'Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4' (Xbox/PS2/GCN) Review

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'Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4' (Xbox/PS2/GCN) Review

Without a doubt, "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" is one of the most significant videogame series ever. While completely reinventing the console skateboarding genre, the series has consistently hit upon the perfect mix of fluid visual presentation, tight in-game controls, and insanely addictive replay value. On this "Extended Play" we jump into "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4" to see if lightning can strike for a fourth time.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4
Platform: Xbox/PS2/GCN
Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
ESRB rating: Teen
Rating:5 out of 5 stars

Roll with the new

The biggest change with "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4" is its entirely revamped career mode. Instead of short, timed runs on small and midsize levels, the game features more expansive areas. There are also multiple challenges to complete before you can unlock the next level.

To get your objectives, you skate through each area and talk to various characters you encounter. They will describe the task you have to complete in a set amount of time. Some tasks are similar to the tasks in previous games, such as spelling S-K-A-T-E by collecting strategically placed letters, pulling off a special move while jumping a building, or beating a certain high score. But the new challenges include more outlandish missions. You'll save an unlucky painter from the jaws of a shark and play minigames including tennis and slalom races. There are close to 200 tasks littered throughout the game's nine levels. Some are quite challenging. And as if that weren't enough, there are also new Pro Skater challenges, which you can go through and complete with different skaters.

Due to the increasing difficulty of the objectives, each level can take quite some time to complete. With so many areas to explore, you're bound to get lost just trying to figure out where you're going the first few times through. For instance, the college level is an incredibly accurate re-creation of the UC Berkeley campus. As it's presented here, you can sense the vastness of the sprawling campus. It's a seemingly unlimited area to catch air, wall ride, or grind. There are 16 goals to complete in this level alone, and some may be beyond your abilities at the start of the game. Thankfully, you only need to complete a portion of each level's goals to earn enough points to unlock more. As you hone your skills, you'll find yourself revisiting the earlier levels to complete the unfinished tasks and earn more points.

Bust a move

In addition to the moves found in previous versions, "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4" adds the ability to "skitch" or catch a ride on the back of a moving vehicle. There's also a "spine transfer" move. This move gives you greater control to land on a different ramp in the middle of an airborne trick, or to pull out of a move if you're about to bail and land upright. These new moves are easy to learn, and within your first session you should have them down. Once mastered, these new moves are effective (skitching for gaining speed and the latter for stringing together new types of combos). Thankfully, they're well integrated into the game's already perfect control scheme.

Almost everything you'd expect

As with previous versions, you can create your own skater. Also, the in-game park editor is even more impressive than in previous versions. There are quite a few preconfigured parks for you to shred through, in addition to the game's regular levels. There are also a number of cheats, hidden skaters, and two special levels within the game. These extras can be purchased with in-game cash. Unfortunately, online play is available only in the PlayStation 2 version, though the Xbox edition supports linking two systems together for head-to-head gameplay.

The game's soundtrack shows increased diversity. There's a mix of old-school metal, punk, and hip-hop, in addition to more recent offerings. Everyone will have their favorites, but tracks by Run DMC, Biz Markie, and The Distillers are definite standouts. "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4" also features a heavy amount of voice acting. Professional skaters play a much bigger role in the game, and many will give you your tasks in each level.

Visual prowess

Graphically, the game is a step above "Tony Hawk 3." Each skater features a high level of detail, including some entertaining mannerisms that they display if you just let them stand idle. The scope and diversity of the levels, from the Shipyard to Kona to San Francisco, offers plenty of eye candy, and rarely do things feel repetitive. The only noticeable glitches came during failed tricks. However, there was rarely anything that hindered gameplay.

A near perfect run

For fanatics or newcomers to the series, the new career mode adds a considerable amount of depth to the overall game, while a quick session has more twitch factor than ever before. Owners of multiple systems may want to pick up the PS2 version for its online mode, but the Xbox version is still an amazing title. Even though some may have been skeptical that the streak could continue, Activision has, once again, delivered a must-own game.
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