The Tony Hawk series has been on a roller coaster ride ever since the emergence of its competition (ie. Skate…etc). The games have been failing and the series needed a reboot to keep the players coming back to it. With help from Tony Hawk himself as well as Activision and developer Robomodo the series took a year off to define itself. Now we have Tony Hawk Ride, a game that lets you get in the action on your own two feet, literally. A new skateboard peripheral enters the market and allows you to take full control of your experience with a fully motion-censored skateboard controller. It’s a nice idea in theory; the only question is, is it executed well?
Instead of the traditional story line featuring a young skateboarding hero trying to define himself, Tony Hawk Ride starts you off with a series of simple gameplay modes. These events contain several objectives you have to meet in order to open up the next event location, rinse and repeat. There are only 3 mission types, so your options are pretty limited with only Free Skate, Challenge, and Speed/Trick. Speed contests test your ability to get to the end of the course as quickly as possible with Trick having you rank up the highest score possible before the time runs out. Finally you have Challenges giving you a set of objectives to complete throughout the course to move on. Throw in Free Skate and you have just witnessed the entire game.
Online you can only compete with 3 players at a time in the Speed and Trick competitions and view leaderboards. You can go into a Party Mode where you and your friends take turns depending on the gameplay mode chosen, it’s still a bare bones experience considering online multiplayer being a big presence in recent years. There are a total of 6 locations to unlock as well as wheels, tucks, boards along with skater clothing…etc. The tracks themselves are laid out like race tracks providing you with a long linear line to help guide you in the right direction. You can veer off the course and try to freestyle it if you like, but the game doesn’t encourage it.
The peripheral is sturdily built, however, the censors and mechanics behind the board don’t do the gameplay experience any justice. It simply juts doesn’t work, for instance to pull off ollies you have to push down on the back of the board to lift the nose up, only that only works about 50% of the time. The board is built so that the censors pick up any movement on your end to translate it into the game. You have to tilt and twist the board in order to pull off any the tricks. This is where it becomes difficult and frustrating. On the higher difficulties it’s completely maddening thus why I had to stick with the casual difficulty setting in order to make any progress in the game.
When pulling off different tricks you have to start from pulling off an Ollie and start swinging the board in the desired direction. The multiple censors on the board will pick up any movement so watch how you move the board; otherwise you’ll find your character falling off the board more often then not. You’ll also have to tilt the board to actually steer it which is difficult considering the game thinks your trying to pull off a trick. The bottom of the board is beveled and the flat surface of it doesn’t even give you enough room to actually feel like your on wheels. For movement you have to slide your foot on the ground so the censor picks it up and you keep moving, but try doing that while also keep the board straight is a challenge. Don’t’ be surprised if you haven’t run into 50 different objects by now on the course. If your experienced at the sport, you’ll be able to pull off the advanced spin tricks, so for beginners, stay away from those as much as possible. As you pull off tricks you’ll build up a boost meter which will allow you to perform slow motion signature moves; while they are flashy this ends up slowing the pace of the game down. Skating on vert ramps is probably the best way to go for this game. In this case, all you have to do to pull off tricks is move your hand across the censor and hope for the best. Lastly, while manuals are realistic, you are better off buying a skateboard and learning the actual sport as it’s definitely easier to ride in a straight line.
Graphics and Sound
The game features a cartoony art style with a mix of cell-shading for effect. It’s not a problem until you start to notice the clipping and detection issues throw the game off balance. Because of the boards motion-censing capability some tricks had to be cut from the list. The ones that are here are nicely animated as well as the pro skaters themselves returning in full video form to get you started before each level. Though they fail to motivate you in any fashion with the poor quality of the videos, it’s a wonder how much time and energy was spent on them. The Tony Hawk games have always had a pretty decent soundtrack, however, this year it falls short. There are plenty of mainstream bands in there that you’ll recognize along with others that you may have not heard of before. It’s a nice combination, but could’ve been chosen a little more carefully.
There is much one can say about Tony Hawk Ride that’ll give it a glimmer of a hope from its past entries. The game needs a reboot and this wasn’t the right direction to go in. The motion-censing skateboard doesn’t do the game justice and fails as a gameplay mechanic. It’s great the amount with the amount of effort that went into the board, however, we just wish that same amount of effort went into the actual game. Looking at it from all angles sees the game as a bare bones package with the board being the only thing making the MSRP upwards of 120 dollars. If I had to choose I’d say skip Tony Hawk Ride.
The technology inside the board peripheral doesn’t hold up and while the game had a chance to shine, it ultimately fails. The controls are clunky and the load times are horrendous. While it may provide some fun with a group of friends around, you’ll have more fun bantering about the game itself then each other when it comes to the multiplayer experience. Don’t bother with Tony Hawk Ride; hopefully the next entry in the series will take the game to its roots that it was built on.