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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD review: Feels like a 12-year-old game

Limited, frustrating, creaking with age

The times, they are a-changin'. In this XBLA-bound reworking of the first two Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games built on an entirely new HD engine, you don't collect secret VHS tapes anymore; you collect DVD's. And you can do it as Tony Hawk's son Riley.

Cosmetic improvements like these symbolise the game itself, a skin-deep update creaking at its core. Tony Hawk games felt old in 2007 with the last full-fat release in Proving Ground, and they feel even older in 2012. Activision presumably subscribe to the theory that time's cyclical, and enough of it's elapsed to make the two earliest THPS games fun again, at least in a retro way. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that.

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Let's not forget, these games came out in an era where analogue sticks were thought superfluous. Both titles launched on consoles (Playstation, N64, Dreamcast, N-Gage) now multiple hardware generations old. This was a time when The Simpsons was good, when families flocked to the Millennium Dome bearing na´ve smiles that hadn't yet known crushing disappointment. Once upon a time the Tony Hawks series was an unstoppable beast on four-wheels, but it's since been superseded, both by later, better instalments and by EA's incredible Skate series. Remaking the first two THPS games is like remaking FIFA 2000. It's been improved since - why go back?

SKATE TO THE PARTY

Everything you've come to love about Tony Hawk games has been built up through years of iteration. Here, every single one has been stripped away. This is basically a massive list of things you remember being able to do. You can no longer spine transfer (a THSP4 addition), you can't chain together combos by reverting into a manual (introduced in THPS3), you can't perform flatland tricks, you can't do lip extensions, and forget about wall-riding or kicking a foot off them to preserve momentum. Imagine starting a Metroid game and relinquishing your arsenal, but this time you're a 44-year old extreme sports star with bags under your eyes.

This 'things you can't do' list extends to levels and challenges. Befitting of an era which saw the release of Banjo-Tooie, each of the environments offers contrived collectibles to smash or grab - snag five manuscripts, break 10 crates, hunt those famous 'SKATE' letters - and high scores to meet, all under a time limit that THPS4 later, thankfully, banished.

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This is, of course, design informed by the first two games. This is how they were, and some would argue against muddying the gene pool by combining elements of different entries. This argument, however, misses the point.

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