Tony Hawk was released for the PlayStation in late 1999 and it managed to change the way that people looked at alternative sports games, their accessibility, and controls in action games. Since that point the game has been successfully driven into the ground by only catering to an ever shrinking fan base that seems to want longer and more obscure combos that can reach across vast levels driving progression forward. Interestingly enough Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD serves as a great example of the divide between these two extremes.
The first thing that is noticed while playing is what is missing from the interface. There is no choice to view what song is playing, or even select a rotation and what songs to remove from it. This option might have only been introduced in later games that had significantly larger and varied playlists, but that basically means that all sessions that last around twenty minutes are almost guaranteed to be forced to listen to the same song, possibly several times. Also oddly missing is the ability to pause the game and look at a move list, which can be helpful when going for a score attack on a level after collecting all of the S-K-A-T-E letters to look up the score heavy special moves.
The additions to the classic levels come in a mixed grouping. On the positive side there are additional goals on levels. This lets people who still have the sense memory of these games to lengthen out with additional items to collect and another tier of scoring to reach for some of the levels from the first game. On the odd side of things is the exclusion of all competition levels, which could make a form of sense if this was meant to be more of a goal orientated package, making this the first in the series to ship without such maps. The negative side is that some of the levels from the first game that didn’t have crazy high scores to reach now do, some of which were never designed for 200,000 plus scores.
On the issues of levels, the selection that was included in the game is questionable at best. I do understand that everyone has their favorite memories of the “good” Tony Hawk games, but I have never heard anyone praise Downhill Jam. Two levels that I personally remember being not enjoyable have been included—the aforementioned Downhill Jam as well as The Mall. While my view on these is limited to my friend group from when the game came out, I do remember us all feeling that all downhill type levels were simply something that needed to be completed to continue on with the game.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD is the first game to be released for this summer of arcade, and honestly one of the ones that I was looking forward to for some time. While there are a bunch of negatives about the game it acts as such a nice trip down memory lane that it is hard to have any negative feelings about it. I am sure that regardless of the actions that were taken to make the game fans of the original series would still have something to complain about, namely me, but I think that they might have hit a rather nice middle of the road mark. Hopefully some of the promised downloadable levels can even out the content, and at a reasonable price if one can dream.