Monday, July 7, 2014

Review #127: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4

 Remember when games didn't take 'emselves too seriously?
 The Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series was sort of the golden child of the late 90s, the first entry was released on 1998 on a plethora of different consoles, and it proceeded to spawn 8 different games, from the PS1 to the PS3 era. While some would argue that Activision milked the series to death, THPS4 was sort of a landmark for the series, the first game developed with the next generation of consoles in mind, although it did receive a PS1 port, but that's for another time. Actually, it's not, I don't plan on playing it any time soon!

 The easiest way to explain what this game is about, is to call it a platform game on wheels with a trick mechanic. The game made skating seem easy, X performed an Ollie and gave you more air when you let go of it off platforms, the square button plus different directions performed flips, while circle and directions performed grabs, then you had the triangle button to perform grinds and lip tricks. New to the series, is "vert transfer", by tapping the R2 button you can now reallign yourself while on the air in order to fall on a more favorable angle, skitching cars and now you can perform different tricks while on a Manual.
 Previous games in the series would set you off on a stage, give you a time limit and a list of objectives, which you had to try to complete before time expired. Not anymore, now you are set off on a stage, no time limit, and you must find people that will give you missions. It sounds novel at first, but these people give you the same kind of objectives that the previous games had! Like finding all SKATE letters, or getting all COMBO letters in a combo, achieving certain high scores, however, alongside these rather mundane objectives, the game has a lot of crazy missions, like skitching on a elephant while it defecates on you, setting off bombs by grinding over the detonators, holding a lip trick over a crane while it moves around... there's a lot of off the wall situations that are both amusing and fun to attempt! This game doesn't take itself seriously, and it's all the much better for it.

 The game offers a good amount of different skaters, while all of them have the same basic tricks at their disposal, they do have different SPECIAL tricks, and there's four secret characters that are highly amusing(A Zombie skater, Jango Fett from Star Wars! to name a few). They also have different stats, but as you clear goals in the game and earn stat points, by the end all of them will have the same stats. The game also has a create-a-character mode, while it was awesome back in its day(Believe me, I played it back when it just released!), nowadays it's very limited and lacking, but it's something.
 There's a nice amount of stages with 21 goals on each(14 on the 2 unlockable ones), and most of them being pretty good, with at least two that I'd call classics, then there's also the Shipyard which I'd call the weakest stage in the game, and one of the worst in the series. The game also has unlockable cheats, back when cheats were actually fun to use, you can use Moon Gravity, Disco Lightning, Fire while Grinding, Perfect Grinds and a lot more. There's also a "Create a Park Mode", which, frankly, you'll use once or twice and never touch it again. Finally, the game has a ton of 2-Player modes, including Free Skate, which allows you to just chill around the stage with another player, and other competitive modes in which you must perform better combos than the other player, or earn more points total, they are all pretty fun.

 The game hasn't aged very well when it comes to visuals. It doesn't look particularly bad, but other games that would come later in the series would blow it out of the water. The overall presentation is also a bit dry, it went for realism a bit too much, which means colors lack a bit of punch. Regardless, stage design was pretty swell, with a lot of interesting landmarks on which to skate. Music is, easily, the second best thing the game has going for it(The first being the gameplay!). There's a ton of licensed hip hop, punk and a few rock tracks, they fit the game perfectly, and are great songs on their on right.

 It's a bit unfair to review games when taking into account future entries, it really is, but nowadays, having knowledge about other games in the series does change my outlook on Pro Skater 4. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 might be a great game in its own right, back in it's day it was amazing, but knowing how the series evolved, it'd be kinda misguided to ignore it, basically, if I had to get a single Tony Hawk game, I'd get Underground 2.
 8.0 out of 10.

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