Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 on the original Playstation was my one of my first forays into the world of games, other than the Tomb Raider games I religiously ploughed through. Between Tony Hawk's, Crash Bandicoot and The Italian Job, I clocked up a good many hours sat in front of the little portable TV with Mr. Hawk, pulling off all manner of ludicrous tricks with ease thanks to its accessible controls, levelling up my skaters, finding all the hidden cash and getting the last few high scores before losing to my more obsessed brother at the Trick Attack multiplayer mode. Time has passed now, and with plenty of old games being given the high definition make-over, the Gods have decided it's time for the return of Tony Hawk, in the form of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD - an HD remix, or 'best of' Tony Hawk's 1 and 2, bought into the present day by way of a fancy graphical overhaul, and a few minor tweaks – now there are DVDs hidden in the level to collect, rather than video tapes, and there's the option to play as Tony Hawk's son Riley, too.
Tony Hawk's Skateboarding capitalised on the late 90s skateboarding revival, letting you step into the shoes of famous pro skateboarders like Tony Hawk and... some other guys we haven't heard of. Taking your skater into one of a series of levels, from a shopping mall, to an aircraft hanger, and a school playground, each of which has been littered with handily placed half pipes and rails to lend itself to skating, you have two minutes in which to complete various objectives – from collecting letters S-K-A-T-E, spray paint cans or shipping manifests which have been scattered around the levels, to performing specific tricks as you leap over certain obstacles, or even leaping over a magical bum (of the tramp variety, not backside). Each level has its own specific collection of objectives to achieve, along with three different levels of high scores to go for, each more difficult than the last, requiring you to string together as many grinds, flips and grabs as you can. Once you've finished all the objectives on all of the levels, you unlock a series of more advanced 'projectives', which require you to land a massive combo, score ludicrous amounts of points and collect even more stuff with just sixty seconds on the clock.
The Tony Hawks games were long known for their intrinsic pick up and play appeal - with some easy to understand controls, stringing together a load of flips, grinds and manuals and landing them was around a million times easier than it would be in real life, and the game was fairly generous, too - all you had to do was make sure your character was pointing vaguely in the same direction in order to land your move successfully - and the game seemed to actually adjust your skater's angle for you. Oftentimes, your character would land a load of tricks that, by rights, should have resulted in a pile of aches, scrapes, and broken bones - but it was this friendly forgiveness that meant an inexperienced player like myself managed to finish the game. So then, it seems a little bit odd that for the HD Collection, Activision have actually made the game a lot, lot harder.
The first time we took the collection for a spin, we really struggled to get to grips with things - which seemed strange, seeing as we were veterans of the original. Unless your board was pointing in the exactly the right direction as you were landing, you'd be unceremoniously chucked off your skateboard, and earn yourself no points whatsoever. Thinking we didn't remember things being quite so finicky back in the day, we dug out the old Playstation – and sure enough, we managed to get some 50,000 points easily; we were a bit rusty, but at least we weren't collapsing in a heap every few seconds.
Something about the HD Collection definitely feels off, but after a while you do start to get used to it's idiosyncrasies, coming off your board less, and chaining together several moves without breaking your virtual neck – and as you complete goals and collect cash, you can upgrade your skater, letting you pull off tricks that are worth more points, improve your landing or grinding skills, or simply buy a better board. Sadly, though, it is a bit frustrating that the money you earn is tied to the skater you earnt it with, meaning that should you decide you want to change character half way through, it'll be back to square one.
For a whopping 1200 Microsoft Points, which works out at around £10.20 for what is basically a mish-mash of two games some thirteen years old (albeit with nicer graphics), Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD seems to be a little bit on the expensive side - especially when you consider the collection has less levels packed into it in total than either of the games it's based on. Adding to the frustration is that in the coming weeks, we'll be seeing an extra, paid downloadable pack of levels from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 hitting the marketplace - something which it really feels should have been included in the game from the off - not held back so it could be charged for at a later date.
It'd be OK if the collection was genuinely a best of of the earlier Tony Hawks games, but some of the levels they've picked are amongst the worst, like the infuriating Mall level or the boring Downhill Jam – levels, which are linear skateboarding from one end to the other, which even the developers seemed to realise were rubbish, seeing as they quickly abandoned them in favour of larger levels with more nooks and crannies to explore in later games – there isn't even an appearance of the slightly annoying, yet hilarious, New York City level where you could get hit by cars mid trick.
Sadly, the cuts from the originals don't stop there - rather than improving things, the HD Collection is actually missing one of Tony Hawk's more popular features – it's split-screen multiplayer modes. While the original Tony Hawk's didn't have the now-standard extreme sports staple "Wipeout" mode, which lets you compete with a friend to come off your board in the most painful looking way possible, it did have a pretty fun selection that you could play with a friend sitting next to you. Now only playable online, old favourites like 'Trick Attack' and 'Graffiti' remain, although 'Horse', where you needed to match the other player's tricks as best as you could, has gone. 'Trick Attack' is a basic contest to see who can amass the most points, while 'Graffiti' requires you to perform tricks on various obstacles to 'own' them, with the player who owns the most at the end of the time limit winning – if your score needs bolstering, you can nick other players' spots by performing a higher-scoring trick over it. 'Big Head Elimination' is a new mode, in which players need to keep performing tricks to reduce the size of their bonce, without letting it get so large it explodes – the last person with their head left intact is the winner.
But while Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD isn't all that bad, it's certainly not as good as the original games used to be - and even if you've never played the originals, it's obvious that something not quite right. With a pointlessly more awkward difficulty, substantially less levels than either of the first two games, and no split-screen multiplayer mode, all for over a tenner, with extra, paid downloadable stuff incoming, it's hard to really recommend the current HD collection too strongly. In fact, you can actually buy a second hand Playstation and the two Tony Hawk's games for less than £18 combined if you shop around a bit (knock a tenner off if you already own a Playstation 1/2/3, as they can already play the old games), and you'll get more than twice the levels to play through to boot. Or perhaps you could try to find the original Xbox game of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X, a remake of the first two games with a few extra levels chucked in, as it's one of the few original Xbox games that happens to still be playable on the Xbox 360.
As it stands, we'd gladly trade Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD's improved graphics and 'more realistic' physics for ports of the first two games in their entireties – we miss being able to land impossibly long strings of tricks with ease, and we miss the local multiplayer. Someone, somewhere seems to have missed the memo that when remaking a game, you're supposed to make it better – not worse, especially considering the price they're asking.