Tony Hawk. Professional skating legend and household name thanks to the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, which started on PSone all the way back in 1999. Simpler times indeed. The series has been dead for a while, but is returning in the form of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, which is out on Wednesday on Xbox Live Arcade (and a little later on PS3) and combines the best bits from the first two games, with DLC from the third to follow. But why should you care? What made the series so great? Let's take a look: Here's why we still love Tony Hawk.
1) It's hi-score heaven
Tony Hawk games are superb score attack games. Some might argue superlative. The key to its success is the balance between risk and reward. Introducing the 'manual' was a masterstroke for THPS2, allowing you to link combos from one rail or ramp to the next. But the key element is the balance between risk and reward. Seeing a 20 second mega-combo smashed by your skater's ass as he upends himself on a flatland trick is devastating.
2) You can make yourself in it
There's nothing quite like loading up an old file from Tony Hawk's and seeing yourself as you were some ten years ago. The long hair, the baggy trousers… even the black hoodie. Not that we were teenage hoodlums or anything. Though we did meet people at uni who became skaters just because of THPS2. By their own admission. That's the kind of power the 'Birdman' had.
3) The licensed music is suh-weet
The Ramones? Rage Against The Machine? MotorHead? In short, the soundtrack is still brilliant, fitting the action perfectly. And we swear, the second Ace of Spades comes on during THPS3, we play another 26% better. Yes, it's an exact science.
Multiplayer modes are superb in the old Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series – in particular Horse, which sees you trying to get your opponent to spell out the word HORSE (or any other insulting word you could dream up, like 'bum' or 'twatface') by scoring higher combos than them. Hours of juvenile fun. We plumped for LEMON... which still whinnies like a horse.
5) Graffiti mode
During the making of this feature, we all had a go on Graffiti mode in the GR UK office (after it turned out Cundy was a LEMON, that is). One of us was overly competitive, one of us only knew one trick and one of us couldn't remember the controls. But you know what? We all had fun - and that's the key. Just do a better trick on each section of the scenery to turn it your colour. Simple, yet devastatingly effective.
6) The bails are wince-inducingly funny
"Ooh, that's gotta hurt." And it probably did. The number of virtual teeth we must've lost over the years... Then there's the blood that splatters after a particularly impressive faceplant onto a cheesegrater-like surface. We became desensitised... until we tried skateboarding ourselves and twisted our ankles. Back to the PlayStation it is, then.
7) The tricks are beautifully balanced
Pardon the pun. The tricks in early Tony Hawk games were all based on real-life skateboarding skills. Sure, it all got a bit out of hand as each new iteration got crazier and crazier, but the earlier iterations at least were based solely on clever use of the scenery, improvisation and joypad dexterity. They're still perfectly weighted.
8) It works on handheld or console
The GBA version remains one of the finest handheld games ever made. But it's something about the trick system that means the core game works as a handheld 5-minute blast or a marathon 'TV and sofa' session. That's the sign of a great videogame.
9) The sense of humour
What started off as a savvy but serious skateboarding sim soon turned into a quirky game, but soon added a gentle sense of humour. Best of all, it did this without making skaters out to be complete dicks. Well, at least until Bam Margera showed up...
10) You can make your own levels
Since the first sequel, creating your own skatepark has been part of the package, arguably making a Tony Hawk game the only game you'd ever need. You can make your own maps, there's impeccable multiplayer and score attack goodness whether alone or with a mate… Honestly, the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series was on top of the world in the early 2000s. We're glad it's coming back in its true form.
So bring on the Birdman!
That's what we still love about Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. But that's just us. Have we missed a vital feature? And no, we haven't forgotten about the secret Kiss concert. Let us know what you love about the game (or not) in the comments.
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