Tony Hawk's Pro Skater Review

By: John Doe

What do you get when you combine the best skateboarders, great animation, excellent control, amazing camera work, stunning environments with a huge dose of fun? You get Tony Hawk's Pro Skater; truly a masterpiece of game coding and one of the best games I've ever played. No kidding.


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.

I'll tell you right now that THPS suffers from draw-in at times and the odd see-through wall, but so what? It doesn't effect the gameplay one iota. I've never experienced a game camera that freakin' intelligent. The camera programming alone is enough to rate this game a 10.

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. Either pressing the square, triangle or circle buttons while pressing in one of the 8 directions on the joypad or analog stick easily executes moves. Each button represents a style of trick. The square button executes kick tricks, the circle button does grabs and the triangle button allows you to pull off all kinds of grinds. In conjunction, the R and L shoulder buttons provide spins while the X button is used for jumps (ollies). 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. I had the opportunity to watch a student of mine named Brady, play this game. Brady is into skateboarding in a big way and really knows his stuff. Watching him play this game was amazing. He was pulling off these incredible combos with such ease that it was just as much fun to watch as it was to play. Not surprisingly, Brady is really into this game. In fact, he bought another PlayStation (he sold his awhile back) just to play this game. That's how good it is.

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. With 9 levels to play through, all of the extras to unlock, including some great videos of your favorite skaters and those hard to watch "Bails", THPS pulls ahead of the pack with ease.

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.

On the tune horizon expect nothing but the best. Dead Kennedy's, Primus, the Vandals, the Ernies...all real bands with all real tunes. You'll even be able to catch videos of the band playing in the environments. Definitely very cool. I was a little disheartened to hear the same tunes play over and over again while playing a level in Free Skate mode. It would have been nice to hear various tunes will playing one particular level.

Complaint Dept. Yeah, right. Okay, one thing. I'm kind of cheesed because this game is so amazingly good that it's putting me way behind in my work. Didn't Neversoft and Activision stop to think about that? Are they inhuman?

Well there you have it. If you have been hemming and hawwing over this game, you had better get to the store fast. Without a doubt this game is now one of my all time favorites. Neversoft deserves a standing ovation for this one. Oh I'm sure you are thinking, "But it's just a skateboarding game." Correction. Street Sk8r was just a skateboarding game; Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is an epiphany. And after all of that there is still more good news. Neversoft is hard at work on another game you'll probably have an interest in: Spider-Man for PlayStation. Spidey's game uses the same game engine as THPS, so you can imagine how incredible that game will be. Look for it this Spring. As for THPS, it has game of the year written all over it. Buy it and you'll see. Very highly recommended. Oh and one last thing; Nintendo 64 owners can look for Tony this winter.






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