Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (PS2)
There's no need to know anything about the series' history, if you haven't played at least on of the Tony Hawk games on at least one platform in the last four years you haven't been playing video games and you wouldn't be reading this review. But you are reading this review, so that means you've played at least on of the blockbuster Tony Hawk games, know the how the game has influenced the gaming world, and know exactly what to expect when you pop in a DVD labeled Pro Skater. Since all that has already covered, we can dive headfirst into dissecting this game. Here's the bottom line: although the fundamentals remain virtually the same, THPS4 is in no way a clone of its predecessor.
THPS4 introduces a more "move at your own pace" approach, much like that of Aggressive Inline, that encourages more exploration through the massive levels. Unlike the previous games, the objectives you need to complete aren't given at the loading screen of the level, and after the loading screen there isn't a two minute time limit. Instead, you start each area in free skate doing as you please. Once you feel like doing an objective, you can skate to one of the dozens of bystanders in the level who will give you a timed objective to complete for that section of the level. If you complete the objective you earn a pro point, money, and sometimes a stat point that you can use to upgrade your skater's skills. If you don't do it right, you can always retry the objective or not do it at all.
Pro points are used to op up new levels. The money you earn can go to new decks with better performance and accessories. In the same way, clothes are totally customizable (for free).
The objectives are more numerous and varied than in any previous Tony Hawk game. Old standbys are still present: high scores and COMBO retrieval among them, but these take a back-seat to those that are more fun, less repetitive and require more finesse. One objective in the first skatepark (College) has you skitch on the Principal's car out of a parking garage. Soon enough a helicopter is tracking you giving commentary you roll along the street skitching on the car. The objectives are also more straightforward and accessible in their presentation than ever before.
In the first three games, the objective were given at the loading screen forcing players to first waste their time trying to find an objective, then figure out how to pull it off using the cryptic one line explanations all in two minutes. In hindsight, the trial and error nature of the old system was frustrating. Now, when you find an objective you want to do it's right in front of you along with a breakdown of the moves you might need to pull it off in the corner of the screen. For example, if you need to do a "melon" on a vert, in the corner it will give you the button combo to do a melon. Making it that much easier makes it exponentially more fun. One problem with the new objectives is that many of them feel a great deal easier than the previous games' objectives. Then again, that might just be because I'm an experienced player.
It's a waste of time tell you that THPS4 has a good soundtrack. It's interesting to note though that some tracks have crossed over from THPS3. Also interesting is skating to NWA's "Express Yourself". Here's a breakdown of the playlist:
Agent Orange -- "Bloodstains"
Aesop Rock -- "Labor"
AC/DC -- "TNT"
Avail -- "Simple Song"
Biz Markie -- "Body Rock"
Bouncing Souls -- "Manthem"
City Stars -- "Bad Dream"
The Cult -- "Bad Fun"
De La Soul -- "Oodles of O's"
Delinquent Habit -- "House of the Rising Drum"
Distillers -- "Seneca Falls"
Eyedea & Abilities -- "Big Shots"
The Faction -- "Skate and Destroy"
Flogging Molly -- "Drunken Lullabies"
Gang Starr -- "Mass Appeal"
Goldfinger -- "Spokesman"
Haiku De'Etat -- "Non Compros Mentis"
Hot Water Music -- "Freightliner"
Iron Maiden -- "Number of the Beast"
Jeru the Damaja -- "Verses of Doom"
JFA -- "Beach Blanket Bong Out"
Less Than Jake, "All My Friends are Metalheads"
Melle Mel -- "I'm a Star"
Nebula -- "Giant"
N.W.A. -- "Express Yourself"
The Offspring -- "Blackball"
Public Enemy -- "By the Time I Get to Arizona"
Rocket From the Crypt -- "Savoir Faire"
Run DMC -- "My Adidas"
Sex Pistols -- "Anarchy in the UK"
System of a Down -- "Shimmy"
Lootpack -- "Whenimondamic"
Toy Dolls -- "Dig That Groove Baby"
US Bombs -- "Yer Country"
Zeke -- "Death Alley"
All of the skaters from the previous games are here, including Bob Burnquist from THPS1-2 who dropped ship to headline Konami's abomination of a skateboard game, Evolution Skateboarding. Burnquist came to his senses and is back in the THPS4 roster. Here's the lineup of other skaters: Elissa Steamer, Chad Muska, Jaime Thomas, Rodney Mullen, Eric Koston, Steve Caballero, Andrew Reynolds, Rune Glifberg, Geoff Rowley, Kareem Campbell, Bucky Lasek and MTV Jackass Bam Margera. In addition, there is a whole slew of secret unlockable skaters, each with their own special moves. Even better is a secret code which allows you to skate as any of the Neversoft staff members.
Let's see... Here's a few random observations. The graphics haven't changed much since THPS3, but the animations transferring from trick to trick look smoother. Still the lip tricks look stiff and robotic.
The levels are much larger, but their architecture is less varied and contains less ramps and verts than the skateparks in the previous game. These parks were built to be more realistic than say, the factory in THPS3. Vert tricks, therefore, take more of a back-seat to flatland tricks and grinds.
There's a new upgrade to the skatepark editor making the custom parks seem less thrown together. The upgrades still won't make building a good level any less time consuming.
Online play has also been realized more fully compared to THPS3.