- Publisher: Activision
- Developer: Robomoto
- ESRB Rating: “T" for Teen
- Genre: Skateboarding
- Pros: Nostalgia overload; levels look nice; just as fun and addictive as ever
- Cons: Starts slow; not the best selection of levels; no splitscreen; price
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD cherry picks skaters, songs, and levels from the first two THPS games. Many fan favorite older skaters didn't make the cut (no Steve Caballero, boo!) and were replaced with younger skate stars of today. You can also play as your Xbox 360 Avatar, which is kind of cool.
The levels are a bit more problematic. There are only seven of them - Warehouse, Mall, and Phoenix Downhill from THPS 1 and Hanger, School 2, Venice Beach, and Marseilles from THPS 2. Of those seven, there are three absolute classic great levels, two sort of so-so ones, and two completely awful ones. That isn't so good for $15 considering you could get THPS 1 and 2 on PSX or N64 or Dreamcast, or THPS 2X for Xbox (which is backward compatible on 360 along with THPS 3 and 4, THUG 1, and 2, and American Wasteland), for a lot less than that and get all of the levels good and bad.
The main single-player mode is a career where you complete objectives and buy better stats for your skater. Each skater is a separate career and replaying everything with each character is a possibility if you're really dedicated. You can also play Free Play in each level with no timer. An interesting new SP mode is Hawkman where dots are scattered around (kind of like Pac Man, get it) and you have to do tricks to collect the dots. Multiplayer is online only, so no splitscreen, but has graffiti and trick attack modes (no HORSE, though) along with a new mode called Big Head Survival where you have to do tricks to keep your head from expanding so large that it explodes.
One thing that needs to be said about the gameplay is that your skater starts off with low stats and you need to complete objectives to earn money to buy more stat points. I've seen a lot of initial impressions of the game where people complain that it is too slow or they don't jump high enough or blah blah blah compared to the classic games. The problem is that they just haven't upped their skater's stats enough. Once you play for a while and build your skater up, things get a lot easier. It has to be said that the physics aren't 100% like they were in the old versions of the games, but it really isn't too bad. Just like the different versions of the old releases all felt slightly different from each other, THPS HD also has a slightly different feel. You get used to it after a while.
I also feel that a lot of the initial negative impressions people seem to be having is that they expect the games to play faster or easier than they actually do, which is pure nostalgia driven fantasy. Later games in the series played a lot faster and were easier because the gameplay got tighter and new moves and abilities were added. THPS 1 and 2 were (and still are, we actually played the old games to compare before writing this review) kind of brutally difficult and unforgiving and a little slow (particularly THPS 1, THPS 2 holds up pretty well even today), but once you figured out the physics and controls and levels things got a lot more fun. THPS HD is the same way - it starts off difficult and slow, but gets better the more you play it. It took us a little bit to remember how to do things and get back in the THPS mindset, but once we did we didn't have any complaints with the gameplay.
One final gameplay note - We used the analog stick exclusively in our time with the game and had zero problems with the controls. You don't have to use the d-pad to play this game well, despite what a vocal minority will try to make you believe.
Graphics & Sound
The sound is also solid for the most part. The sound effects are better than they used to be. The soundtrack is a mix of select songs from THPS 1 and 2 along with some new tracks, and overall the song list is decent. A lot of gamers' memories of these games are associated with the music, so not having the exact same tracks is a little disappointing, but since this is the Xbox 360 and you can use any music you want, it is a problem that is easy to solve.