Reviews: Tony Hawks Pro Skater

Skate and Destroy

Me and Tony Hawk go waaaaaaaay back. However, the fact that I like it in the first place is a bit inexplicable, being in the first place neither a fan of EXTREME macho-bullshit street culture, or shallow contemporary music trends. But, somehow, the things just go so perfectly together like the proverbial ham and cheese on a slice of bread made from the smoothest, most addictive gameplay system found in an extreme sports game.

At their best, Neversoft (the only name that should come within even an arm's length of series development) summon forth a resurgence of video game level design philosophy that hearkens back to the best of the medium's early days; absolutely no wasted space. Everything has a purpose. Anything can be tricked on, and usually expanded into an epic multi-trick line of awesome. The best games exude a sense of freedom inherent in the game that's wholly infectious to me as a player.

Probably the high-water mark of the series at its most concentrated sense of 99.1% pureness is 3, which improves upon and arguably perfects the elements seen in previous titles. I don't really need a whole lot more than that. However, Neversoft's more ambitious attempts at cobbling together a story and adding a little more depth reach a zenith in Underground (coincidentally also the best series soundtrack). I'd argue that both technically and ambitionally it's the best in the series, but the scattershot level design and often eye-rollingly puerile nature of the game aesthetics themselves tend to drag it down considerably.

Unfortunately, after Underground, the series' quality plummeted downward faster than a boulder rolling down Downhill Jam. Wasteland is the only one I really have any distinct memory of, and even those are rather hazy. A nadir was reached with the insultingly terrible HD remake/greatest hits/abortion, after which 5, despite being seemingly built with the game's proprietary stage creator, at the very least managed to bring the series back to its minimalist roots, for better or worse.

When I just wanna unwind and escape from the problems plaguing the video game industry today, the no-bullshit zen-level gaming purity of Tony Hawk tends to have the same cleansing effect as a classic retro game. And that's just pretty damn priceless right there.
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