I've played a ton of games in my life, but there's always an elusive game or two in a series that evades me. For instance, I never had the chance to beat Majora's Mask until my Zelda Quest. As such, my goal is to eventually experience the entirety of many marquee series over the course of my gaming lifetime. In fact, I'm already planning on doing Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, Kirby, and Metroid in the coming years, and outside of Devil May Cry and Metal Gear Solid, I've missed one or two titles here and there.
This sort of dedication is fairly easy for me, as I have mild OCD. When I say "mild," I have to clarify that it kind of sets the tone for my quests, as I tend to not go overboard. As is the case with anything in life, moderation is key. I could just as easily go wild and buy Tony Hawk's American Sk8land, Downhill Jam, and Tony Hawk's Motion, as well as track down a number of ports on various dead consoles and portables, and include EA's Skate series. But just like how I decided against the CDi Zelda games for my Zelda Quest, I've avoided spin-off games in the interest of my sanity.
If you haven't joined me on my Quests before, the way they work is pretty simple. It's kind of like a retrospective, but rather than just give you an overview of a franchise, I'll generally let you know what I thought of the game when it was released and what I think of it now. If I didn't provide a complete vision of what the game is like before I replay it, I'll provide an "extended thoughts" section below each applicable entry. I'll update my progress in real time through my blog, and after I finish the entire Quest, I'll share it with you guys on the front page.
Why Tony Hawk?
I remember the first time I ever played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for the PlayStation. My friend and I had dabbled in skating around our neighborhood, and it basically came at the perfect time. Sometimes we'd sit there for hours just listening to "Superman," not even playing the game, simply theory-crafting new combo spots.
We'd also invent new game modes, like "Tag" before the it officially came to the series in Tony Hawk 2. For years to come, until American Wasteland hit, I would stay glued to the series. Even though my love for the franchise died down around that time, the release of Tony Hawk HD for Microsoft's Summer of Arcade has re-ignited my interest, so here I am!
As a result of the herald that is THPS HD, I plan on playing through every main series iteration this year. My requirements are fairly simple: Beat the game with at least one character and achieve all of the goals in every game for that character.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater - PlayStation [Owned], Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Game Boy Color, N-Gage
As previously mentioned, I played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater when it first came out for the PlayStation. This was before reverts and manuals, two largely game-changing abilities that allowed players to string together nearly an endless amount of combos.
All you could basically do here was grind, kick, and grab, but it was still insanely fun. The level selection would vastly improve in further iterations, but there was still a large amount of secrets and tricks buried within each level. For instance, the Secret Tape on Downhill Jam was like a puzzle, similar to finding the correct path in a particularly challenging Mirror's Edge time trial.
Although the game could be 100% cleared fairly easily during repeat runs, it took time to learn the game's ins and outs and track down everything. Two-player split-screen as a built-in feature was also genius. Although it hasn't aged nearly as well as Tony Hawk 2, or any other subsequent game in the series, it was still a classic for its time.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 - PlayStation [Owned], Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, PC, iPhone, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Xbox (As Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X) [Owned]
Tony Hawk 2 changed everything. It added a ton of levels that felt wholly unique, as well as the manual, which evolved the franchise. For those who aren't familiar with the series, the manual was essentially "popping a wheelie." It was an ability that allowed you to easily string together street tricks for the first time. Just like grinding, you had to balance your character while doing it, and it became increasingly harder to do over the course of one combo.
Level wise, there was a lot more variety in the required objectives, as well as the general variety of the locales themselves. There were many more secrets to be found; there were areas in some levels that I didn't even locate until years later. The character creator (Create-A-Skater) was also an amazing addition that added a ton of extra enjoyment to the game, on top of the additional multiplayer modes.
Although Officer Dick and Private Carrera from the first game would become staple hidden characters, Tony Hawk 2 was also the start of absurd character cameos like Spider-Man, who could utilize his web shooters for special tricks. Though Tony Hawk 3 was probably the most highly regarded game in the series, 2 brought a lot to the table and improved upon the first game in nearly every way.
THPS2X, released solely on the Xbox, was probably the best version of the game. It had every single level from the first two games (even Skate Heaven and Roswell), in addition to five brand new levels. It also had the ability to create female skaters and added LAN play, both firsts in the series. If you're looking to relive the glory days, 2X is a great starting point, as it's backwards compatible with your 360.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 - PlayStation [Owned], PlayStation 2, GameCube, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64, Xbox [Owned], PC
Although I probably spent the vast majority of my time playing Tony Hawk 2 over and over, Tony Hawk 3 was probably the most fun I've ever had with the franchise. Reverts ensured that you could spend the entire two-minute run doing one giant combo, which was a fairly absurd revelation for many casual players. I still remember doing one- to two-million+ point combos in split-screen while my friends were struggling to hit 50k. Man, what a dick move!
