collision detection. I have seen my skater's body sink through floors, fly through ceilings, pass through walls, even teleport through rails.
Because the collision detection is so poor, crashes have the potential to occur seemingly at random, which can be infuriating when clipping is to blame for ruining a long combo.
During bails, your skater displays zero body weight and magically floats off in random directions. There are no recovery animations like in the old games where your skater would pick himself off the pavement and hop back onto his board. Now every crash causes the screen to go blank for a few seconds so the game can teleport your skater back to where he was before the crash occurred.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is just as much an aesthetic failure as it is a technical disaster, with ugly black outlines surrounding every in-game item and much of the game's unappealing interface. While the new lighting effects are generally good, turning Downhill Jam into a nighttime level has created some visibility issues, making it difficult to see key items, rails and ramps.
Instead of including the traditional create-a-skater feature, Xbox 360 Avatars are available across all modes of play. Unfortunately, Avatars display incorrect colors in-game and come with some proportional sizing issues.
While other modern games like Brutal Legend come with over 100 songs, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD includes a pathetic 14 songs, half of which aren't even from the original games.
The first Tony Hawk's Pro Skater soundtrack has been largely ignored, with only Goldfinger's "Superman" still in the mix. The songs cycle through randomly, with no "track skip" button in-game and no way to disable individual tracks.
Goal for goal, little has changed in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD basic career mode. Players still travel the globe, completing score-based and collection-based objectives for cash. The money earned during your career is spent upgrading skater stats, unlocking new gear and additional special moves.
Unfortunately, the globe in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD has become smaller than it's ever been at any point in the series.
The original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater shipped with nine levels. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 raised the bar a notch, offering 10. Then came Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X, which included a mammoth 20+ levels.
Somehow, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD has regressed beyond the content output of the original game, shipping with only seven levels and no level editor. It's inexcusable that decade-old games running on significantly inferior hardware can ship with more content than a 2012 release.
Memory constraints clearly aren't the issue, as at a mere 460 megabytes, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD's file size is nowhere close to the 2.0 gigabytes limit Microsoft enforces for Xbox Live Arcade games.
The numbers just do not add up, that is, until you consider the fact that extra levels from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 are already being readied as paid downloadable content. Insultingly, the revert mechanic from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is actually already included in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD's moveset, it's just that the game doesn't continue your point combo like it should after performing a revert, as the functionality of the move has obviously been disabled in the game's code.
Activision's business plan for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD seems to be to milk the consumer for every dollar they can get with downloadable maps while putting forth the bare minimum effort on the core game, all while having the gall to release at the premium Xbox Live Marketplace price of $15.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD attempts to make up for its lack of levels by adding three new event types: Big Head Survival, Hawkman and Projectives. None of these modes add significant value to the game, as they are just basic remixes of the same item-collecting, point-scoring formula.
Instead of having to ollie over a teleporting bum like in the Career, you now have to boneless over a teleporting bum in Projectives mode.
Or in place of collecting all the C-O-M-B-O icons without bailing for Projectives, you pick up colored tokens while following a difficult line in Hawkman.
These slight variations of objectives are pure filler, doing nothing to extend Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD's limited single player value. Career mode was already a literal and figurative grind back in 1999, and it's even more monotonous now when judged by today's gaming standards.
If there's any fun to be had in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, it's with the four-player online play. Classic multiplayer modes like Graffiti and Trick Attack remain enjoyable, provided all the players are near the same skill level.
Unfortunately, there's no option to set scoring handicaps like in the old Tony Hawk games, so if one player is putting up scores that destroy everyone else's, the other players will likely get bored and quit the game.
Inexplicably, local multiplayer is not supported at all in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD. This omission, along with the missing H-O-R-S-E mode, demonstrate a complete lack of understanding by the developer of what made the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games great.
In place of H-O-R-S-E, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD offers the terrible Big Head Survival mode. In it, each rider's head enlarges and eventually explodes if he doesn't continuously land tricks to counter the increasing growth-rate. The motto of extreme sports games is supposed to be "go big or go home," but with Big Head Survival's emphasis on stringing together short sequences of safe tricks, the mode ends up rewarding players who "go small to win it all." Players can literally just sit in a half pipe for five minutes going back and forth doing vert tricks before the growth-rate becomes too fast to survive.
With no course editor and such a limited number of levels and modes, there's just not enough lasting value to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD's multiplayer component. Factor in the complete lack of local multiplayer, and the game fails to make itself future-proof, as there will be no way to play against others once the online population thins out.
Bad games like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD are the very reason why the Tony Hawk series died out. The franchise's handlers have become so inept that they can't even remake the series' good games without completely screwing them up.
Apart from functional online play and online leaderboards, everything new that was added to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is either a waste or a technical disaster.
Instead of spending $15 on this botched update, Tony Hawk fans should grab a copy of the vastly superior Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X for the original Xbox -- it costs a third as much ($5) and is backward-compatible with the Xbox 360.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD should have been a nicely written love-letter to longtime fans of the brand; instead, it's a giant bird.
Visuals: Don't be fooled by the "HD" in this game's title; it's hands-down the ugliest, glitchiest version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to date.
Audio: Only seven songs return from the old Tony Hawk games, with "Superman" being the lone choice from the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Of the seven new songs, most are annoying modern pop that sound out-of-place in what's supposed to be a fast and aggressive rock/punk soundtrack.
Control Scheme: The Xbox 360 controller simply was not meant to play Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Directional inputs do not register consistently. The face buttons are too rounded and spread apart. The triggers, too, are extremely uncomfortable to use. Not only will this game wreck your hand, but it will also have you enraged from not being able to pull off basic moves consistently.
Learning Curve: The first two Tony Hawk's Pro Skater were already tough enough, but add an unstable framerate and awkward, unresponsive controls, and many of the objectives become unbearably difficult.
Lasting Value: Unless your idea of fun is replaying the same seven levels over and over again, you'll quickly grow bored with the lack of content in this bareboned re-release.
Score -- 4.0 (Below Average)