Tony Hawk's Pro Skater Review by: gtwalqMy Tony Hawks Skateboarding Review
Tony Hawks Pro Skater re-invented and redistributed skateboarding to a new generation, it inspired not only myself, but hundreds of thousands of youth to pick up a skateboard and get outdoors. Not a lot of video games actually inspire its players to leave the lounge room and be active, THPS did this. When Neversoft originally developed this game, they had no idea how big of a franchise they were creating and how much of a profitable production it was presenting to Activision.
When people hear (or heard) the phrase “Port to N64” they began to worry, panic and bite their nails to a stub. I originally played this title on the Playstation, and whilst there were more features in the PSX version (such as a larger soundtrack and completion videos) the majority of the game was successfully ported to N64 with almost no issues, and to top it off, because of the new cartridge based medium the loading times vastly shrunk. Edge of Reality was in charge of the port and I must say they did a fantastic job.
As most of you may know, this game didn’t just revolve around Tony Hawk, it features a hefty line-up of professional skateboarders who have earned their spot in an internationally produced video game. Line-up features Bucky Lasek, Bob Burnquist, Jamie Thomas, Geoff Rowely, Ellisa Steamer, Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Rune Glifberg and Kareem Campbell.
The game is divided into Levels based all over the world, both fictional and non-fictional. Levels are unlocked as you complete tasks in previous levels and place medals in competitions.
Unlike a lot of N64 titles, THPS gives the player the option of different game plays such as playing through the timed-based career mode, multiplayer mode or the Freeskate mode, which lets you build your skills, find combo runs or just skate around and have some fun. By picking Career mode, you select one of 10 professional skaters to be your character, each skater starting with their own unique stats. The brilliant thing about the stats system is your skater will either be better at street skating, or better at vert/ramp skating. Whilst not all levels have an even mixture of each, the amount of levels based on which type are equal in themselves.
Scores in this game are made by successfully completing skate tricks such as grinding, flip tricks, grab tricks and special tricks but THPS is not just based on a point system, the player starts each standard new level with 5 goals to achieve, these are a high score, pro score, collecting 5 scattered letters throughout the level, smashing or grinding 5 items scattered throughout the level and collecting a hidden VHS tape.
Once a certain amount of goals are completed, new levels are unlocked and the player can move on to these new locations. In amongst the standard levels are 3 competition levels where the player must compete in a minimum of 2 out of 3 heats per competition. These levels are purely based upon the players skill of scoring points. Once a medal is won (either bronze, silver or gold) the player can move on to the next level.
One of the most overlooked aspects of many N64 games is the camera angle. The landscape and the players surroundings can look 120% better with the correct camera angle. Tony Hawks Pro Skater puts the player in a 3rd person perspective behind the character, giving the player the best view possible. When freely turning in the open the camera will tow behind the character but when the player is turning tightly the camera will wait until space is cleared up behind the character before proceeding to adjust.
The most difficult task when creating free/open levels such as the ones in THPS is the fact that the player will be able to skate on 90-95% of the level, therefore the player will see just about every polygon and texture up close and personal. Neversoft took a very bold decision to instate this and I think it turned out great. There’s nothing worse than playing a video game, seeing something interesting in the distance and not being able to interact with it and to top it off, the textures are done quite well. Most game developers would not have done as good of a job as what Neversoft did, they would have thought “well this is pretty much a fast paced game, the player wont be stopping most of the time to look around”.
The levels are 95% full 3D with the odd 2D add-ons in the distance or up high in levels. The 3D has been done exceptionally well and the models of everything are done perfectly to scale with the size of the characters. The character models have been done very well too, there’s no really pointy ends where the developer has drawn lazy polygons. The textures have been applied cleverly aswell.
I originally thought the graphics would be a lot worse on the N64 version but I was ever so wrong. Whilst the game is more crisp on the PSX, surprisingly enough the N64 version offers a much greater frame-rate of play. The only real noticeable sign of distance fog is in one level towards the end of the game but it doesn’t alter gameplay at all in my opinion.
Overall I give the graphics a 9 out of 10, simply because this would have been a huge mission for Neversoft to create fully interactive levels and to cater each level with decent graphics, modelling and texturing.
The N64 version is missing a couple of tracks from the PSX version soundtrack which means there are less songs to loop and thus making it easier to get sick of hearing over and over again. The same player sound effects have been used and work quite well. The one added bonus about having this title on a Cartridge as apposed to disc is the sound does not get glitchy or out of sync with wear and tear of the game medium. The smaller soundtrack really lets the score down to a 7.
Just about anyone will tell you the N64 controls are difficult to play with, in this game the C buttons replace the standard x, o, square and triangle buttons. Whilst its not too difficult to get used to, for someone who has never played this game before may find it frustrating.
This game and its series have got to be the most addictive games I have ever played, the re-playability is almost endless. I can remember the long, long days at school; counting the seconds until I could come home and play this title some more. If your not trying to beat your high score or trying to reach that hidden spot, your just cruising around and chilling out.
Don’t let the score affect your judgment of this game, because honestly there is no story, this is a sports game. Later on in the THPS series there are certain titles with a full story line backing them but not just yet.
I’m not sure where to begin with depth, I just have this feeling it’s a better related sub-category for story. Never-the-less I will decipher depth in an alternative way. As mentioned earlier, there are several game options to choose from such as career mode, single session, free skate and multiplayer mode. You can complete this game without accomplishing all of the set goals but to unlock further features and characters you must do so. Another sign of detail in this game are “gaps”. These are transitions over the level which you jump over, grind over or both. Most gaps you do have a unique name which is sometimes comedic.
For me now, I can finish this game with any character under half an hour but for new or first time players, the trick systems used can mildly easy to learn but extremely hard to master. Most people pick this game up and only build their skills up enough to complete it while many others such as myself train hard at it to get very high scores and long combos. A plus for difficulty is the fact (like I mentioned earlier) each character has their own starting stats (such as speed, turning etc) so after quick trial you find you are not coping so well balancing on a rail/grind, you can pick a player who has better balance to begin with, keeping in mind his/her attributes in other aspects are slightly low. Also, as mentioned earlier (again) the controls would be quite difficult to get used to for first time players.
I know the scores I’ve given don’t exactly average to the 9 I am giving, but I feel not all of the categories are best to describe this game with. I have spent over 1000 hours of my life just playing this game and I still enjoy it. Although this title is not for everybody, I feel everybody should at least give it a go. Thankyou for reading.