To sum up how much fun I had, Tony Hawk 3 was probably the best game in the series in terms of level-headed wackiness. It had Darth Maul, Wolverine, Ollie the Magic Bum, Kelly Slater, and the Demoness. Kelly Slater (a real life pro surfer) used his actual surf board in-game and had absurd grinds, like the ability to lay down on his board and paddle like he was in the ocean.
Simply put, Tony Hawk 3 was enjoyment distilled. The levels (including my personal favorite single level in the franchise, Cruise Ship) were incredibly well designed, and the soundtrack was solid (as is usually the case, but more so here). Airport was also one of the best levels in the franchise from a pure design standpoint.
If you haven't played Tony Hawk 3 yet, you can pick it up on the cheap. Just make sure you set your video settings to 480p if you're playing it on the 360, otherwise it won't work.
Tony Hawk 3 is just as amazing as ever, even today. It probably has the best collection of levels as a whole, and the objectives presented are extremely varied.
Although it has the standard "score/Secret Tape" setup, there are a ton of awesome bits scattered about that basically present mini stories. I doubt my opinion will ever change, but THPS 3 is my personal favorite in the franchise.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 - PlayStation [Owned], PlayStation 2, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, PC, Xbox [Owned], Tapwave Zodiac [lol Google it]
I have to admit, it took me about a year to warm up to Tony Hawk 4. At first glance, I was extremely turned off by the "open world" idea. I thought that it was just a sleazy way to pad the game, but in reality, it was fairly well done. More skater cameos joined the fray -- Jango Fett, Iron Maiden's mascot Eddie the Head, and Mike Vallely were playable characters.
The "new" move is the spine transfer, which allows you to transfer between quarter pipes -- you can also "skitch" off the back of vehicles and grab a free ride. While Tony Hawk 3 was technically the first game in the series to allow online play, THPS4 further pushed an online mode in the PS2 version.
Tony Hawk 4 was basically the end of an era, as the titles would be vastly different from here on out. In fact, this literally was the end of an era from a brand standpoint, since the "Pro Skater" moniker would be dropped for the rest of the franchise's history.
Replaying Tony Hawk 4 was not as enjoyable as I thought it would be. It's not that anything is particularly dated, it's just that the levels are fairly uninspired. Plus, after playing 3 and THUG, as well as seeing mechanics that were added before and after THPS4, it really feels like nothing new was done to make it special.
The story mode, as previously mentioned, is a way to allow players to explore the area and gain objectives in a non-linear manner, but it wasn't until THUG that this idea was realized. Not being able to get off your board is a real drag, because the game tries to encourage exploration with bigger levels, though it's not really a ton of fun. Still, I'm very much about recognizing games in context, and for the time, Tony Hawk 4 wasn't a bad game by any means.
Tony Hawk's Underground - PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox [Owned], Game Boy Advance, PC
After four iterations of experimentation, Tony Hawk's Underground (THUG) was really the first attempt to try something truly different. For one, it dropped the "Pro Skater" name, introduced a heavy focus on story mode, and allowed players to run around on foot. This mechanic was heavily used, as you need to walk around and climb up certain areas to access every challenge. It felt kind of hokey, but ultimately it meant levels allowed a bit more creativity, so the spirit of exploration was much more enjoyable.
THUG allows players to rise from a lowly street skater to a pro. Just like Madden NFL's "Create a Player" mode, you start from the bottom and work your way up. Unlike 4, which had kind of a goofy circumstantial story mode, THUG was the first real attempt to create a unique solo experience.
Looking back, I didn't like it as much as the standard "do runs over and over and get every goal" Classic Mode setup (which THUG 2 would thankfully add as an extra game mode), but it was nice that Neversoft was at least trying to evolve the franchise rather than keep it the same for half a decade. THUG also had the added bonus of having a 78-song soundtrack, which was basically four times the size of any other single soundtrack to date. To be blunt, it was absurdly amazing and covered pretty much every genre you could want.
