THPS HD. Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the past.
Tony Hawks Pro Skater HD is at best an exercise in utter incompetence, and at worst a predatory attempt on your nostalgia.
Right, so the soundtrack is sparse and doesn't have your favourite track in there? Ok, that's opinion. There are only a handful of levels and your favourite didn't make the cut? That's opinion. The levels that did make the cut you hate? That's opinion. They cut your favourite Skater? That's opinion too.
I'm not for one second suggesting that opinion is bad, on the contrary it's what fundamentally drives the industry, but to score this game negatively on these points alone like 99% of the reviews for this game have done, is frankly missing this games biggest problems entirely.
The facts are these: For a sport that requires the overcoming of gravity to slide one object along another you would imagine that stable physics and collision detection would be a priority, but both are inconsistent to the point of feeling like dice rolls. Also moves like wall rides that should feel like second nature, feel like utter guess work. Lastly, clipping through walls and floors in this game takes place at an unprecedented level, there are certain spots in levels that are practically un-skateable for fear of drifting through the geometry. How much of this can be placed on the Unreal 3 engine on which the game has been built is arguable, even it's flagship title like Gears of War have always had physics issues, which then raises the question "why choose it"? Frame rate issues combined with offline steaming lag also complicate issues. Nothing makes pulling off a long combo that much harder than having the game freeze for a split second to stream something in.
Then there are the omissions. First things first, get it out of your head that Activision was EVER going to sanction a Create-a-park mode. They are in the DLC business, and business is good. The fact that THPS3 levels were announced months before the games release is a testament to their belief in that model.
But the omission of Create-a-skater, offline multiplayer, Horse for online multiplayer, the ability to adjust the soundtrack, even the removal of the option to pull the camera back a few feet to see more of the level is far more perplexing. You can spend all day trying to draw theories as to why these things were cut but I think the answer is far simpler than most will see: This is a game created from the ground up by a developer who's sole output to date has been Tony Hawks Ride, and an iOS licensed tie-in game for the movie 'In Time'. That's it. That, if nothing else should answer all the questions over omissions and the games issues raised above, Activision didn't hire the best people for the job, they hired the cheapest, and it shows. All they needed was a team, any team to put together a THPS game. It didn't need to work well. It just needed to work. And those omissions, well adding those takes time, which when you have inked a deal to headline Microsoft's premier XBLA event, you simply do not have.
Maybe I am being overly harsh, maybe I am letting my own opinions and nostalgia cloud my own review. Maybe those rose-tinted memories of those hours I spend playing the original PS1 classics might be a factor. But they're not. Why? Because I have that same PS1 and that those same copies of THPS 1&2 here and hooked up right now. I've been playing them all week, and I would encourage you to do the same. They have far from realistic physics, but at least is consistent, the controls are tight, the camera is adjustable, the modes that made the multiplayer great are still there and I have yet to find myself on the wrong side of the floor.
This was a product made purely to make money on the back of your nostalgia, I know ALL products are made to make money, but this just feels insidious. Why? Because when a developer fails to make a technically superior product than a 13 year-old game running on 18 year-old hardware you really have to ask was it worth bothering?