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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Extreme Sports

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Neversoft

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2002

 

 

- New tricks, levels, and goals

- Improved graphics

- Responsive controls

 

 

- Is much more difficult than ever before

- No online play

 

 

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (Playstation 2)

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (Gamecube 2)

 

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4

Score: 9.5 / 10

Hawk’s Pro Skater title that isn’t any good. But until then, we’ll just have to gush about the gaming greatness that is the latest rendition of the best skating game ever, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 (THPS4). Not only is this the greatest THPS yet, but as always is one of the year’s best games. Period.  

 

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Developer Neversoft again refused to regurgitate a minor upgrade to the THPS formula and instead completely revamped THPS4 with larger-than-ever levels -- 

probably two to five times bigger than any level that has appeared in any THPS title -- a whole new trick system, sharper visuals, and a much more challenging difficulty while still having the same familiar style and gameplay that allows anybody that has ever played a previous THPS game to pick it up and get skating right away.

 

Of course the basics of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater game are still here, but with some major changes that really keep the series fresh. There are a ton of new moves, including the spine transfer (which allows you jump from one side of a ramp apparatus to the other in one move) and the flatland tricks, like the pogo and handstand that are difficult at first but become part of your repertoire once you get the hang of them. Another trick is the ability to skitch, which lets your skater grab hold of any moving vehicle or creature (including a defecating elephant) for points and to meet goal objectives.  As always, the controls are easy to use and extremely responsive, which has been the trademark of the THPS series (although some practice is still necessary).  

 

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THPS4’s Career Mode goal system has been changed too. Each one of the nine levels still has goals that must be completed to gain stat points and cash for upgraded equipment and clothing, but now there is no rush to complete the goals in a restrictive time frame. The levels are free roam and you only take on a level goal when you are ready to – even better, they don’t have to be done in any particular order. But some of the goals are ridiculously hard. This is by far the most challenging of the THPS titles to date. The C-O-M-B-O goal is easily the most difficult goal on each level.  

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You must be able to get every letter that spells out the word C-O-M-B-O in one move (or combo string), and it can be near impossible on the later levels without having most of your stats maxed out. Goals such as spelling out S-K-A-T-E and beating progressively higher scores are still present, and each stage has level-specific goals.  

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One new addition is having characters call out specific moves that must be done to attain the goal. This is one goal where the timer returns. Usually about twenty or so moves must be landed to complete the goal. The great feature here is that the game gives you the directions and buttons that must be pushed for the moves to be completed. Although that might seem like it would make it totally easy to finish in one try, it can be a real test of your skating skills. And there are still skating contests where you contend for medals, but they are part of each level now -- not a separate stage.

 

Leading the roster of 14 pro skaters is naturally Tony Hawk himself but includes big-name skaters like Bucky Lasek, Bob Burnquist, Bam “Jackass” Margera, Rodney Mullen, and Steve Caballero, among others. Each skater brings along their own variety of tricks, decks, accessories, and clothing that can be bought with the cash collected on each level.

 

The graphics are the best of any THPS game, especially on the Xbox. If you have a high-definition television set, you’re in for a real eye-treat. With 720p HDTV support, THPS4 can be visually stunning for those lucky enough to game on a top-quality HDTV set.

 

The game’s sound effects and music are pretty much the same quality as before with the songs on the soundtrack containing a mix of new and old punk, rock, and hip-hop including old-school tunage from AC/DC and even Run-DMC, who contribute the hip-hop classic “My Adidas.”  

 

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One big letdown is the fact that the Xbox version of THPS4 can’t be played with Xbox Live. I honestly don’t know why Activision ignored the opportunity because it would have made for an incredible gaming experience. Maybe Activision will see the Live light with THPS5. However, THPS4 can support up to eight players with the Xbox system link, but only two players on one Xbox, unlike THPS3 that allowed for four-player multi-mayhem. THPS4’s multiplayer and online options are the only negative aspects from an otherwise stellar game.

 

Somehow Neversoft has done it yet again, by giving the extreme sports gamer another high-quality title worth every cent. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 has it all: huge and creatively designed levels, a great new trick system, improved graphics, another great soundtrack, and push-it-to-the-limit goals that even veteran THPS gamers will need time to master. No doubt about it, if you like good games you can’t go wrong with THPS4. It’s simply one of the best and most enjoyable gaming experiences around in any genre.

 

- Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(December 4, 2002)

 

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