Replaying THUG is probably one of the best experiences I've had so far in this Quest. It strays away from the previous titles in a big way and is all the better for it. Being able to get off your board is optional and rarely required in the main story (as is driving, thankfully).
Also, unlike 4, an attempt was made to actually string together the story in a cohesive manner, with a rags to riches setup. It wasn't the highest in quality, but it was unique for a sports game. Also, multiplayer had a few more modes which add to the package. Out of all the Tony Hawk games in the franchise, THUG is one of the titles that holds up the most.
I also really enjoyed the new stat system, which allowed players to level up similarly to an RPG, where doing relevant skills increased your point value. For instance, grinding for a certain amount of time would raise your grind stat. Stat points may be a bit easier to earn this time around than some of the other games, but ultimately your stats will max out anyways, so at least this was a fun, different way to do it.
Tony Hawk's Underground 2 - PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox [Owned], PC, Game Boy Advance, Mobile, PSP
When I first saw videos on THUG 2, I was extremely disappointed. I still remember to this day seeing a video of Phil Margera in his underwear grinding a rail, and in the next scene, a player driving a car. Maybe it was my personal stubbornness kicking in (just like how I was turned off by Tony Hawk 4 initially), but something didn't sit right.
Despite the fact that I've always been a big fan of Jackass and Bam, I was still apprehensive. Thankfully, I eventually played THUG 2 and came away fairly satisfied. Although THUG introduced its aforementioned story mode, which was novel at the time, it felt very by the books. THUG 2 attempted to throw a curve ball by basically incorporating a hokey Jackass storyline.
Thankfully, since the series had pretty much always been silly up until this point, it worked. It also had an "all star" collection of a ton of good levels from the first three games, as well as a fully playable "Classic Mode" for new and remade levels. It was essentially a "greatest hits" of Tony Hawk in addition to having a unique story mode featuring the antics of Bam Margera. As a result, I have no problem going back and playing it from time to time.
THUG 2 is ridiculous. Even though I like both Jackass and Tony Hawk, I can see people who are fans of both hating it, as it's absolutely over the top. Aboriginal Australians riding go-karts and Steve-O riding and skating on a mechanical bull are among some of the absurd things found in this game. Also, while all of the other cameo characters like Iron Man, Darth Maul, and Spider-Man were a bit wacky, there's something about skating as Shrek that feels... off.
If you can stomach all this wackiness, however, you'll find a decent, enjoyable game. For the first time ever, THUG 2 offers both the ability to play Story Mode (which actually has a non-generic story this time around), and Classic Mode, which functions just like the old games but presents the most fleshed-out (and most difficult) campaign in the entire franchise.
All of the old create-a-thing options return as well, like create-a-park, create-a-goal, create-a-skater, and create-a-trick. Additionally, the soundtrack is about as big as THUG 1.
If you're looking for content, either the standard version of THUG 2 or the remixed PSP version is a safe bet. If you can put up with the crazy antics that ensue, you'll find one of the biggest games in the series to date.
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland - PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360 [Owned], GameCube, PC
American Wasteland is the only game in the series that I barely remember playing. In fact, it's the only one I haven't beaten yet, outside of Ride and Shred (which I'll unfortunately get to later).
To be blunt, I don't know a whole lot about American Wasteland, but from what I hear, it's great. I can't wait to tear into the game and see what I've been missing.
I have a lot to say about American Wasteland, partially because I had very little previous experience with the game, but also because I think it's a bit of a conundrum of an entry.
First off, American Wasteland is a 360 launch title, and it shows. It wasn't until Project 8 that the series would march forward into a decidedly different direction, and after around six Tony Hawk games with very similar visuals, it was time for a change. Sadly, American Wasteland wasn't the game to fully deliver. That isn't to say the game is ugly, however, as there are a number of decent lighting effects that clearly showcase the increased graphical output of the 360 a bit more than the PS2 or Xbox could muster.
Gameplay- and content-wise, I feel like American Wasteland is better and worse than the rest of the series in many ways. Story-wise, this is the first real attempt to have an epic, sprawling story in a true open world with RPG elements.
When I spoke about the open worlds of THUG 1 and 2, they were mostly just giant stages for the player to explore. But in American Wasteland, just like in an MMO, every world is connected in single-player mode. You can head from one area to the next (or take public transportation) just like in a GTA game. It was refreshing, especially since you could trick between the areas if you had the skills.
