Tony Hawk SHRED Review
There’s an “Ah ha!” moment that comes when playing SHRED. A moment where you realize how to make the trick system bend to your whim and the game suddenly becomes very, very fun. It’s obvious that Robomodo took the feedback from RIDE to heart, as SHRED is the much-needed improvement fans have been hoping for.
The visuals have been given a less realistic overhaul to coincide with the game’s more arcade-like feel. You can even play as your avatar, which is a definite plus as the actual character models aren’t all that interesting (or attractive, yeesh!). Real footage of Tony Hawk and friends will also appear to pat you on the back or explain a new mode. It’s a nice touch and shows that Hawk is still as involved and enthusiastic about his franchise as ever, but there’s a reason the aging skater and his cohorts never became actors; cutscenes and dialogue seem canned and awkward, making this a somewhat bittersweet addition. Though, I will admit that Torah Bright isn’t exactly hard on the eyes or ears during the snowboarding tutorials.
That’s right, I said snowboarding. Not only did Robomodo refine the skating gameplay, they added an entire new sport to the package. As a former skateboarder and longtime snowboarder myself, I have to say the new addition definitely makes this game an excellent value. I’ll even go so far as to say that the snowboarding portion plays and feels better than its four-wheeled counterpart; you don’t have to do as many quick, consecutive actions, which is where things can get sketchy while skating. You also go faster and catch far more air while snowboarding, equating to an overall more fun experience that anyone can jump in (or on) and enjoy.
Regardless of what sport you’re playing, there are four navigation settings that determine the amount of control the player has over their path. The casual setting requires no navigation on the player’s part whatsoever, other than leaning left or right to choose a branching path. The majority of the time this works the way you’d want it to, though you will miss the occasional rail or jump. On the other end of the spectrum, you can have complete navigational control, allowing you to go where you want, when you want. Unfortunately, the game requires you to lean on the edges of the board to turn rather than aiming the front of the board in the direction you desire. It’s a limitation of the hardware, and it makes navigation (as well as some tricks) feel unintuitive.
Although aimed at a younger audience, there is a mountain of tutorials to go through to learn the game’s trick and control systems. It’s not exactly a pick-up-and-play party title for those looking to progress, though snowboarding is easier to figure out if you’re just winging it. There are around a dozen venues, each with a plentiful supply of courses and challenges to complete. Objectives are varied and keep things fresh, but as a general rule of thumb if you do a ton of tricks and don’t eat $#!?, you’ll probably win. This will definitely keep you busy for some time to come, and even long after this review I plan to continue working on my SHRED skills. Considering I eat games like Enslaved for breakfast and completed Mass Effect 2 for a nightcap, that should speak volumes as to the game's replayability.
Despite the many improvements, rocking soundtrack, and inclusion of snowboarding to sweeten the pot, there are a few issues that hold SHRED back from being a flawless experience. Aside from the annoying navigation method mentioned earlier, there are times where the game won’t do what you want it to. These are much rarer than in RIDE, and can also be the cause of your clothing; if you have baggy pants on, the material can trip the sensors in ways you didn’t intend. Likewise, socks are too slippery for the board peripheral, so you’re either going to have go barefoot or wear shoes to play, which could be a problem at parties. Oh yes, and make sure to have a small screwdriver readily available for the board’s batteries. Mine ran out during a play session and prevented me from playing for two days until I could run to Walmart and buy a $1 tool that should have been included in the package to begin with.
SHRED is a considerable improvement over RIDE, and the addition of snowboarding adds substantial value to the package. Still, it’s hard to recommend buying SHRED over a Kinect. If you already own the board, by all means scoop this one up. Or, if you can get the bundle on cheap sometime next year, definitely grab it for the kids. It’s just a shame Activision pulled the plug on Robomodo before they really got going as I’d like to have seen this formula evolve even further.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]