Tony Hawk: RIDE Review (PS3)
When a game from Tony Hawk comes out, people listen. They have for years, ever since Tony Hawk 2 proved to be one of the best skateboarding games still ever to be released. As the only skateboarding game for the better part of the genreís existence, at the first sign of competition, the franchise faltered heavily. Skate from EA released around the same time as Tony Hawk Proving Grounds, and demolished it with simple and intuitive controls.
So Activision took the franchise out of the hands of Neversoft, clearly busy with the Guitar Hero franchise, and handed it over to Robomodo to try something unique: a motion controller for a skateboarding game. This isnít actually new, as weíve seen boards for snowboarding games in arcades for years. This one includes four sensors and accelerometers to Ďfeelí gameplay, so that players can skate in-game as they would in real life.
While I enjoyed it at E3, late review units for all publications and a completely silent launch are bad signs for new games, and in this case proved true. Tony Hawk: Ride (TH: R) is a simplified version of a skateboarding game that has the functionality, severely lacks polish, desirable traits, fun, and perhaps most importantly, itís very physically limited.
|Maps you play on aren't complex or even that exciting.||Graphics look blocky and have pretty poor quality, especially considering the older titles.|
TH: R is simple beyond a fault: itís essentially an empty game, one that if played with a controller would fit at the turn of the millennium. Maps are played by completing a set of challenges, including a speed race, trick and challenges. Once enough points are earned, new maps open up to repeat the process. How many points you earn isnít shown until after leaving the map instead of before, meaning players must exit the map, load the menu screen, see their score, and reload the map if they want to redo the challenge.
Loading times are, in turn, atrocious. The elevators in Mass Effect feel fast in comparison. Every map requires loading, players are tossed into and out of maps constantly, and thereís no way to freely roam and just complete challenges at your own pace without reloading. As if loading wasnít enough, every time you get one of the top five scores on a given challenge, you must input your player name. There is no way to turn this off.
Even though each course is built with simplicity in mind, graphically the game is poor. It could run on a PS2 or Wii (and in fact does). All videos introducing new characters and courses are shot in an annoying orange almost-cell shaded method, and audio doesnít sync up properly. I havenít seen such poor cinematography in a game since the mid-90ís.
In fact, the only visually appealing aspect of the game is the board itself, included with every copy (doubling the price). It feels solid, and I was able to stand on it in any way without it feeling shaky or bending, which for a plastic peripheral is great. How it works is another story.
To play, stand on the board and pick which stance you play as, normal or goofy footed (this is also continually repeated, yet another nuisance). Then slide your foot on the right or left of the board to get going. The sensors donít read well, and Iíve found myself kicking to go in-game but not moving, and sometimes just turning the board slightly and the character on-screen will push off. Thereís no good way to gain speed normally because the sensors function poorly.
|Just about the only trick that works no matter what, manuals are also no fun and earn practically no points.||If only there were the option to make him fall and take damage.. Then there would be at least one fun thing to do.|
Performing tricks is easier, but also difficult and not something gamers will find fun. Ollie by snapping the front of the board up and dropping back down (otherwise, youíll do a manual). Tricks are done by performing an Ollie and turning the board left or right, twisting it up or down on one side, or by hovering your hand over one of the four sensors. These make the character on screen perform flip, kick and grab tricks.
These tricks are commonly done on a standard course, though half-pipes are also available in the game. In a half-pipe, players are told to stand on the board sideways so there is no front, and tricks are performed identically, though stalls and pipe grabs are also available.
What trumps all of this is the difficulty setting you play on. Casual gamers only need to be concerned about performing tricks; turning is negligible and mostly done automatically. Turn the difficulty up and it gives over full control of steering, which is suddenly overwhelmingly difficult. With the poor sensor sensitivity, properly steering and completing tricks is ridiculously hard.
The biggest gripe about TH: R is its lack of stability. Not just in the gameplay, lack of polish, or design, but with the board. Staying on the board is hard, just like a real skateboard, but at least when on a real skateboard physics kicks in. Turning is easier on a skateboard because of a little thing called acceleration, something which will make sure you donít fall if you lean right or left. Leaning on a stationary board doesnít support that, and arcade creators knew that and included metal bars to hold onto. Without them, youíll be jumping on and off the board all the time.
A ton of improvements could be made, most based solely on decades-old arcades. Gameplay is not fun; most of the time is spent performing one trick and hoping it reads properly. This new Tony Hawk title fails in every way that Activision wanted it to succeed: itís more difficult, itís less fun, and it still doesnít beat Skate. Sure, the skateboard is neat, but it, like everything else in the game, clearly is incomplete. Tony Hawk: Ride is just that: unfinished, incomplete, and broken. It may have the potential, but Robomodo has failed in delivering.