While the story mode is a step up, the included Classic Mode is incredibly disappointing, to say the least. I suppose it's an improvement compared to 4 and THUG 1, which entirely lacked this addition altogether, but after the amazing Classic Mode included in THUG 2, American Wasteland really needed to deliver.
Sadly, I was able to beat American Wasteland's classic objectives in about an hour in their entirety. The levels themselves were also an odd mishmash of Tony Hawk 1 and fairly uninspired new levels. Compared to THUG 2's brilliant collection of classic levels and refreshing level of difficulty, they might as well have not included it at all.
At the very least, it is the only game in the franchise to have a cooperative Classic Mode option (which I played with my wife), but given the short length, it is fairly short-lived unless you plan on replaying it over and over.
Mechanically, the game is also fairly jarring. While there are a few extra minor moves, American Wasteland functions very similarly to THUG 2, but with even more tacked on. I feel like at this point, tricks are getting out of control, and a complete reboot would have really done the series some good (we'd have to wait until Project 8 for that).
Not only do you have manuals, reverts, sticker slaps, wallplants, spine transfers, spray painting, trick combos, Freak Outs, cavemans, and acid drops, you also have bank drops, bert slides, front flips, wall crawls, and more. It was a bit overwhelming, since it took an hour to re-explain everything from the first six games.
While I can see myself going back to American Wasteland every now and then, so far in this Quest, Tony Hawk 2X, 3, and both THUG games take the cake for me, all in different ways.
Tony Hawk's Project 8 - PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox 360 [Owned], PSP
Although Wasteland was technically the first 360 game in the series, it wasn't a true "current-gen game," as it was initially developed for the previous generation. In fact, it came out a month before the 360 was even launched. As a result, Project 8 was the first real "current-gen" franchise game, and it showed.
Because of this jump, I had a rekindled interest in the series, so I tried it around launch. The fact that Suburbia, School, Downtown, and Factory are linked into one level is pretty awesome. The scale was also very large, as there are 45 playable characters, each with their own mo-cap style, leading to unique movements and tricks.
Because of these additions, Project 8 felt like the first "new" Tony Hawk in years. As for advancements, it added the "Nail the Trick" mode, which I absolutely hated and rarely ever used. It allowed you to slow-mo tricks with the analog sticks, which I found incredibly un-fun.
Of course, that one issue was the only major thing I found wrong with the game, even if it wasn't as wholly fun as the old titles. Unfortunately, this newfound interest wouldn't stick, as the next game in the series wouldn't break new ground for me, and the two after that were absolute failures.
Project 8 blew me away with how well it's held up. The Career Mode is basically one giant reality TV show, where you have to make it from the lowly rank of 200 all the way up to Tony's top 8. Every challenge you do counts towards this, and for the first time, Amateur, Pro, and Sick goals are available for each individual challenge.
The Sick requirements are usually pretty absurd, meaning the game is as easy or as hard as you want it to be -- genius design, in my opinion. Mechanically, it took a long time to get used to, because after playing seven straight games in the franchise, which kept building and building upon previous mechanics without fail, all that became muscle memory.
In Project 8, pretty much everything is different. You can grind, trick, wallplant, manual, revert, spine transfer, and bank drop, but that's about it. It goes back to the basics, cherry-picking the more realistic tricks/moves from the first seven games.
I can easily see why that wouldn't be ideal for loyal fans, but honestly, I think the series could have used a shakeup, and the "Project" setup is excellent. The engine wouldn't be as highly lauded for the follow-up, unfortunately, as Proving Ground essentially killed the series.
Tony Hawk's Proving Ground - PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, Wii, Xbox 360 [Owned]
Proving Ground, to be blunt, was just "alright" at an absolute maximum on a good day. I didn't really see any major improvements over Project 8, and even though it attempted to have a more intricate "class" level-up system, which allowed you to choose your specialization, it wasn't really a fun game overall.
While THPS 1-4 were incredibly fun to keep playing for score attack purposes, THUG 1-2 changed the way we viewed story in the series, and the few titles after that brought us open-world/next-gen capabilities, Proving Ground didn't really do anything new, though it acted like it did. As a result, I tend not to replay TH:PG, but I'll give it a whirl for this Quest.
Proving Ground is without a doubt my least favorite entry up until this point. In fact, it ended up being a lot worse than I thought in terms of quality, especially when I completed it after Project 8. There's just something... missing here, in terms of charm, uniqueness, and pretty much everything else.
