Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 were the bomb. Hard to believe the former only came out in 1999. Unfortunately, the series quickly spiraled away from being the bomb and, in more recent years, toward being a laughing stock that Activision has been so sure people are going to eventually buy en masse after realizing the error of their ways.
Fortunately for us, Activision seems to have realized that this strategy is not working (also not working: making bad games and expecting them to sell well, especially against Skate). Accordingly, we’re getting Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD in about a week's time as a $15 downloadable amalgam of the first two games in the franchise.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD (PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade [previewed])
I tried my hand at the whole "skateboarding" thing years ago. An uncle inexplicably came across a skateboard and gave it to me one day so his son wouldn't hurt himself on it, then I spent a few years occasionally falling about with it (it wasn't a terrible means of transportation, at least). Still, for everything I lacked on the board, once the Tony Hawk games came out, I could live vicariously through them, performing all manner of life threatening acrobatics through my surrogate skater.
After going hands-on with the multiplayer in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, I can safely say it's a nice little hit of not-too-distant nostalgia. There's a solid selection of skaters available, including new additions Riley Hawk and, hilariously, Xbox Live avatars to go along with the old-school levels. Anyone who spent time with the first two games will feel right at home back at the Warehouse, Hangar, or School. Though they're mum on a Spider-Man appearance, the other unlockable characters from the first two games will be making triumphant returns.
Even the music is unchanged; though new tracks have been added to single-player, the multiplayer score consists solely of the game's original music. One other amusing change to the single-player is that the secret tapes that are hidden and scattered about levels have been replaced with secret DVDs, though I suppose even then they're behind the eight ball in an increasingly digital world.
The franchise staple modes are back. Trick Attack tasks players with putting together their best lines for the highest scores they can achieve in a given time limit; Graffiti requires players to perform tricks of as high a value as possible on various pieces of the environment, thereby adding that piece to your controlled territory; and lastly, Free Skate lets you faff about. In addition to the expected Free Skate, Trick Attack, and Graffiti modes that defined the franchise's multiplayer, a new Giant Head mode has been added. Player heads all begin to grow at a steady rate, and executing tricks keeps your noggin down to a proper size. As the mode progresses, the growth rate increases. If your head reaches maximum size, it pops with enough force to throw your character into a little flip as confetti pops out of your exploded cranial cavity.
The game will feature four players online, so Big Head mode persists after the first burst if there are more than two players. At this point, the loser can skate around headless and try to disrupt any of the remaining players. The mode is a fun addition, fitting nicely with the game's style of play. With the exception of Free Skate, multiplayer matches skip along quite snappily, allowing you to get in quick games without feeling too pressured or committed.
While I was barely able to keep up with the game's developers at Robomodo -- I'm more than a little bit rusty -- I'll be content as long as I can handle the people I'll be playing with locally. It's nice to see the four-player multiplayer being preserved, which could make Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD a nice little jump-in title that reminds us of a slightly simpler time. On top of that, DLC from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 will be available next month, bringing the revert back to your combo expanding repertoire.