Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4
The fourth title in the extreme sports series that began this genre has arrived and every new instalment seems to be greeted with increased excitement. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 was one heck of a game. In many ways it had the balance just right. The control system and trick system were spot on and needed virtually no alteration at all. Some moaned about the levels but in our opinion, they were great. What fans of the previous two games wanted was a fundamental change to the gameplay and while that didn't come with version 3, it certainly does with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4.
The most important change is that the old two minute time limit has gone. You used to have two minutes in which to accomplish as many goals as you could. Whatever goals you achieved were simply crossed off the list and you had to restart the level in order to attempt the remaining goals. It's all change in THPS4. The levels are huge with a rather healthy amount of goals to achieve. In THPS 4 you are given unlimited time in a level and at first you are given no goals. The goals are obtained by speaking to people. These people are highlighted and you go up to them and simply press the circle button to obtain a goal. Each goal will have a time limit, usually two minutes, in which to complete it. The goals will be familiar to veterans of the series and range from high point scores to finding S-K-A-T-E (or rather the letters to spell SKATE) to having to knock certain people over etc. Should you fail the goal then you will remain in the level and you can either go back to the same person or press the start button and select retry last goal. This new system allows you to learn the levels at your own pace and takes the need to be a speed demon out of the game.
The compliment of tricks that are available have increased with the inclusion of quite a few new tricks.. It is now also possible to perform a skitchin, that is to say you can grab onto the back of a car and travel along with it. The controls feel exactly as they did the last time around and veterans will have no problem at all getting to grips with the game.
Successfully completing goals will earn you the requisite statistic points to improve your skater's attributes and extra items such as extra board designs, movies, pro points etc. Obtaining the required amount of pro points will allow further levels to be unlocked. There are nine levels in total (and the park editor is included again for you to create your own levels) and these offer many more goals than were on offer in THPS 3. There are also some mini-games thrown in this time to add a bit of freshness to the proceedings. You'll find games going on that you'll be able to come involved in such as the tennis game on the college level. There are some good multiplayer modes thrown in too. Old favourites like H-O-R-S-E are still there but there are some new games such as Combo Mambo and Score Challenge. It's fair to say that THPS 4 offers a decent improvement on THPS 3 in both single player and multiplayer modes.
Graphically the game looks slightly better than THPS 3 although to be completely honest there wasn't much wrong the last time around. THPS 4 has an impressive draw distance as well as a consistently smooth framerate which is very impressive when you consider the levels are many times bigger than the ones in THPS 3. The textures are also much improved this time around. It makes you wonder exactly what the developers will get out of the PS2 the next time around. One thing I hope they solve is the clipping. It's not uncommon to see your skater land and for some of his limbs to temporarily disappear into solid objects. As a point of interest you can also turn off the blood, that results from a bail, this time around.
THPS 4 is fine for deaf gamers, just as THPS 3 was. The tutorial is subtitled and all conversations within the game are subtitled too. The taunts you receive from the other skaters aren't subtitled though but these are irrelevant to the gameplay. All objectives, trick instructions etc., can be recalled at any time too, which is always helpful.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 is remarkable in that it breathes live into the series with it's restructuring of the career mode. Neversoft have been brave and altered a highly successful formula but thankfully they've created a game which can honestly lay claim to being both different and yet familiar and above all it's still great to play.
Game Rating: 9.0/10