reviews\ Nov 6, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 - XB - Review

The Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series has come a long way since its early beginnings and gamers have seen a radical change when the third installment introduced a more massive playing environment with much emphasis on interaction with a living and breathing world.  Thankfully the good people at Activision O2 know a good thing when they see it and have released Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 with all the goodness gamers loved about the third game . . . only this time they added more goodies to the pot.  Oh, it just keeps getting better and better.


First off, the game takes skate fans through nine massive playing environments complete with people, vehicles and challenges. To get to each environment, you must complete the majority of the challenges and earn enough money to purchase your entry to the next location.  This is done in the game’s main mode--Career Mode.  There are four modes in total: Career Mode, Single Session, Free Skate and Multiplayer mode.  Single Session is a two-minute session where you try to earn as much points as possible.  Free Skate give gamers a chance to practice before going through the main mode and Multiplayer mode offers a System Link option or just fun for two players.


Career mode puts gamers in an immense environment filled with plenty of ramps and objects to grind on.  Scattered throughout the areas are people that will offer various kinds of challenges (you’ll know who they are since they have big arrows pointed at them and they call out to you).  Each challenge is unique in its own way too.  One pedestrian might ask you smash beer kegs from a group of rowdy frat boys or keep a campus cop from grabbing unsuspecting skaters.  You’ll also find that completing each mission earn you money--money you can use to purchase new boards, cheats, secret skaters and unlock new levels--and Pro Points to improve your skater’s skills.  There are dozens of challenges found in each location that include challenges offered by pros like Bob Burnquist, Bam Margera or even Tony Hawk himself.


New to the series are mini-challenges that don’t have much to do with the main challenges found in each level in Career Mode but are there as added mini-games.  For example, in the college campus, there is a tennis court where you’ll be offered to play a match using your skateboard as a tennis racquet.  You can now skitch a ride behind a moving vehicle in the same way it was done in Acclaim’s Aggressive Inline. The Create-A-Skater option features plenty of little added details such as different shirts, pants, shoes and even accessories. You can also create your own park using the Park Editor.


Again, the controls are heaven when it comes to executing tricks such as double tap flips and grabs or crooked grinds.  The much more difficult tricks to pull off are not impossible challenges but do require gamers to practice them repeatedly.  There will be times when certain challenges call for the more extreme tricks, forcing gamers to frustratingly try them over and over until they accidentally execute the move.


The multiplayer option doesn’t offer Xbox Live support but that doesn’t mean there’s no fun to be had in the multiplayer modes.  Many of the classics are back such as Trick Attack and Horse.  There are eight multiplayer modes two gamers can challenge one another in and two games eight players using the System Link can play.  New to the multiplayer games are Combo Mambo (the player who busts the biggest combo wins) and Score Challenge (like Time Attack only there is no timer).  With so many multiplayer modes, I hardly think gamers will be complaining about no online access.


The skating environments are not only just massive but also really great to look at since the graphics have been slightly enhanced this time around.  The level of detail found in each environment, especially the zoo and the San Francisco levels, will impress gamers.  The skater models are also more detailed so that when you encounter Tony Hawk or any of the other well-known skaters in the game somewhere in a level; you’ll instantly recognize them before they even open their mouths to talk.  Still, some pedestrians aren’t rendered as well as others; in fact, some of them look really plain.


The game’s sound is also top-notch with great sound effects and an excellent sound track.  Each specific area in the many locations has its own atmospheric sounds and the voice acting isn’t entirely all that bad.  The game’s soundtrack is composed is thirty-five tunes from a wide variety of artists such as AC/DC, Public Enemy, Iron Maiden or System of a Down.  You can arrange them any way you want in the sound options menu or even add any songs you might have stored in your Xbox’s hard drive.


Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 is an extreme skateboarding masterpiece that does not fail to bring out the inner thrasher in all of us.  With enough tricks, massive interactive environments and more challenges to choose from, this is a game worth of any gamers’ growing library.  Consider this one a Must-Have.


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 9.8
Once again the controls are a dream to handle with enough tricks and combos that take a bit of practice to master correctly.  Gamers can just as easily pull off various flip tricks, ollies and manuals with ease while the more complex tricks require a lot of practice.  You’ll find that you can pull off the more advanced tricks through trail-and-error but be prepared to take more than a couple of nasty (and bloody) tumbles.  The new moves, such as skitching, are nice additions.


Gamers will also find it quite a joy exploring all six immense levels that range from a college campus, San Francisco, Alcatraz, Kona, a shipyard, Chicago, a carnival, London and the zoo.  There are plenty of people to offer challenges--such as collecting words to spell out words like COMBO or SKATE or skating on moving parade floats--and mini-games.    


Graphics: 9.5
While it doesn’t showcase the Xbox’s true graphics power, the visuals really stand out with high details in the environments and the skaters as well as the gorgeous textures found in buildings and objects.  You’ll find each area nicely detailed with building with banners that flap with the wind, mobile cranes in the shipyards and elephants in the zoo lazily flapping their ears.  The skater models are even gorgeous, with fluid movements captured to perfection as well as gruesome damage to exposed elbows or knee caps (see, kids, this is why it’s important to wear knee and elbow pads). 


Sound: 9.7
Aside from the fact that you can incorporate your own tunes to the filled-to-the-brim Playlist, there is some great music to be found in Tony Hawk 4.  There is a healthy dose of different musical genres presented here from classic rock and punk such as AC/DC and The Sex Pistols to old school rap such as Run DMC and N.W.A.  There are just so many tunes and if you don’t like a particular song, you can edit out the track and just add the ones you like.  This game was meant to be played with a great sound system hooked up to your console.


Then there’s the voice acting, which is decent in many places and not so good in others.  Many of the characters you find will have their own personality voice-wise while the pro skaters sound as if they’re mechanically reading from the script (with the exception of Tony Hawk and a few of the other pros).  This isn’t a really big deal since the sound effects throughout the game are just too good.


Difficulty: Hard
The game’s difficulty comes from the more advanced challenges found in the game which, like the third game, can be kind of frustrating to complete after having tried it a few times.  It’s not necessary to complete every challenge found in a level (read nearly impossible) but half the fun is in the attempt.  Secondly, the more advanced tricks can be hard to pull off, especially when the particular trick is called for in a challenge.


Concept: 9.8
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 changed extreme sports titles in that they can now interact with their surrounding and this fourth installment carries on the tradition.  There is a sense of freedom that comes from taking any challenge in any order you want without being forced to do them all at once.  Creating your own skater and your own skate park are also major pluses.  The added bonuses in the game are also very welcome . . . who didn’t want to skitch a car in Tony Hawk's 3?


Multiplayer: 9.7
Despite the sad fact that the game doesn’t include Xbox Live support, the multiplayer option is still a joy.  Two players can play through eight multiplayer games: Trick Attack, Score Challenge, Combo Mambo, Slap, King of the Hill, Graffiti, Horse and Free Skate.  And, in addition to these modes, you can set up a System Link game with up to eight players and play two extra modes called Goal Attack and Capture the Flag.  Many of the multiplayer games have been seen before (and are still well loved) with the exception of Combo Mambo, Score Challenge and the two System Link games.


Overall: 9.3
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 does it again and brings extreme skateboarding to even more satisfying heights with its various challenges and added extras.  This is the most fun you’ll have on a board without actually being on one.  Go ahead and buy it, you can thank me later.


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