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Anybody that knows me would probably tell you I’m about as far away from a “skater” archetype as possible. In fact, I’d probably snap a skateboard if I stood on one, but the Tony Hawk series of games were (at one point) great doses of OTT-arcadey skateboard fun. I played every one of them until I got a 360 and Project 8, which made me feel so motion sick I couldn’t play it to the end.

So it’s with some trepidation I go back to the source to play Tony Hawk HD – It’s a remake of the original 2 games, made by a different company (Robomodo – responsive for the down right HORRID Tony Hawk peripheral games), and touted as being remade “from the ground up”. Sigh.

If there’s something we’ve learned in the past, when you’re trying to recreate a game and you’re not just directly porting the original code, many times nuances of gameplay are lost in translation. This admittedly has been a problem in gaming as far back as when third parties translated arcade machines onto 8-bit home computers, but nowadays we’re translating games to better hardware platforms, not inferior ones. It shouldn’t happen. I like to call it the “Sonic 4 Effect”.

First thing’s first, by basing the game on Tony Hawk’s 1 & 2, it means it’s missing some of the innovations that were added in later games (most notably 3, arguably the best in the series). These are: Reverts (being able to continue your combo after landing a ramp), Manual combos, Grind combos, and from THPS4, Spine transfers. We’ll forget the getting off your board shit from later games, as stuff was admittedly getting a bit ridiculous by then, but those 4 examples there really added to the THPS experience, allowing you to rack up massive scores, running rings around stages without stopping.

So the question we have to ask is: Does THPS HD do the original two games justice? And the answer is: Not that well, really.

Let’s list the failure:

  • Gameplay feels “off” – At first, I thought it might be because I wasn’t used to the clumsy awkwardness of the first two games anymore, which you must remember were originally developed on the PS1. But I went back to the Xbox port, THPS2X (which plays exactly like the PS originals) to check. Nope, the gameplay does feel off.

    It’s been said that this gets better when you level up, and starts playing how you remember. All I can say is low stats didn’t stop me from pulling off a simple wall ride in the original.

  • Ragdoll Physics – For some unfathomable reason, Robomodo felt the need to add some very shitty, glitchy ragdoll physics in the game, this now makes bailing a frustrating mess, as it leads to the next 2 problems…
  • Clipping – After bailing your character, flopping about like a wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing inflatable tubeman, will invariably end up mysteriously clipping through walls and floors. Sometimes falling right through the map.
  • Respawning – In the original THPS, you’d bail, and be respawned at a logical point where you could continue your tricking. The respawning in THPS HD is… Unpredictable… to say the least. On many occasions you’ll end up pointing in the wrong direction, and at some points, nowhere near where you fell.
  • No custom playlist/skip track options – Don’t like the song that is playing during your stage playthrough? Tough. You can no longer pause and change the track. You can’t omit the tracks you don’t really like from playing, anymore, either.
  • No Create-A-Park/Create-A-Skater – Customisation was part of the fun of the originals, and making silly little parks that allowed you to create ridiculous combos and stunts was part of the charm. Not being able to create your own skater is also a huge missing element, replaced with being able to skate as your avatar. That’s right: Your fucking giant-headed, cartoony, doesn’t look right in context with the game avatar. Some games are better with their own character creator, and this is one. A huge backstep.
  • Level Selection – This is purely subjective, but I really don’t think the choice of levels really represents the best of THPS 1 & 2. No Burnside, No Chicago, No Roswell, No Philadelphia. Which leads me to my next gripe…
  • The best bits are coming as DLC – The gameplay improvements from THPS3, along with levels from it will be coming as DLC, and more level packs will be coming down the line too, so I’m hazarding a guess that Activision are holding back some of the more popular levels to nickel-and-dime it’s customer base. Surprise, surprise.

In short: THPS HD removes more than it adds, and what’s there doesn’t feel right.

If you don’t mind playing a non-hd game, stick to the PS1 originals, or even better, THPS 2X for the Xbox, which has everything from the original two games plus more, and is backwards compatible with the 360.

It only came out in the States, though, so you’re on your own in regards to how you get to play it.