Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (GameCube)

Review

posted 11/29/2002 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: GC
What happens when you’ve struck oil three times in a row? You do the smart thing and keep drilling until the well runs dry. Much like this story, it seems to be the motto of the guys at Activision O2. Now in its fourth iteration, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater has hit the store shelves and in the process, has done the impossible, it has managed to remain fresh and appealing even after all these years. You know there’s a saying that goes first time’s luck, second time is coincidence and the third time is skill, but what about the fourth time? Well if Activision O2 has anything to say about it would probably be “Fourth Time? Damn we’re good.”

This year’s game is just absolutely ridiculous; the competition is probably sitting at home thinking “what the hell do we have to do to beat these guys?” While the game appears to be the same game in new clothing at first, you’ll soon learn that this is perhaps one of the deepest and most engrossing games to appear on the scene in the past five years, not to mention addictive. New to this year’s game is the absence of the time limit and in some respects, this can be seen as a negative. The thrill of competing the goals in the given limit has been removed and the pace is much more relaxed. On the other hand, the goals are much more engaging and well-thought out than ever. Instead of just seeing a list of objectives at the onset of each area you’ll see pedestrians and skaters who populate the level.

The structure of the goals has changed quite a bit and at times, it’s for the worse. Sometimes you’ll be given a sick combo to perform and one mishap will force you to start over from the beginning. You can pause the game to restart the goal immediately but this really ruins the game. It gives some of the goals that “trial and error” feeling that ultimately leads to frustration. You’re given less freedom and less ways to complete goals and at times, the game feels communist in nature rather than democratic. The truth of the matter is that the entire structure of the game has been changed and it’s taken a turn for the worse. You can only compete one goal at a time so let’s say you have a goal where you have to garner 20,000 points. You can complete it only to find another goal where you must gain 100,000. Instead of being able to kill two birds with one stone you’re forced to follow this structure that is again, very communistic and confining. It really bogged down Activision O2’s own Mat Hoffman 2 and it appears that no franchise is immune.

Completing these goals will net you stat points that can be used to increase your stats, money that can be used to purchase new outfits, and points that can be used to unlock new levels. When you earn enough points you’ll be able to unlock a whole new set of goals for the current skater that of course increase in difficulty. New to this year’s game is the Spine Transfer maneuver that will allow you to link tricks over the spines of ramps. While the use of the spine transfer isn’t necessary to rack up those insane scores that we’ve become accustomed to, it sure does make it a whole lot easier. You’ll also be able to skitch on the bumpers of moving vehicles (a la Aggressive Inline or EA’s Classic game Skitchin’) for faster transportation around the game’s larger levels. Add the revert, manual and the expanding number of flatland tricks and you have a nice arsenal of maneuvers at your disposal.

Other than the inclusion of the spine transfer, the gameplay remains relatively unchanged. This means that veterans of the series will most likely have no problem picking up the controller and feeling right at home. The increased speed of Tony Hawk 3 also makes a return here as well, meaning that the game moves at a blistering fast pace. Those who are used to the slow pace of the PSOne titles will be in for one hell of a surprise. The functions are still exactly the same, kickflips, grabs and 540’s are the toast of the day here. Of course the grind combos and special moves make a return appearance as well. The game’s simplicity is what makes the game so fun and addicting. THPS4 is another case of a game that is easy to play yet difficult to master.
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