Who would've thought that 4 years later we'd still be playing Tony Hawk games? Little did Activision know, their skateboarding franchise would help them propel into becoming one of the most recognizable publishers all over again. Selling millions with every rendition, the Hawk returns yet again and once again, with new improvements to boot. Having launched last year as the first online playable PS2 title, Tony Hawk 4 takes everything THPS3 did and multiplies it by two.
The career mode has been completely revamped. Instead of being required to do a set number of objectives within a two-minute period, Tony Hawk 4 now gives the gamer total freedom in every stage by eliminating the timer. This time, you are required to interact with the public and have objectives presented to you, only then will the timer appear. Every objective has a different time meter, so you are not automatically given two-minutes to accomplish something. In some cases it can be anywhere between 30 seconds to three-minutes. Basically, if you've played it, the career mode is pretty much exactly like Acclaim's Aggressive Inline. Some improvements to the actual experience of the game include the ability to tailgate or "skitch". You can pull off flat land tricks with ease now, as a simple tap of a direction and either Square, Circle or Triangle while manualing will make your skater pull off a kick ass flat land trick...no wheels, all wood.
The roster has renamed unchanged, in fact it has gone back to its traditional roots, as Bob 'The Burn' Burnquist has returned to the series, after being wrongfully used in Konami's not so hot ESPN licensed skateboarding title. There are also four secret character slots and of course a custom skater. While on the subject, THPS4's create-a-skater is insanely deep. You can edit pretty much everything, head size, body size, height, weight, arm size, leg size, hair style, hair color, clothing, sneakers, everything! Normally, it would take me no more than 2-3 minutes to create a skater or a custom character in some other game. In Tony Hawk 4 it took me a good ten minutes. The courses in THPS4 are tremendous, twice as large as the courses in the third. They are also more realistic, in the sense that they represent something you'd be more likely to see in a skate park. So instead of having a bunch of kickers, ramps, half-pipes on a course, you see something a bit more traditional and "realistic". You still have half-pipe areas, or walls that can be used as half/quarter-pipes, you just don't have them scattered everywhere you look, so that puts more emphasis into grinding, manualing and flat landing. The skate parks are all modeled after actual skateboarding spots throughout various cities in the United States, including the bay area of San Francisco, the outdoor areas of the University of California, in Berkeley, and even Alcatraz. So, obviously, these three stages are all based out of California, but of course there are more in the final version of the game.
Visually, Tony Hawk 4 is looking even better than the third. The textures are sharper and more vibrant. The whole game looks cleaner and still moves every bit as fluid as the third did. The skaters are now given new and gruesome bail animations, which is a pretty neat addition. The soundtrack, I personally, am not very excited about. Maybe I should give it time to grow on me, but I'm just not finding myself enjoying any of the hip-hop tracks, and I'm barely enjoying the rock portion. The only notable songs I can mention are those done by AC/DC and Sex Pistols, everything else I just don't seem to care too much about. Though who knows, with a claimed list of 35 tracks, I'm sure by the time I get my mittens on the final rev of the game, I'll change my mind.
Stay posted for a review of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, when the game launches October 30th.
10/5/2002 Arnold Katayev