Review by MJ
"Tony Hawk keeps on getting better."
The Tony Hawk series started on the Playstation 1, an easy to play, hard to master, and most importantly FUN skateboarding game. Over the years Neversoft has refined the formula, something alot of developers wouldn't dream of, but each time they've come up with something even better, and 4 is no exception.
This is what counts when you're talking about THPS, how does it play? Neversoft has ripped out the old (and somewhat tired after the 3rd installment) system of ''Play level for 2 minutes, accomplish goals, repeat'' and created what is essentially a free skate with optional goals.
You won't start each level with a checklist and see tons of cash icons, letters and various other collectibles floating around in the air. You seek out people and recieve challenges from them, sometimes with time limits, or other restrictions. The standard goals are back, collect S-K-A-T-E, get X amount of points, also competitions are held on the fly in each level. Add to that a whole slew of new goals, everything from the challenging C-O-M-B-O letters to setting a giant elephant free, to feeding seals, each level has alot of variety.
The levels themselves are simply huge, there is no other way to put it, and as always you can trick off of everything. Unlike alot of the levels in THPS3, the ones in 4 are well laid out, and offer a little bit of everything for skaters to do, whether you're vert, street, a mix or just a flatlander.
Keeping with tradition, Neversoft has added a new element that busts the trick system even more wide open in THPS4, the spine transfer. When you're going up a vert ramp, simply hold down R2 and you'll transfer over the spine of the ramp and into another vert ramp on the other side (if its there), otherwise you'll land flat on your board, its great for avoiding bails as well.
For everything that's new and great, new tricks, the spine transfer, and the massive levels, THPS does sport one bad flaw, and that's the difficulty. About 40 or so goals in the game starts getting mighty demanding with their goals. They may seem impossible at first, and you'll retry dozens of times until you're on the brink of insanity, but, its only that much more sweeter when you finally complete it. Deep, sigh of relief sweet.
The visuals aren't astounding in this game, they're on par with anything else you'll find on the PS2 today (FFX does NOT count :P). The levels are massive, look great, and never suffer from a hint of slowdown. The skater animations are good as well.
I grew sick of the playlist in this game quickly and killed the music, its a pretty good mix though. There aren't many sound effects save for grinding noises and grunting when you bail. There's a fair bit of voice work in this game, each person you get a goal from will lay out their plans for you and your skateboard verbally, not to mention all the chit chat people do while walking around. The skaters attempting to read their lines and sound natural is priceless however.
Dead on, perfect THPS controls. Everything is easy to pull off, you never feel like you're wrestling with the controller. This is one aspect of the game I don't think Neversoft could ever improve upon.
This is the best in the THPS series yet(I've played and beaten the previous 3), the levels are great, the trick system is perfect, the graphics are nice, the goals are fun. You'll want to replay about 10 times to see and unlock everything (especially the awesome secret characters). The single player is the meat and potatoes, but the great multiplay and online play (with new additions like capture the flag) are as sweet a dessert as you could want.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/10/02, Updated 11/18/02
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