To me, the old Tony Hawk series was always known as one of “the licensed games that could”. Under Neversoft’s helm, the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series (as well as the Underground games and my favorite, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland) were fantastic arcade experiences that encouraged hours of replay ability, a great soundtrack, and most of all, fun. The reason they have lived on in history is not nostalgia like The Simpsons arcade game, but plain fun.
Unfortunately, Neversoft stopped making these games in 2007, and a little team called Robomodo took over. They put out Tony Hawk: Ride and Tony Hawk: Shred, and that was likely the reason that so many of us saw the series as dead. However, it is Robomodo who developed Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, and as it stands, there may be some hope for this brand yet.
Pro Skater HD is a compilation of seven stages between the first two Pro Skater games. These levels are Warehouse, School II, Mall, Hangar, Marseille, Downhill Jam, and Venice Beach. They feel exactly like they’re supposed to, and as such, the controls feel absolutely perfect. If you haven’t taken part in the series before, your job is to skateboard, get a high score from doing intricate tricks and completing objectives like collecting a secret DVD or finding a hidden magical homeless person five times on the beach.
Of course, when boosting your score, there are countless ways to do so. The controls feel so tight that it is fun-yet-challenging to pull off a combo that can net you one of the super-high scores and there are so many special tricks between so many diverse courses that monotony seems impossible to attain for quite a while.
Completing any of these goals will award you with money or rewards. The money you earn can be spent unlocking stronger stats for any of the included skaters (featuring Tony himself, his son, and plenty of other pro-skaters), different skateboards, or new tricks. If you happen to complete certain goals, rewards reflecting these can also be unlocked, including a myriad of cheat codes, some interesting secret skaters, and new game modes.
The soundtrack is an interesting aspect of Pro-Skater HD. For so much value leveraged on the soundtrack in the original games, only half of the tracks in this game actually come from the original. Classic jams like Goldfinger’s “Superman” will be present, but you should also expect to find some stuff like “Teenage Blood” by the relatively small and new Apex Manor. Thankfully, the soundtrack’s careful selecting is clear, as every song works quite well and feels like it belongs. Unfortunately, as the playtime wears on, the music will start to get grating, as having only 14 three minute songs will cause repetition in a game like this very quickly. This could be seen as forgivable though, since the original Pro Skater had two more stages and four less songs, but it’s difficult not to wish that just a few more songs were added to cut down on this issue which was present in both of the original Pro Skater games.
My biggest problem with Pro Skater HD is that while it carries over much of what made the originals fun, everything responsible for the originals aging poorly is equally present. The camera is just as problematic as it was in the PS1 games and gave me some Super Mario 64-esque motion sickness after playing for an hour and a half. More so, despite being in high-definition, the visuals are still pretty rough, and are about on par with what was launching with the Xbox 360.
I suppose the important thing is that the game is still every bit as fun as it used to be and it includes a plethora of content well worth the price tag. Unfortunately, those expecting a full remake rather than a nice update will be sorely disappointed.