Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD Robomodo/Activision Xbox Live Arcade (review code) PSN (available at a later date)★ ★ ★
Looking back on my gaming past, one of the highlights was accomplished through the create-a-skater mode in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. My friends and I made a joke character, based on a friend of ours that was so uncoordinated, the very idea of him on a skateboard drew giggles. So we created our friend, gave him a name based on the dumbass things he'd say and started playing. And since we sucked at the game, every time we screwed up our friend took a virtual spill, and that, for some reason, was absolutely hilarious to my friends and I. Eventually though, a strange thing happened. By the end of summer, we had played so much, our 'friend' had maxed out stats, and we kicked so much ass, that asses didn't know what life was like before kicking. The thing is, I'm not alone. Plenty of gaming veterans have gleaming memories of THPS, and now we have a brand spanking new HD remake to relive those glory days...
This downloadable HD title Frankensteins portions of both the original THPS and its sequel, offering you 7 levels (most of which are taken from THPS2). Also included are about seven of the original songs from the insanely addictive soundtrack – with some new tracks added in. Now, I know it's hard for you, dear reader, to tell my tone as you read this, but allow me to encapsulate my feelings in one sentence. That's a little disappointing. A giant selling point of these HD remakes is to play off the nostalgia of playing your favorite levels again, and no matter what way you slice it, someone's favorite level got axed – especially in favor of Downhill Jam (Tony's personal favorite level, and absolutely no one else's). The soundtrack is almost a larger disappointment, but at least the understanding that licensing may have something to do with it, takes some of the sting off of that. Also, some of the skaters have been replaced. (Where's Kareem Washington? Why's Riley Hawk in here, wasn't he like... 7 in 1999?!) Remember when I rose-tinted-glassesed the fuck out of that character creation mode a couple minutes ago? NOT INCLUDED... replaced with the ability to play as your Xbox Live Avatar. Yes there are a few new game modes included, like big head mode, but old fan favorites such as Horse are not. Leaving you with the feeling that for every new gameplay component, a couple (which may have been your favorites) have been excised.
Okay, so as painstakingly explained in the last paragraph, there's a lot missing in the game, but you know what IS still included? Fun. Yes, despite all its warts, Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD is fun as shit to play. The controls are simple, but hitting long combos isn't, and while gameplay doesn't feel 100-percent true to the original, what you get here is still engrossing and addictive. There's still that feeling that as you improve at the game, the synthesis between fingers, controller and game becomes more complete. That is what made the Tony Hawk games so great, and for the most part, it's still the case here in the HD remake. Trial and error eventually becomes success, and veterans and newcomers alike can get that feeling as you press on.
Remember that friend I spoke about? Ironically, that name we gave him as a joke in THPS2 had become and is still his gamertag on his various systems he plays, and that's apt for this review. While Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD does not bring you back to those halcyon days of the series, what does carry on is a reminder and testament to how great the series was, and in several ways, still is. | RDW