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Saturday, 20 October 2012

#2: Tony Hawk's HD Review

For years now fans of the Tony Hawk's franchise have been clamouring for a return to the series roots. The past two games in the series have left a slightly bitter taste in the mouth's of die-hard fans and critics alike. The most recent of the two, Shred, sold only 3000 copies in it's first week on sale in America, and, according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, was responsible for publishers Activision putting a halt on the series. While it is arguable that these two games (and Downhill Jam on the Playstation 2) are spin-offs from the main series with different development teams behind them, it certainly isn't arguable that they were let downs. Big ones at that. Fast forward two years and one development teams behind the ill-fated 'spin-offs' have decided to turn their hands at the ever popular HD collection trend.

Taking levels from the first two games, Robomondo does a fairly good job, overall, of bring them in to the present. There's still something exhilarating about rolling down the ramp in the Warehouse level to the sound of Goldfinger's Superman, before clearing a half pipe and landing sweetly on the other side. Mechanics are in place from the first two games such as the ability to elongate combos through manuals. That said however that's about all you can do. Want to spine transfer? Sorry. Want to throw in a cheeky revert on a quarter pipe? Can't do it. Feel like getting off your board? Not a chance. While these things don't necessarily take away from the overall feel of them game; especially to those of us who remember not even being able to manual on the original THPS way-back-when, it will still cause some frustration to fans of the series who joined on the Playstation 2 when their combos are cut short despite tapping R2 to perform said revert. The level choice is generally quite good (with the exception of Downhill Jam, a personal worst level for me, but it must have some fans given the spin-off title). Classics like Hanger and Marseilles are back, as well as School II and of course the Mall. Despite the generally good choices I still feel that 7 levels (the one I've not mentioned is Venice Beach) is not enough for the title, although Robomondo have plans for DLC in the future. The soundtrack is again generally good with classics such as “No Cigar” by Millencolin and “You” by Bad Religion punctuated by more modern songs. However, like the level design I think there could have been a significant amount more songs added given how often the songs tend to repeat themselves and offer no semblance of order, with more than on one occasion changing level to hear the song you've just heard start again. Something noteworthy is the ability to restart your run without the track repeating; something that I hated as a kid playing the original titles. The graphics are impressive when viewed in their intended high definition, but personally I'm using an old TV to play (my more recent is in my flat in Leeds) and it looks like a decent PS2 title (though that's to be expected).

The reason I'm reviewing this game so late after it has come out is because a) it took me a while to get round to playing it, and b) the first few weeks I had it I couldn't get enough, and so would have given it a rather more rose-tinted review. Once completing this game the fun didn't run out; unlike the nostalgia. Upon completing every single objective with one character you unlock a series of projectives which are “much more difficult” than the original ten of the level. This sounds like a good idea. Until you realise that they're the same across all 7 levels, with the exception of the score objectives which get harder as you progress. This, in my opinion, is just laziness on the part of the development team who could have mixed it up a bit and not just rehashed the same 5 goals. There are also other types of game as opposed to career such as the newly introduced Hawkman, which has you collecting tokens in a combo, different colours mean different rules of collection. And Big Head Survival, which sounds like it would be more at home on an a Tekken game than a THPS revamp. 

Despite sounding overly critical of the game it is still something I will go back to given my nostalgic nature and the games ability to make me feel 12 years younger. Had this game had a little more thought and planning, and perhaps integrated the first four THPS games instead of two; and been a full retail game it could have been something really special. As it happens it escapes feeling like a cash-in but with the prospect of DLC looming that could change depending on how reasonably the content is priced. New skaters in the character selection take away from the nostalgia but that isn't important to the game as a whole since none of them feel any different from the others anyway and only have a marginally different skill set between them unless you manually change each character's individually in the Skate Shop menu. As a whole the game plays as smooth as anything from this generation, and the lifelike reactions of the characters when they land 'sloppy' are fantastic and long overdue. The occasional physics glitch that sends players hurtling in to the air are more amusing than irritating unless they mess up a combo, and will especially make players familiar to the original games smile. Worth a download if you're looking for a less realistic skating game than what's the Skate series offers, and with DLC on the horizon it could expand THPSHD from something good, in to something brilliant.