It is a good time to be a Tony Hawk fan. After several horrible attempts and a completely unnecessary fake skateboard, Activision has rewarded the fans with a proper game for the first time in a long time. The only problem is that it is basically an updated re-release.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD takes the best levels and challenges from THPS and THPS2 and graphically improved them to be enjoyed on next generation consoles. While some challenges have been updated to reflect more modern media, with hidden tapes becoming hidden DVDs, for the most part it is exactly what you'll remember playing on your Playstation or N64. The soundtrack also features a number of songs used in the first games, including my favorite, Superman by Goldfinger. While the new songs aren’t as memorable as the returning ones, they still fit in with the skateboarding genre and are welcome additions.
The game also plays like the originals, with combos easily pulled from memory. Those who played later entries in the series may be in trouble though as things aren't quite as easy as they were when it came to games like Underground and American Wasteland; you can't simply wall stick your way to a never-ending combo. Here, you really have to work for those points. The game is more forgiving when it comes to wrecking yourself though, resetting quickly so players don't waste any precious seconds.
The cast is lead by the Birdman himself, Tony Hawk, as well as playable characters from previous games like Rodney Mullin, Eric Koston and Lyn-z Adams Hawkins. It also includes unlockable gag characters that the series has become famous for, such as the ever enchanting Ollie the Magic Bum. Players can even select their Xbox Avatar, although, to be honest, he looks like some kind of awful college mascot compared to the actual skaters. Sadly, no Marvel superheroes or Sith lords were included in this game, although there is a playable robot. That is better than nothing.
While the game features a metric buttload of nostalgia, it isn't without its faults. Problems from the original release, such as invisible kill walls and hard-to-reach challenge items are still present, but a competent player should be able to handle them easily. The game does seem to randomly glitch though, with one run in The Mall keeping me from being able to jump, but these errors are few and far between.
The game also kicked it up a notch with the online multiplayer. You can face with three others in any of the levels in classic modes such as Graffiti as well as the new Big Head mode where you must complete huge combos to keep your head from growing huge and exploding. Plus there are plenty of jokes one can make about how big Tony Hawk's head has gotten.
If you're into skateboarding and nostalgic fun, you'll probably enjoy this title quite a bit. If extreme sports aren't your bag, Xbox still has four more weeks in the Summer of Arcade to get things rolling for you. Just not on a skateboard.