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Bailing hard in our Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD review

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD makes me want a remake of my remake. It’s not the idea that’s the problem, it’s the technical execution. The bits from the first two Tony Hawk games that Robomodo wraps into HD are welcome bits indeed, but there’s so much about the game that is either questionably designed or flat-out doesn’t work that it’s hard to look past the shortfalls and appreciate the nostalgia trip.

What you’ve got are seven levels pulled from the first two games in the series, along with a handful of new skaters to join the returning ones. The graphics have been completely overhauled, so while each of the old-school maps that you visit remains fundamentally the same, it all looks a lot better on our new-fangled TV sets. There are also a handful of familiar multiplayer modes as well as the option of using your Xbox Live avatar as a skater in the game.

On the surface, you’re doing the same thing now that you did in 1999: each level is home to an assortment of objectives and a handful of hidden items. You get two minutes to skate around and complete as many of those objectives as you can. Finish one and you earn a cash reward as it gets crossed off your list. The cash can then be spent on various skill and gear upgrades for the skater that earned it.

So far, so good, right? Unfortunately, the cracks in the HD pavement begin to trip you up almost as soon as you fire up your first game. The controls are unpredictable, feeling as supremely responsive as they’ve ever been in some spots, and downright unreliable in others.

Grinds are a particular sticking point, with landing a specific one boiling down to a total crapshoot that depends entirely on where your board is in relation to the rail when you hit the grind button. Vert jumps don’t fare much better, thanks to a much less forgiving window to plant the landing in than there was before.

Then there’s the fact that the series as a whole didn’t actually feel truly complete until reverts were added in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, a move that allowed players to string vert tricks into combos. Manuals remain, making grind-based combo chains possible, but the more limited moveset really hampers the experience. If the decision to skip reverts was rooted in balance issues, then Robomodo should have tuned the score-based goals to serve up more of a challenge. Whatever the reasoning was, the game suffers for the move’s absence.

You also don’t have control of the camera at all; while that may be the way things were in the original games, there’s no reason why such a feature couldn’t have been added. Instead, you’re forced to contend with finicky stop/go controls as you struggle to look around for hidden objects in each level.

All of these issues carry over to multiplayer as well, since they’re largely basic functional shortfalls that hamper the experience. Online play isn’t without a few of its own quirks, however. Bafflingly, there’s no option for replaying a particular match; once an online session ends, players are sent back to the lobby and a new load screen must be endured. Lag also seems to be a problem for some, though I admittedly didn’t come across any as I played.

Conclusion 

The first Tony Hawk game was a revelation, for myself and for many others. That game and its sequel are the reason that I bought a Dreamcast back in the day. Meanwhile, the third and fourth games together spent more hours in my PlayStation 2 drive tray than any other title. I know my Tony Hawk, I love my Tony Hawk… and given all of that, I can’t in good conscience recommend THIS Tony Hawk. The pieces are still there and they’re looking great; it’s just a shame that the game doesn’t play nearly as well as it could or should.

Score: 6 out of 10

(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by Activision)

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