Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4
As a first console review of this newborn Xbox ‘fanatic’ I have decided to live a part of my childhood again in a virtual way. Yes sir, your Fragland administrator has been a hardcore skater (ehem) during the younger and certainly wilder part of his life … should I try this again nowadays, I would without a doubt end up in hospital for a few weeks …
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 is already the fourth installment of the Tony Hawk series where gamers can enjoy the thrills and chills of real sk8rboys (Avril L. hint), without having to bother about the physical consequences of a 2-stores-high jump from a building and the not so pleasant interaction between your ass and the tiles of the pavement.
The virtual representation of earlier mentioned situation should give you a nice idea about the first 4 hours of Tony Hawk gameplay I encountered. Yes, you guessed it right, I’m still quite a console-controller noob and all other people who are not used to 25-button-controllers will suffer the same frustration as me when trying to do nice tricks and consequently viewing the painful surface from a very close point of view. Luckily the peepz of Activision designed some of the first goals in such a way that you are obligated to learn certain tricks and combo’s, wich in its own way speeds up the learning process …
When playing singleplayer you have 3 different game modes available: Free Practice, Single Session and Career Mode. Free Practice gives you the opportunity to freely skate on a ramp with other skaters, whilst career mode makes you find your way through 9 different levels.
Single Session is used to play a single level, any of the unlocked ones that is, but I guess that you might as well do this in Career Mode.
Every level has its own unique setting and can be seen as a really big skatepark wich is embedded in a certain location, like for example a harbour. In each of these locations the player has total freedom of movement, wich is pretty nice.
To start a goal in THPS4 you need to stop skating and talk with one of the many weird and not so weird people who are spread all over the location. The mini-type missions you must fulfill are of great variety, ranging from the classical ‘get X-amount of point in X-time’ to boardslide away some nasty birds, collect letters and jump between skateramps in a moving parade.
There are 14 different characters in total to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses(??) in certain areas. These specific areas can gradually be enforced whilest playing Career Mode.
Besides from the small missions you will also find some mini-games in THPS4, among other a game of tennis with your skateboard, wich add some nice variation to the constant skating in the levels.
The graphics of the game are decently put into practice and the level look beautifull, although one shouldn’t expect nice dynamic lightning or shadows. The one and also an important advantage of this medium quality graphics is the fact that this game plays like a well-oiled racing machine. I cannot remember any moment where the game suffered from a frame-rate drop, and this is something pretty important for a fast-paced sportsgame like this one.
In my honest opinion, the sound is perfectly balanced for this game: wheelslide, ollie, boardslide, … it all sounds just like the way I remember myself from my youth. And let us not forget the soundtracks, they all come from famous bands like System Of A Down, AC/DC and Iron Maiden , therefore really giving you that ‘Let me kick some sk8rs ass’ feeling … oh those were the days …
Sadly enough THPS4 has no Xbox-Live support, but you do have the options to connect 8 consoles in a LAN to smash your friends in the face with a skateboard.
Available modes are Capture The Flag, Score Attack, Goal Attack and Combo Mambo. To bad I’m not a rich reviewer, wich leaves me with only one Xbox at home, and therefore I couldn’t test the multiplayer modes myself …
As a final touch we can mention that this game has a Track Editor wich gives you the possibility to build your own skatepark … but I have the feeling that this will not be frequently used, as the levels of the game itself offer enough variety.
Create Skater is an option that is present, especially for those who think that the 14 available pro-skaters aren’t enough. In addition you can also buy different accessories for you sk8rboy.
Personally I think this game is definitely worth a purchase, although my opinion is probably positively affected by the fact that I haven’t played either one of the first 3 Tony Hawk games. Gamers who aren’t a hardcore fan will get this ‘I have seen this before, only with uglier graphics’ feeling after a while. Those who don’t have problems with a bit of déja-vu will have a very good time playing this fourth episode of the Tony Hawk series. The 190 very varied goals produce hours of fun … but beware: the first weekend of gaming can cause blisters …