Tony Hawk's Pro Skater Review

By: John Doe

Who would have thought this game could be any better? N64 owners had to wait 7 months for this, but it's been worth it! The game is 100% faithful to the PSX version and even looks better, but you had better have the expansion pack!


I don't much care for skateboarding. I never watch it on TV and it's been literally 17 years since I was last on one. So when I played Tony Hawk at E3 in May I was underwhelmed. Little did I know that my life was about to change the day I received the Fed Ex package from Activision with this game in it. After playing for a few minutes I couldn't believe what was happening. I didn't have to fumble with the camera, AT ALL. When I went up a ramp and into the air, the camera slid effortlessly behind my character allowing me to get my bearings. When I pushed jump, I jumped. No delay. When I wanted to turn right, my character actually turned right. No hesitation. When I wanted to pull of a cool trick, I actually pulled it off. Was every nook and cranny of each level fine-tuned to maximize the potential for enjoyment? You bet. Huh? "Could this be for real?" I wondered. The Holy Grail of gamedom? A game that is perfect in every way? Could a skateboarding game achieve what so many games have tried and failed? After playing THPS, I came away with not only a new respect for those fearless athletes who actually pull off those stunts in real life, but also for the game programmers who sought to do their best and were able to realize their vision. This game is no less than utterly fantastic and anyone who says different can bring me their skateboarding game to play.

THPS features 10 pro skateboarders all complete with their own special boards and stunts. You can select from Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Kareem Campbell, Rune Glifberg, Bucky Lasek, Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Geoff Rowley, Elissa Steamer, Jamie Thomas and even a special 11th secret boarder. I was a little concerned with having to use those dreaded little C buttons for the moves, but my fears were diminished instantly after playing. All 11 boarders share the same basic (if you can call them basic) moves, such as the Tail Grab, Indy Nosebone, Madonna, 360 Shove It, Heelflip, Nosegrind etc. If you fill up your Special Meter, your character will be able to pull off his or her own special moves as well. If you learn to combo your tricks, you'll be pulling off points in the tens of thousands. Hundreds of combos are possible, so get practicing.

The game starts with one level open, and you must meet various objectives in Career Mode to advance. Each objective that is completed nets you a videotape. New levels and equipment are unlocked by obtaining a given amount of videotapes. For example, to unlock the second level (the school) you must at least earn two videotapes in the warehouse level. To earn a tape you might have to find the letters S-K-A-T-E strategically placed around the track, score a certain amount of points, knock down or crash through a set amount of objects or simply find the hidden tape in each level. Each level has its own set objectives and needless to say this ups the ante for replayability, making this almost a skateboarding/adventure game. Once you unlock a level, it opens it up in the Single Session and Free Skate modes as well.

THPS even has an amazing two-player mode that will keep you playing for a long time. You and player 2 can select from Graffiti (players "tag" the environments with their color by tricking off of them. You've got two minutes. Go!), Trick Attack (two minutes to rack up the most points) or HORSE (it's a game of copycat. Pull off a better trick than your opponent in the same spot. Blow it and you get a letter...).

Speaking of adventure, wait till you get to the outdoor levels. Not only are they huge but the programmers went that extra mile to ensure playability throughout every inch of them. You'll grind up handrails, jump on trolley cars, skate down escalators, make wicked jumps off of buildings, smash through windows, skate down a river gorge and maybe even visit a top secret site that if you trespassed upon in real life, would be shot or at least jailed and fined $600.00 immediately. That last part is true. I tried it last time I was out in Nevada. They didn't shoot, but they emptied my bank account very quickly and threw me in the clink, which was kind of dumb, because the clink was actually inside Area 51 and I got to see everything they didn't want me to see in the first place. For those who are wondering, yes, aliens do exist and they resemble Alan Thicke. Or maybe Alan Thicke was just flying a UFO when I was there.

Graphically THPS is the cats meow. The framerate runs high and although there is a fair amount of draw in on the larger levels, it really doesn't hamper the gameplay at all. The animations of the boarders are excellent and look realistic, not to mention painful during those incredible wipeouts. As mentioned earlier the game camera is 100% perfection. Not once did I blow anything due to a poor camera angle. Simply incredible.

The N64 version even manages to squish all of the heartwarming tunes from the PSX version onto a cartridge, which is a feat in itself. They sound a tad muffled, but that's to be expected as it's not Red Book audio.

If you own an N64 and an expansion pack, then what are you waiting for? I considered Tony Hawk to be the best game released in 1999 for any system (argue if you must, but I won't listen). Sure there is nothing new here and if you've already played the PSX version to death, you may not want to invest in the same game just to play it on a different system.






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