Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 Review (Xbox)
All great things need competition to thrive. Without it, people grow complacent and bored and don’t even attempt to push the envelope. We’ve seen it hit every major sports franchise in the last 3 or 4 years. Sega starts pushing Madden and both games improve. Inside Drive joins the Live and Sega battle and they all make a better product. And the flood of baseball titles on the market these days, force Developers into thinking outside the box and not sitting pat on just OK. Well, it looks like competition is finally creeping its’ way into the X-Treme Sports gaming world. With games like Aggressive Inline scoring well in the market, will the “King of X-Treme” gaming Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater keep up with the 4th game in the series. Hold on to your board.
If you’ve played any of the early versions of THPS, you know the basics of the gameplay. I won’t bore you going through the basics of tricks and combos and manuals. Everything that was in the earlier versions is back and just as strong.
The major difference is in the totally reworked Career Mode. Borrowing a lot from Aggressive Inline and Jet Set Radio Future in design and scope, the new mode is a fantastic advancement and a much needed change. Not that the old-school style Career Mode from THPS3 was bad, but gone is the pesky timer that always seemed to limit a lot of the fun of Career Mode. Instead you’ll find the ability to skate around freely until you choose when to start a challenge. You even encounter other skaters along the way that challenge you to different objectives. Complete the first set, and a second set is waiting to be tackled. Along the way, you will accumulate Pro Points, Cash and Stat points to open up new levels, tweak your skater, and bust new moves.
The level objectives themselves are very similar to last year’s version. Some of the classics are back like High Score (although they’ve become tougher to achieve) and collecting S-K-A-T-E, plus the addition of more puzzle style games that make THPS4 play more like an action game then a Sports title at times. My personal new favorite is collecting the word C-O-M-B-O all in one combo. Not as easy as it may sound!
The new Career mode alone, gives THPS4 huge replay factor. You’ll find this game in your console for months!
THPS4 takes a step-up from its’ predecessor with cleaner models, less clipping, and solid environments. All while maintaining the solid framerate that you’ve come to expect. New enhancements have been added such as skin that takes damage as you wipeout on the concrete. Not a big addition, but it’s the little things that keep the best on top. As usual, the whole visual package is brought together by silky smooth animation. The solid trick and skating animations continue to be the “claim to fame” of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise. Nice eye candy that should please the masses.
What do AC/DC, Biz Markie, The Cult, and Offspring all have in common? Well, nothing really, but they are all on the rock solid soundtrack to Tony Hawk 4. 35 tracks make up the eclectic sounds of the game. From classics like Sex Pistol’s “Anarchy in the UK” and RUN DMC’s “My Adidas” to new tracks from artists like Distillers, System of a Down, and Less Than Jake, top to bottom this may be the best collection ever assembled for a sports title. And, if for some strange reason, you don’t like the soundtrack, X-Box owners have the ability to “Bring Your Own Soundtrack” and stream music from your hard drive.
Soundtrack aside the player and environmental sound effect in the game are your standard Tony Hawk fare. You have your standard array of grunts and groans, honks and crashes, and other ambient sounds. Where I do think they could take another step forward would be the introduction of more voice work (hopefully by the skaters themselves).
All in all, you’ll play THPS4 with the volume up…way up.
The best gets better. No doubt about it. The guys at Neversoft got pushed by the competition and they responded. Last year, when I reviewed Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, I scored it a 92. With the rock solid new career mode, my first instinct was to score THPS4 much higher. However, while fair or not, I am penalizing this game for not adding the online elements in the game (and XBL compatibility) that would make this THE game to have.