Swiss Woman Doctor: You killed him!
Herbert West: No, I did not. I gave him life.
If there is one thing that pulp fiction has taught me, it’s that reanimating the deceased is always a bad idea. In the business of reanimating corpses, the decomposition and decay on a deceased body leaves the resurrected a broken husk – a horrifying shell of their former selves. Yet time and time again people the hubris of mankind blurs the vision of otherwise upstanding men, turning them towards the dark arts and disaster.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater has been dead for quite some time. It died a natural, timely death- thoroughly milked for substance well past its prime. Yet here I stand, watching the ghosts from a time long forgotten fumble painfully across my television screen, lost in a world that might have best been left buried.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD has the right moving parts – Goldfinger’s Superman anthem is still intact, and several of the stages from the franchise’s first two games have made the leap to current gen consoles with few transitional errors. Despite these successes, I still can’t shake a general feeling of disappointment while riding through Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’s heritage sites. Even skating through Venice, nearly a decade since it first debuted, feels less satisfying than when a much younger and more forgiving version of myself originally played.
To put it bluntly, this is not a game that should exist. It is a gross miscalculation and is sorely lacking in features for a game of this generation. The graphics are passable, but retain a last gen quality, almost certainly out of some unrealistic notion of authenticity. The lackluster visuals would be forgivable if not for the unreasonable glitches spotted throughout the game. Several times in my first playthrough, I managed to stumble my skater into the void between time and space, kickflipping into the abyss for nearly 30 seconds – an eternity in Pro Skater seconds. Though the skater eventually reset, the run was a wash, and this instance occurred no less than three times. To make matters worse, the hit detection between walls, rails, and the player’s skateboard seemed frustratingly inconsistent, often leading to nonsensical ledge grabs and missed grinds.
Also absent are many of the improvements and mechanics developed for the franchise’s later installments. I understand the necessity to keep things pure from a balance perspective, as the maps were not made to take advantage of current techniques. That being said, if the point was to simply re-release a dated skating game from the dawn of 3D gaming, then why even bother? Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater has not aged well, by most standards, and the later installments were better mechanically, if a little muddled and misdirected. Releasing the classic TH, with pixel perfect controls, would be similar to releasing Madden 99 in today’s marketplace – what’s the point of playing an installment based franchise’s first steps if they don’t live up to the content that followed? Would it not have been a more novel experience to release the classic levels in a more expanded and intricate environment?
This Frankenstein creature is riding on the single hope that people will purchase and play it specifically to hear Goldfinger and play the Hangar level again. But after the initial novelty wears thin, what is left? The gameplay is extremely dated, and the two Tony Hawk games THPSHD has resurrected are mostly forgettable outside of the soundtrack and simple nostalgia. It looks like its predecessors, but a trained eye can spot that there is simply much less content in this installment than the games it tries to pay tribute to. The lack of split screen multiplayer, for instance, is a mind boggling omission, and for what content the game does have there simply isn’t enough of it. My virtual skating skills have stagnated severely over the years, but I still had little problem blowing through most of the game’s challenges and stages in a very short amount of time.
Why was this game created? Simply to cash in on r/gaming nostalgia? Out of a labor of love, dedicated to preserving the legacy of one of gaming’s most iconic franchises? Regardless of the circumstances, the product in question is severely lacking in contemporary content, and feels more like a fan-made Unreal Tournament mod than a full fledged game. To those who wished for the franchise’s return, I hope you’re happy, because after this game’s release, and probable flop, we may not see any more Tony Hawk Pro Skater for a very, very long time.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD was released on July 18th, 2012 for Xbox Live Arcade, and will be available on PSN in Q3 2012.