Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD
Robomodo gave it an honest effort. Twice. They tried replacing the controller with a skateboard peripheral. The lesson learned is there’s nothing especially wrong with a controller and how Guitar Hero’s appeal for plastic instruments couldn’t extend into other brands. They’ve gone back to the well to draw from Neversoft’s best entries. There’s no better place to start with Pro Skater, yet they’ve made some curious choices with this scattershot HD version.
Pro Skater always felt close to what a skateboarding session essentially is. It’s about the two minutes that are bigger than the person on the board. There’s an opportunity to line up something good and this small window to execute. Each run feels like a couple minutes cut from some highlight reel, as objectives are systematically finished. In the background, a short playlist rotates songs you’ve heard before and some you haven’t. There’s no set style or theme for what the songs are, just something hooky and with a pace, stuff that most people probably wouldn’t listen to if it weren’t in a Tony Hawk game. It all feels assuredly ‘90s.
The first couple games are products of their time. Taken away from that context, they’re bizarre exercises in repetition. As HD only pulls in seven levels from the first two games, and they’re an odd seven, it doesn’t make a very good argument for why it exists. The levels could have just as well been pulled at random. Although there’s some affinity left for Hangar and Marseilles, the rest could all be replaced without any arguments. The Mall and Downhill Jam are dreadful and could’ve safely been cut up front. Warehouse is essentially a more closed off, earlier version of Hangar. School II and North Venice are inoffensive yet non-essential. And that’s everything. It’s abbreviated and could’ve used the upcoming Pro Skater 3 DLC, as the content’s running light as it is.
Apart from the iffy level selection, Robomodo’s made some other odd choices. They’ve gone with Unreal. Everything feels clunky and rough, with textures resituating, hitches in most runs, and odd detection glitches. It never feels exacting or precise enough on the 360 analogue. And forget about the d-pad. That 13 year old DNA shows too often and sort of defeats the purpose of the update, as the Dreamcast versions of Pro Skater 1 & 2 remain the best versions of those levels.
All of the potential positives are balanced out with more negatives. There are some new skaters and some old ones have gone. There is multiplayer and so you’re able to relive the good days of split-screen, although there is only online. Five songs remain from the old games and there are five new ones, a couple fitting in pretty well, but they’ve removed the option to adjust the soundtrack. They’ve brought in a landing system from later series games, yet left reverts to be sold with the Pro Skater 3 DLC, and it will only work on those levels.
I like the idea of coming back to Pro Skater more in theory than I actually enjoy playing it. It all feels a bit careless. There are a couple levels where the nostalgia came through strongly but most of the time it felt as though it were a 13 year old game with a slightly more realistic coating and fewer features. It doesn’t entirely make sense as a whole product. The best thing that can be said is it’s the best Tony Hawk Robomodo’s made.