It's probably been quite a while since you sat down with the world's favourite skateboarder. After all, why would you have any reason these days? His latest video game iterations have been exercises in gimmicky crap, whilst the appearance and subsequent success of the Skate series has left old Tony trailing in its wake, likely having a mid-life crisis between kickflips and rail grinds.
So here we are with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, some 12 years since Pro Skater 2 was released on the dusty PSone you probably palmed off to a relative. Pro Skater HD isn't a direct jazzed-up port of the original two games, but rather a collection of some familiar levels that made those originals brilliant.
At first you'll find that, like the now 44-year-old pro skater, you're a little on the rusty side. This is an unforgiving game, and whilst it might look the part with its HD sheen giving legendary skating locations a new lease of life, the control scheme is not so accommodating. I struggled to nail the sweet spot on landings, became frustrated with the glitches that randomly sent me flying in to the air and cursed when my avatar collapsed limp at the knees without reason. The simple act of skating around feels stiff, rigid and often unpleasant, especially after a recent stint playing the smooth-as-a-baby's-left-cheek Skate. Worse than anything, it feels cheap.
That's how I felt, anyway. But once a couple of hours passed I completed the first few stages and my frustration levels slid back up to DEFCON 5. I regained my skating mojo (read: average competence) and lost that barrier between my controller and the virtual skateboard, though Pro Skater HD's myriad niggles never disappeared completely.
The campaign puts you through seven different stages, each with a two-minute window for you to complete objectives, whether it's collecting all the S-K-A-T-E letters, hitting score benchmarks or unearthing a hidden DVD. It's quick paced and frantic, and while it's relatively easy to hit the entry-level scores, the most hard-earned combos and trickiest discovery challenges are better left to when you've had a lot of practice.
Developer Robomodo (they of the ill-fated skateboard peripheral) adds new modes alongside the old favourites, too; the most entertaining addition being Big Head Survival, where you race to pull off the most rewarding combos to slow the rate of your head's expansion before its eventual and imminent explosion. Multiplayer is also fun, but bizarrely local 2-player is completely absent. This comes as a half-expected disappointment when you're expected to have digital friends rather than real ones, and it's an even bigger bummer when you realise the brilliant HORSE mode has also gone missing. Familiar modes like Graffiti and Trick Attack return, and Big Head Survival is turned into a multiplayer elimination game to see who can keep their combos alive and heads unexploded.
I grew up playing the originals, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want a lot from Robomodo's third effort. Thankfully, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is fun for the most part, but infuriating control issues, crazy bugs and various omissions make you wonder why a game that isn't an untouched HD port wasn't bolstered and expanded upon in some way. Robomodo has successfully crafted an enjoyable way to revisit some of the most memorable levels in this once-prestigious franchise, but with only seven available it's certainly slim pickings. Whilst more wallet-sapping instalments will arrive in the future, this incarnation of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater left me wanting much, much more than just content.
Version tested: Xbox 360
VideoGamer.com Score6 Score out of 10
- Big Head Survival is fun
- Stages look good
- Only 7 stages
- Controls feel stiff and cheap