Release Date: July 18
Platforms available on: Xbox Live Arcade (PSN, PC soon)
Price: 1200 MS Points (£10.80 / $15)
Once the go-to franchise in gaming, the Tony Hawk series has been hit with some hard times these past few years. One of the main criticisms of Activision's more recent skateboarding titles is that they have increasingly grown detached from what made the series a hit in the first place. In an effort to bring the series back to its roots, we now have Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, a literal retread of several tracks from the first two Tony Hawk games remastered on Xbox Live Arcade.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD aims for your nostalgia and, for those who spent countless hours with the original games, it hits hard. Skating through the levels and pulling off grabs, flip tricks, spins and grinds all feels right.
Progressing through the career mode has you choosing a skater from a mix of classics and newcomers alike, and shredding through seven recreated levels while completing a myriad of objectives.
It will feel instantly familiar to longtime fans as they collect the letters for S-K-A-T-E, find specific trick spots and reach for high scores. Each level also has a few new objectives to help make the familiar levels feel new again as you seek out more of their secrets.
A key addition in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is the manual trick, allowing you to string together tricks more easily and reach for higher combos. The move wasn't introduced until the second Tony Hawk game, so it opens up whole new combo possibilities in the first game's stages that were never possible before.
The levels themselves are a fairly mixed bag. They all look fantastic, recreated in new detail with little touches like birds that scatter as you approach and a beach ball to kick around just for fun.
Tony Hawk 2's levels fare very well, with classics like School II, Hangar, Venice Beach and Marseille. The first game's levels, however, aren't as impressive, with the classic Warehouse level joined by the less popular Mall and Downhill Jam stages. The latter two forgo the idea of an open skate park for downhill races, making it frustrating to complete objectives. That level format was wisely abandoned in most of the Tony Hawk titles that followed, so it seems an odd choice to dredge both of them back up with the already small track list.
Yes, seven tracks is pretty meagre, less than either of the first two Tony Hawk games contained individually. That is without mentioning Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X, an original Xbox launch title, which included all levels from both games as well as additional levels.
Obviously, simply porting the games to Xbox back then was simpler than recreating the levels from scratch for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, but it's rather sad to think that the modern 'best of' collection is so incomplete compared to its 11-year-old predecessor.
It isn't just the number of levels that is lacking, many prominent series staple features are nowhere to be found as well. Some of the omissions are sad yet understandable due to their complexity, like the lack of a level editor or create-a-skater option.
However, other omissions are felt more deeply, like the alterations to multiplayer. The inclusion of online multiplayer for up to four people is a great change, but the option to play locally via split screen is strangely absent in any form.
There are also some very peculiar bugs found in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD with alarming frequency. Accidental collisions with grinding rails high in the air, such as in the Warehouse and Hangar levels, almost always resulted in the skater crashing and then being propelled like a rocket further into the air.
There is also a strange tendency for skaters to respawn directly into performing a manual after a bail, which takes precious seconds off the clock in the game's timer-based challenges.
It's also a shame, perhaps, that the Xbox 360 version is the first one to release. Similar to most fighting games, the combos in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD are best performed with the precision of a D-pad, which is notoriously the weakest part of the Xbox 360 controller.
It's fairly easy to criticise what Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD isn't without truly acknowledging what it is. It is, in fact, a highly competent retread of classic levels that captures the addictive feel of the original games.
However, the Tony Hawk series has such a rich history that even as a compilation of only the first two games, what is offered in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD falls well below expectations.
Newcomers to the series who may have been too young when the originals released will get an excellent snapshot view of what made the series such a hit in the late '90s and beyond. But for long-time fans, it will likely feel more like a missed opportunity once the nostalgia wears off.
In a perfect world, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD will lead to a brand new game in the series, because the core mechanics are just as fun as ever. But the bare-bones presentation around those mechanics may not be quite the return to form for which fans had hoped.