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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (PlayStation 2) artwork

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (PlayStation 2) review

"Someone should ban the use of the word 'extreme' when it comes to describing the sports chosen by people who wear baggy pants. Why is skateboarding more extreme than, say, darts? The risk of injury in darts is surely higher, considering it is played mostly in places that people congregate to drink vast quantites of alcohol. But, I digress. "

Someone should ban the use of the word 'extreme' when it comes to describing the sports chosen by people who wear baggy pants. Why is skateboarding more extreme than, say, darts? The risk of injury in darts is surely higher, considering it is played mostly in places that people congregate to drink vast quantites of alcohol. But, I digress.

Anyway, extreme sports games are 'extremely' popular these days. It wasn't always like this, though. There once was a time when skateboarding just didn't translate to a joypad at all. The release of Neversoft's seminal Tony Hawks Pro Skateboarding changed that for ever. From out of nowhere the game took the PlayStation by storm. The game cleverly leant just over the edge of realism, allowing players to try things that were only JUST outside of the realm of possibility. While the graphics were nothing spectacular, they were better than any extreme game seen before. The soundtrack was excellent, containing new cuts from well-known artists mixed in with a couple of classics. But it was the gameplay that made the game. Sales were immense, and a sequel was inevitable.

Tony Hawks 2 improved on the original in every respect. Tony Hawks 3 did the same. Now we have the 4th instalment in the series. 4th games can be tricky, just ask the Tomb Raider boys. So, is it another step forward, or just one step too far?

Well - yes and no. The game uses the engine from Tony Hawks 3, so anyone familiar with the series will be at home right away. However, newcomers may well feel completely lost pretty quickly. There is a tutorial of sorts, but it is tucked away inside some of the goals so as to not intrude upon the game. And this is where we get to the really big change in this sequel.

Previously in this series, the player had to achieve certain targets in order to progress through the career mode. These were usually of the 'score X,000 points' variety, or of 'do a trick in such a place'. This is still the bulk of the game, only the way you get the goals is now different. As opposed to having the goals set at the start of the level, you now enter each level without a time limit, or any preset notion of just what you have to do. Instead, you activate a goal by talking to a character in each level. Some of these levels are huge, and some of these characters are wll hidden in them. Just finding every goal in every level is quite a task in itself.

Also, some of the goal objectives are not made altogether clear at the start. Often you will find yourself skating around blindly hoping to find the gap you were just told to go and perform a special trick at. To any newcomers, I could imagine this feeling really daunting. Neversoft should have thought about this, because not everybody is a Tony Hawks expert already.

However, if you ARE an expert, there is nothing bad I can find to say about this game. From the sheer size of the levels, to the sheer variety of the goals, this game is everything you could have wanted it to be. The inclusion of spine transfers opens up the levels in much the same way that the revert did with 3. There is literally nowhere in the levels you can't get to (and more importantly) combo to now. The flatland tricks have also been expanded, allowing you to access some fantastic stationary moves. Provided you have the dexterity, you can pull off some frankly ridiculous high-scoring combos. To give you an example of just how high the scores can get, one of the goals in the Carnival level asks you to pull off a 500,000 point combo. Now, this may seem low to some, but to the average non-obsessive player this seems nigh-on impossible. Another point where a newbie might feel a little left-out.

My personal favourite new touch is the way that the tournament levels no longer exist. Instead, there are tournament goals inside some of the main levels. This means you will no longer be stuck trying to squeeze out an extra point just so you can open the next area of the game.

Where Tony Hawks 3 gave you 10 goals in each of 9 levels, Tony Hawks 4 now gives you at least 14 goals per level, and usually 21. In all there are 190 goals to achieve throughout career mode, making this easily the biggest game to date. And some of these challenges are specific to each individual pro for the first time. These pro-challenges are very difficult, but are also the most spectacular and rewarding goals in the game, often based on the high-point of the individuals career. Or in the case of Bam Margera, based on the rather unique way of life featured in MTV's Jackass...

The soundtrack is more of the same you have come to expect, expanding on the recent trend towards a more old-skool type skate music. Hence the inclusion of the Sex Pistols and AC/DC alongside NWA and Public Enemy. Some may not like it, but this reviewer loves the thought of grinding around Alcatraz while The Number Of The Beast blares out.

At times the game frustrates with it's difficulty. At times it rivals Stuntman in terms of anger induction. At times you will swear loudly at the screen. You may even throw your pad to the floor, or at the screen. Even good games can make you do that. But, the mark of a great game is when you pick the pad back up straight away.

What we end up with is a game that improves on the previous one in every respect, provided you know what you are doing. Usually these reviews end with a quote along the lines of ''If you already own the previous game then you don't really need this one. Otherwise, get this one.'' Not this time. This time my quote is the other way around. ''If you are even remotely a fan of the series, then you should get this immediately. If you are new, then you may be best advised to try Tony Hawks 3 first, because it contains a great tutorial, and you will enjoy this game even more for the experience of the previous one.''

Now, how the hell are they going to top this one with Tony Hawks 5?

cheekylee's avatar
Community review by cheekylee (December 06, 2002)

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