For those that have been new to gaming for the past five or so years, they would never have known of a decent Tony Hawks game. All of us slightly more geriatric gamers would constantly refer to the old games as some of the highlights of early 2000′s gaming; but considering what we have been treated to in this generation it’s hard to believe Tony Hawks games used to be any good at all. So ever looking forward, Activision hooks up with the recent trend and gives us a high definition remix of Tony Hawks Pro Skater. This however is not just any old HD update; this is a selection of tracks and characters and skating styles of both the original Tony Hawks and Tony Hawks 2 games, repackaged into one XBLA bundle. But even with two great games in one package, it still goes a bit wrong.
Though there are plenty of changes that Tony Hawk aficionados will notice, like the omission of the ever familiar Neversoft logo, thankfully the gameplay has been mainly untouched, which is a good thing as it was near perfect all those years ago, allowing you to pull off grinds, manuals, kick flips and plants with relative ease. Choosing from a selection of characters including Tony Hawk, Chris Cole, Emily Westlund and even your own Xbox avatar, you are able to take your deck over a selection of tracks and test your skills and nerves, trying to gain high scores or pull of that perfect high scoring hand plant. The single player career mode will start you off in the classic Warehouse level, with more areas unlocking as you complete a set amount of tasks in each level. Each map grants you 2 minutes to do as you please, offering plenty of chances to explore the levels but to progress you need to complete the many challenges that are littered throughout like collecting SKATE letters, high score challenges, locating and collecting a DVD (a sensible update from the old VHS tape), plus a fair amount of gaps to locate.
As you progress through the levels you steadily earn more cash which can then be spent on either increasing character stats or visiting the Trick Shop. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses spread over stats like air, hang time, switch, ollie, speed and lip, rail and manual balance skills. Initially your character choice will indicate your preferred play style but as you earn even more cash you are gradually able to add more points to your stats, creating an even better all-round boarder or specialise in one specific area. With the cash you can also pick up some new moves from the Trick Shop, with you being able to replace certain button combos with even more grabs, flips, lip tricks and special moves which all help in gaining even higher scores; or if you fancy a different look, pick up a new board.
The areas to skate on is rather lacklustre with only seven to play through which seems a bit miserly when you think of the amount of tracks both Tony Hawks 1 and 2 has on offer, but just like the originals, the joy is in the replayablilty. Each course is self-explanatory by its name like The Hangar, School II, Warehouse and The Mall, each offering hazards and trick possibilities indicative of the environments from airplane wings to school playgrounds to the more classic half pipes and bowls.
The graphical update is one of the better HD updates that we have received over the past couple of years, with the familiar level and character designs looking even better. The animations do appear more fluid, especially when playing as your own avatar, but the crash animations seem to have gone completely wrong, feeling overall a little floatier with many stacks resulting in your character being catapulted straight into the air. An element that has still been ignored is the inability to control the game camera, making it very hard to plot score runs or even at times see where you are going. This is helped a little by the inclusion of a map that now shows all of the important locations but it is still an oversight that really should of been fixed.
Online makes a welcome appearance with quick and custom play options available, allowing you to go up against three other skaters across modes with familiars like Trick Attack where you just pull of as many stunts as possible, Graffiti, where you pull off a high scoring move to own a piece of the course and a Free Skate Mode. New to online is the Big Head Elimination, where you head is continually expanding, with pulling off and landing tricks being the only way to shrink it; fail too many and your head will explode. These modes are great to test your skills against the rest of the world, though many players are already of a high standard, though you can always mess up their perfect score line by smashing right into them.
With courses from Tony Hawks 1 and 2 to play through plus a decent online mode, this version of Tony Hawks is the best arcade skating experience you can get on the Xbox 360, offering mad air, impossible tricks and grinds that go on and on and on.
Rating: Excellent Review Policy (version tested: XBLA)