Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 Review

Ben Silverman
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 Info

genre

  • Sports

players

  • 1 - 2

Publisher

  • Activision

Developer

  • Neversoft

Release Date

  • 01/01/1970
  • Out Now

Platform

  • GameCube
  • PS2
  • Xbox

rating

Fourth time's a charm?

When a sports team wins a championship, it's considered a monumental achievement. When they win it again the next year, it's validation. When they pull off the rare three-peat, it secures the team's spot in the history books. And if they manage to nail four in a row, they're officially an elite dynasty.

By those standards, the Tony Hawk series is a shoo-in as the greatest

action sports trio of all time. They not only birthed a genre, but they also

managed to get better and better with each iteration. That's not an easy task.

Just ask the Lakers.

So

after scores of accolades and millions of games sold, the folks at Neversoft

and Activision attempt the supremely difficult by trying to improve upon their

past. And while the excellent Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 easily does justice

to its storied history, this veteran is also getting a little... old. But give

credit to Neversoft for always looking at ways to improve their products, because

THPS 4 is full of nice new touches that will make fans of the series

kickflip with joy.

The game follows the mold of its forbears pretty directly. Pick one of 14

pro skaters and get to work. But this time around, the Career mode has been

altered in an attempt to solve some of the redundancy issues.

It's now sort of a hybrid between the standard Free Skate (which is still here

as an option) and the classic Career. You pick a level and start skating, but

unlike all the earlier versions, there is no initial time restraint. Instead,

you're free to explore the level to your heart's content until you decide to

start a goal, which is done by skating up to one of the various people hanging

out with arrows flashing over their head. At that point, a goal will begin,

usually starting a timer and requiring you to complete the objective before

time runs out.

With about 16 initial goals per level, this new formula gives you much more

freedom in your quest to unlock further levels. Accomplishing goals gets you

points, which in turn are used to open levels. It's a much quicker process all

around and will allow even novice THPS gamers to start making headway

into the game fairly quickly.

Once again, the levels themselves uphold the fantastic design Neversoft has

become famous for. They're enormous, for one thing, featuring tons of cool lines

and gaps aplenty. It also takes much longer to grow tired of each level, thanks

to the wealth of things to do and interesting goal types. New to this version

are mini-games, which can be found scattered around a few of the levels. You

can play a game of tennis or whack some baseballs, though they're all pretty

lame and don't work very well.

As if there weren't enough to do, you'll also gain cash by beating goals or finding it lying around the levels, which is then used to buy new boards and gear. Cash can also be used to unlock 'cheats', including 2 extra levels, 4 extra skaters and a ton of weird modes and clothing.

But despite the new twists to Career mode, the same problems that affected

Career mode in the past arise again. Sure, you can skate around and explore

the level to get a better lay of the land, but you'll still need to collect

the 'S-K-A-T-E' letters in 2 minutes, beat the level score in under 2 minutes,

string together a 200,000 point run in under 2 minutes, etc. It just makes it

a little less frustrating initially.

Gone are the days when you have to play through the whole thing a dozen times

- instead, your skater points are carried through all the skaters in Career

mode, so if you beat the game with one guy, you've essentially opened up all

the levels and the new 'pro challenges' for every guy. The pro challenges are

specific to each skater and are unlocked once you reach a set number of pro

points. They're quite creative, but also quite tough.

For that matter, THPS 4 is a hard game overall. The controls and gameplay

are pretty much identical to THPS 3,

so if you've mastered that, you'll jump into this like a duck to water. The

moves list is truly sick - flatland tricks in particular have been expanded

greatly. And as always, perfecting the manual-grind-manual-vert-revert-manual

combos will net the monster scores, which is cool...

...but also a little too familiar. The guts of the game have not changed much

since the original THPS,

though each version has added an important new twist. THPS

2 gave us the manual. THPS 3 gave us the revert. THPS 4 gives

us two new abilities: the ability to skitch (holding on to the back of moving

vehicles, Back to the

Future style) and the ability to 'spine transfer'. The former is self-explanatory

and marginally useful, though the latter can be implemented into combos for

yet greater linking by allowing you to safely transfer from ramp to ramp. It's

a nice addition, but not nearly as important as the manual or the revert, and

frankly I rarely use it for comboing.

Plus,

THPS 4 gives us excruciatingly difficult requirements to meet. Honestly,

some of the score requirements and goal requirements will have even a solid

THPS player breaking his thumbs. I've played every THPS game for

just about every system and I still had a hard time with some of the advanced

challenges, and flat out cannot pass some of the challenges at all. A 500,000

point combo? Who am I, Luke Skywalker? With enough

methamphetamines I'm sure I can handle this, but I cannot imagine what a

newbie to the series would do, aside from a ripping out a string of expletives

and a handful of hair.

But blame that on outrageous difficulty rather than poor control or graphics.

THPS 4 looks pretty good, with a blazing framerate and very little

pop-up. That's a nice feat considering the size of the levels. The skaters are

a little stiff in their modeling, but they look comfy on the boards, and their

animations are accurate. It won't win any awards for it, but the game looks

good where it's supposed to.

And it sounds good too, with another eclectic soundtrack filled with old school

hip hop, punk and rock. Of course, replaying the same goal for 20 minutes will

likely lead you to shut off the music out of irritation, but it still rocks.

THPS 3 was a multiplayer masterpiece because Neversoft figured out

a way to get it online despite the fact that Sony's network was still 8 months

off. However, the game options were somewhat sparse. THPS 4 takes advantage

of the PS2 online feature in force this time out with a nice assortment of online

multiplayer game types. I've had very little lag and a lot of fun with it, though

the veterans of the series seriously dominate the online servers. There's also

the ubiquitous offline multiplayer modes like HORSE and Graffiti for those without

a PS2 modem.

Need more gameplay? Then check out the expanded Park Creator, which loads faster than before and is even more intuitive. In a very nice move, Neversoft allows you to edit pre-made parks to your liking, as well as building some from scratch. It's a very handy designer for those with the time and the interest.

But like the rest of THPS 4, this seems to be pointed directly at the

veterans of the series rather than new gamers, and I have serious doubts that

anyone who hasn't played the earlier versions will stand much of a chance at

making it through this one. One thing to help would have been a 'difficulty'

slider, perhaps lowering the score requirements or extending the time limits

for novices. As it stands, only those who are already good at the Tony Hawk

games will find this version to be as fun as it actually is.

Lucky for me, I'm one of those people, and this game is as addictive and fun as ever. It offers a nice assortment of new stuff for the fans and will definitely test your skills. There's a good reason why this is the end-all-be-all of skating games. Highly recommended, but also highly difficult.

 

 

 

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

4.5
Rating
It's more Tony Hawk
Fun online play
Great levels
Nice new Career mode
Too hard for newbies
Gameplay getting a little stale