There's no real setup here (you're just a skater) -- you just kind of meander through various East Coast cities until the game just... ends. While Project 8 had a more realistic feel, it did occasionally have hokey things like a Beaver mascot giving you oddball quests or a one-eyed security guard with a vendetta.
Proving Ground feels too realistic, in that there's nothing really fun about it. It's kind of cool that they came up with the idea to build various ramps nearly anywhere you want, but in Project 8, they didn't overdo it. It was just unnecessary for certain goals. It also doesn't innovate in the multiplayer arena -- it just gives you even less modes to fool around with than a few of the games before.
It's a shame that it had to be this bland, as I like all eight proceeding games in their own way -- the franchise had such a good streak going for it!
Tony Hawk: Ride - PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360 [Owned]
I'm really not looking forward to beating Ride. Yes folks, this is the one with the actual skateboard peripheral. To many fans' dismay, Tony Hawk: Ride was the first game in the series to be both a critical and financial failure (although Proving Ground came close). I can't really describe Ride as anything other than garbage.
I remember playing it at E3 with Tony Hawk three feet away from me (which was totally awesome), and actually feeling bad that the game just didn't work, because I could clearly see how excited Tony was about the game.
So in 2012, I'll beat it. This one's for you, Tony.
To put things into perspective, I spent around $20 to get the skateboard controller, Ride, and Shred. All in all, it wasn't a major loss, especially since at the very least I could report my experiences and complete my Quest. But for all those who bought this at launch and spent upwards of $100-$120, I'm sorry.
The key problem here is that in order to ollie (jump), you have to quickly push down on the back of the board. In order to manual, you need to... slowly push down on the back of the board. It causes numerous problems, and given that nearly all of the game's levels are incredibly bland, it wasn't worth the effort.
Some elements of Ride are cool, like the fact that you literally have to balance your body when you manual, but that's when it actually works. I spent around thirty minutes doing the tutorial all because I couldn't consistently pull off ollies or a certain kind of flip trick that forces you to swing the board in a fast jerking motion.
Like Proving Ground, I'll most likely never go back to Ride. Shred, on the other hand...
Tony Hawk: Shred - PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360 [Owned]
Just like Ride, this one also uses the skateboard controller, so I can just double-up here. To give you a bit of perspective, the game was a whopping $120 bundled with the skateboard. As a result of selling 3,000 whole copies in its first week, the Tony Hawk series was stalled, just like the Guitar Hero franchise.
It's kind of sad to see this happen to a franchise I've loved for over a decade, but hopefully Activision won't make the mistake of forcing plastic peripherals down our throats for years to come. In all this rambling about business sense, I nearly forgot that I had to actually play this game for my Quest. Nuts.
It looks like some of my reservations were unfounded. Shred is a much better effort than Ride. It has a much more pronounced cel-shaded look to it, contains far more interesting levels, and even breaks up the monotony a bit by including snowboarding.
It also has a more user-friendly HUD that explains nearly every nuance of your moves, so you can identify what you're doing wrong. Ollies and manuals, unlike in Ride, are easier to pull off separately due to stronger controls. In fact, I completed every tutorial mission on the first try -- a stark contrast to my issues with Ride.
Funnily enough, despite how turned off I was by Ride, I can actually see myself going back to Shred now and then. In fact, I actually played some more after I completed the game just for fun.
Sadly though, it was too little too late. Ride had already pissed off thousands of fans. Shred failed so badly that it nearly killed the entire franchise, so I doubt Activision would ever try something like this again. If fate would have it and they did try, adding a controller option and making something more like Shred would be their best bet.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD - PSN, XBLA [Owned], PC
You know what? I actually liked Tony Hawk HD. There are a lot of people who think that the completely new engine isn't serviceable, but I didn't really have any major issues -- at least, it didn't stop me from scoring around 20 million points across the game's seven levels. It's nice to see the original levels from THPS 1 and 2 in HD, even if a few of them look a bit too different for their own good.
It also has a ton of content, as you can 100% the game with every character (just like the old days), and play online with a number of different modes. To be clear, it has issues (no split-screen, no ability to customize the soundtrack, only seven levels included), but personally, it was worth the price of entry.
Well, that was it! Out of all of the games in the Quest, if I had to pick two favorites, they would probably be THPS 3 and THUG 2.
Do you have any fond memories of the Tony Hawk franchise? Feel free to share your stories below!
Also, stay tuned for my Resident Evil and Kingdom Hearts quests for the remainder of 2012, and feel free to suggest any potential franchises you'd want to see in 2013!
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