In 1999, Activision released one of the most revolutionary titles in the sports video game genre in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. The title enjoyed incredible success due to its fantastic, intuitive gameplay and the addiction to perfect your lines for better scores. Its sequel, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, took the formula to another level adding in the Manual trick and Create-a-Skater and Create-a-Park modes. Since then, the Tony Hawk video games have seen a roller coaster of quality. Now, Activision looks to bring this franchise back to its former glory by taking the better of the first two titles enhanced for the HD era of gaming.
The core gameplay that swept over the gaming world is still as fantastic as ever. Players take control of a multitude of skaters to complete goals and collect cash through skating paradises. Pro Skater HD has taken seven levels from the first two titles to recreate in near perfection. Each stage looks as veterans would remember with the necessary upgrades for modern gaming. All the hidden areas and fantastic trick spots are there. As before, players can create huge combos by linking tricks together using manuals and grinds. For the most part, everything runs rather smooth. Occasional framerate drops can needlessly hinder a great run. While it doesn’t happen often, having a trick resister later or not all can force a bail or prevent a combo from continuing.
Each level comes with a set of challenges for players to complete within a time limit to gain cash for tricks, stat upgrades, and deck designs. The classic score thresholds, S-K-A-T-E, and find the Hidden Tape (DVD now) return with new challenges unlocked later on titled Projectives. Projectives test the skills of the player with the highest scores and difficult combo lines. If you aren’t feeling good about a particular run, a convenient quick restart button has been assigned. It keeps players in the game and out of the menus.
Additionally, new modes can be played to further increase a skater’s cash count. Big Head Survival tasks players with landing constant combos to keep their skater’s head from inflating too much and popping. The longer you last, the faster your head grows so longer combos may not necessarily be best. In Hawkman, colored pellets are laid out around the stage for players to collect. Each color represents a different trick type that the skater must be performing in order collect the pellet. However, Hawkman can be unnecessarily frustrating due to the framerate drops. In some cases, the framerate drop would make my skater go right through a pellet that should have been collected. These additional game modes break up the traditional pace of objectives, but are ultimately not as entertaining alone.
Single player only takes the experience so far, however. Objectives don’t vary from skater to skater so if you have completed everything once, there is little incentive to go back and experience it all again outside of unlocking additional skaters. Instead, Pro Skater HD’s replay factor comes from something the originals lacked: online features. The original titles had fantastic multiplayer, and now players aren’t limited to those around them. Traditional game types such as Trick Attack and Graffiti return along with Big Head Survival. Games are easy to find and jump into. Online runs smoothly with minimal lag to get in the way of the fun. If players do choose to keep at the single player after all objectives are complete in a stage, your current rank on the World Leaderboard is displayed on the upper right corner of the screen along with the score to beat. This produces an addicting desire to always want to improve your rank. While online features are fantastic to have, they come at a price. Local multiplayer is no longer an option as there is no split-screen to be found.
Other absent features are the creation tools. Create-A-Skater and Create-A-Park are both missing in action. It is such a shame since sharing Skaters and Parks online would have been an amazing feature. This would have given players an endless number of Parks to experience and seriously given the title even more replay value. In a world where Little Big Planet and its Play, Create, Share motto exists, deciding against these features feels like a huge missed opportunity for something truly special.
Pro Skater HD takes fan favorite music from the past titles and mixes in newer songs that feel right at home. The soundtrack features a nice mix of rock and hip-hop to give a little something for everyone. If the track listing doesn’t fit yours style, or the songs are starting to get repetitive, players can access their music libraries on the console and play from there. However, framerate drops seem to happen more often than normal with custom soundtracks playing so use with caution. In fact, custom soundtracks can’t be used at all if playing head-to-head online as a result.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD does a fine job of brining the magic of the original titles into a new era. Levels are recreated well, preforming tricks is as easy and smooth as ever, online features bring great replay value, and a nostalgic soundtrack complements it all. Lack of creation tools and local multiplayer is a bummer though, and occasional framerate drops can hinder the experience. Nostalgia flows through this HD reimaging that veterans will love, and new players will find a great skateboarding game to experience. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is still a fine example of gameplay even after all these years.