Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD Review (Xbox360)

It's crazy to think how badly the Tony Hawk's brand has faltered since its inception. At the turn of the millennium, the series looked set to keep the quality rolling, but things changed very quickly. The games lost sight of what made them fun to play, and a couple of peripherals later, the good name was dead. With the release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, an attempt to recapture the glory days has been made.

Like most sporting greats who return for a second stint, this hasn't aged particularly well. The nostalgia of landing insane combos with ease quickly subsides, and is replaced with slight confusion. Tony Hawk games have always let players get away with slightly off timing, but that doesn't seem to be the case any more. Instead of easily slipping back into your old ways, the excitement depletes rapidly.

Hawk is back, but his heyday is well behind him.

Part of this is due to a strange tweak in the physics system. Initially, the game feels floaty, as a sense of weightlessness cripples each trick. This takes a while to get used to, and will put many players off immediately. This slight change isn't aided by the way your skater slams into the ground, and at times, is propelled into the air like a rag doll. Even the tiniest of mistakes can result in a ridiculous accident, as your player often smashes their head against the ceiling.

Once the physics are gotten used to, plenty of problems hamper the rest of the title. Tricks are still satisfying to land, but are more challenging than ever. Unfortunately, on the Xbox 360 controller, it's difficult to input commands with precision. Directions are similar for each move, meaning there's always the chance of pulling off the wrong trick at a vital moment. Landing a 900 is cool, but accidentally trying it when you have little air means the nuances of the original are quickly lost.

Seven levels represent the best of the first two THPS titles, but they have also lost something over time. Stages such as Warehouse, School II and Venice Beach feel lifeless, as if the party has packed up and gone home. Even when each two minute run is crammed with objectives, there's a sense that something is missing. Collecting S-K-A-T-E is still fun, and challenging high-scores remains entertaining, but there isn't enough content for 1200 MS points.

Levels are bland and feel empty.

Attempts have been made to modernise the series, but these touches fall flat. Playing as your Avatar is completely weird, as the character's dimensions are over-the-top, and feel more at home in an indie game. Most horrifically, the soundtrack is woeful. Every song seems to incorporate a whining lead singer and annoying chorus, making the mute button more enticing than ever. Don't expect to hear the much-loved soundtrack of previous games, as Papa Roach and Rage Against The Machine are nowhere to be seen.

Multiplayer also suffers dramatically. Offline play is non-existent, and online riddled with lag. If you can get into a game, anyway. Already there seems to be a lack of players online, a truly worrying sign for a title that should excel in this area. Three multiplayer sections have been included in the form of Graffiti, Trick Attack and Big Head Elimination, but the best of all is missing. If you're a fan of H-O-R-S-E, don't expect to be playing it any time soon. Hopefully Robomodo will have the sense to add this later on, but for now, multiplayer is as disappointing as the rest of the game.

It's this feeling, the one of crushing disappointment, that riddles this HD update with frustration. Activision killed the series for a reason, and there's nothing here to suggest that decision was a bad one. Veterans might get some excitement out of this, but nostalgia is soon overpowered by reality. If you feel like reminiscing with the Tony of old, I'd recommend getting your PS1 out instead.
Top Game Moment: Landing an insane combo still produces a smile.

Platform Played: Xbox 360



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