Tony Hawk: RIDE - PS3 - Review
Put down that handheld controller and get off the couch! You've talked the talk, but can you skate the walk?
For the past decade, the Tony Hawk franchise has innovated and often defined the ‘board’ genre of video-games. Tony Hawk RIDE is no exception, but – in many ways – it takes the genre in a completely new direction and opens up the opportunity to expand the concept of board-controlled gaming to other genres.
In the past, the Tony Hawk games put controllers in the hands of gamers that tied in to the tricks. Players were tasked to string together combos through multiple button presses. Well, that is truly a thing of the past. The key to RIDE is the new controller, which is a wireless board that sits on the ground.
You begin the experience by defining your stance on the board. This enables the board to accurately translate your movements to the game. The board is shaped like a real skateboard (well, a little thicker) with key inputs along one side and motion sensors at four locations on the edges of the board. There is a flat surface on the bottom and then a beveled edge that allows the board to tilt. Balance on the board is obviously a key ingredient.
The ends of the board are curved slightly upward, like a real skateboard, and this allows for the basic beginning movements. Want to perform an ollie? Use your back foot to push down and pop the nose of the board up in the air. A slow elevation of the nose of the board will perform a manual. Popping an ollie and then using your front foot to push the nose of the board in one direction or the other will perform a flip. While it may sound a bit strange, it is actually very easy to get the hang of and to perform tricks. The board is pointed toward the console for street trick rides or speed skate competitions, but when it comes to the vert or half-pipe, the board runs horizontal to the console/monitor.
You push off in the regular or goofy stance by running your foot past one of the side motion sensors. For the vert, you ‘ollie’ off the ramp and onto the course. The motion sensors also come into play for grabs. Run a hand through the field of view of the sensors and your on-screen skater will perform a grab. Timing is important, of course, but the casual mode (the easiest of the three modes, which runs to hardcore) eases players into the game but determining the line through the game for players so they can concentrate on the tricks.
The game is identical for the 360 and PS3 consoles. The Wii uses the same level design and essentially the same looks but there are some differences. Miis are the characters (in the 360 and PS3 you can use a pre-built more-realistic skater or create your own), and there are no special characters (like a teen-aged Tony Hawk). While some of the elements of its bigger brethren are not the same, the Wii does offer an extra level in Spain.
The story mode essentially has players journeying around the world to see what Tony has been up to. Maybe that does not sound like the strongest story line, but there are challenges along the way. The biggest aspect, in terms of game modes, though will come in the form of the challenges. More so than any other Tony Hawk title, this is a game with broad family appeal. You can take turns in the challenges for a one-versus-one high score contest, or enter in a round-robin scoring match with numerous players in the party mode.
Taking a page from the Guitar Hero book, developer Robomodo incorporated a Style meter that when filled up allows for multipliers for the tricks, takes the game into a slow-motion look and adds some nice colored trailers to the skater to pump up the optical effects.
When it comes to multiplayer, players can obviously play on the same machine (no side-by-side skating with multiple boards; this is turn-based gaming simply because it can be a very physical exercise and you will want room to fall should you lose your balance while playing), but the game will have a robust online presence with every game type, except challenge (the four game types are speed, trick, challenge and free skate – the latter is pulling off as many tricks as you can in the area within a time limit).
Graphically the game looks solid. During the event, there were some minor clipping problems and a bug that had one skater going in circles in a timed event (contrary to the casual directed path) until an ollie broke the cycle. But the game does a very good job with the environments and the skating animations. The Wii version was a bit more awkward with the Miis, but the environments and animations were still solid.
The musical score dabbles in a variety of styles with more than 50 artists contributing to the soundtrack. There are also video segments that transition from one event to the other (masking some of the load times, and there are some load times), and some of these have a splash of humor in them and are worth watching.
What makes this game so dynamic is obviously the controller. It gives the game a brand new vibe and feel and elevates the enter genre. In 2009, Activision introduced a couple of new controllers – one for DJ Hero and the board for RIDE. Of the two, the board will have the biggest impact and may well become a staple for other games to build off. But more importantly, the board takes the Tony Hawk franchise to a new audience – the entire family. This is no longer about fast fingers on a controller, but it is a decent workout (you may break a sweat playing the game and you will feel it in your legs) but this is a game that will appeal to the younger members of the family as well as the older ones.
Tony Hawk RIDE is a winner. This is a game that runs a bit more than typical titles ($120 at retail) but the cost is for the controller, which will undoubtedly have other applications down the road. The game, though, is very entertaining, a joy to watch and even more fun to play.
Review Scoring Details for Tony Hawk RIDE
The board brings the franchise to life in remarkable ways. There is a decent variety of game modes and the ‘80s look is a nice touch.
A few minor glitches, but the game is very easy on the eyes and there are some fun effects players can trigger in various locations. The Miis used in the Wii version are not a great fit, but this is a game that is about the action animation, and that translates to all platforms.
Wide range of musical tracks gives the game a good audio backdrop.
The casual mode is very forgiving but there is a small learning curve when it comes to finding your balance and working the board for the big tricks. Landing is very important.
The board is what defines this game, makes it stand out from other titles and is a tremendous leap forward for the genre.
The online elements were not available for play, but the party mode and scoring competitions provided a lot of fun.
A few small glitches, but Tony Hawk RIDE is innovative and great fun. This is a title the whole family can get behind and it should provide hours of entertainment, laughter and a nice little leg workout. If not for the board, this title would be an average Tony Hawk game, but the board makes it a benchmark title. Yes, it is spendy, but this is more than a disk in plastic wrap, this is a next-gen controller that takes the franchise down roads it has never travelled before.