Review by ASX

Reviewed: 12/27/02 | Updated: 12/27/02

A relieving upgrade to the THPS series

Since the first one, a new Tony Hawk's Pro Skater has been put out almost every year, and it mostly seemed like the exact same game done over and over with just improved graphics and maybe a new feature here or there. But with the release of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, the fifth game in the series (there was ''2X'' for the XBox), the worn-out gameplay and dated material has been eliminated, leaving gamers with a fresh new title that will satisfy their cravings for something new.

In previous Tony Hawk games, you could free skate levels, go through single two-minute sessions, or go through ''Career Mode''. In it, the player would choose a skater, then go through a two-minute session trying to accomplish a list of goals given. Once the two minutes were up, you would have to start the level over again as you tried to fulfill your objectives there that you hadn't completed yet. The whole process got to be extremely tedious and sometimes boring, especially in the first two titles: all goals for all levels were the same, except for one or two that involved skating on obstacles unique to that course. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 was somewhat different, in that each level had more unique goals to complete. But the two-minute limit was still present, and if you couldn't accomplish a goal in that time, you'd have to try over and over and over and... you get the picture. It was fun, but it didn't last too long.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 almost completely puts a new twist on the series. In this game's Career Mode, you first choose a level, of course. But once you get inside the actual course, the way things work is much different from previous THPS games. Instead of automatically having a time-limit, you get to skate freely until you are given a goal. Talking to the people around you, whether they're pedestrians, fellow skaters, photographers, or inline skaters, will unlock a goal for you to complete at any time. Not everyone will give you a goal, so the ones that do are easily noticable since a huge green arrow is pointing at them. When you get the goals, several things happen: the goal is ''unlocked'', which enables you to attempt it at any time; you start out at a certain area in the level; and a timer starts. Although it may sound like the description of previous THPS titles, it's mostly different. Instead of having two minutes to fulfill several goals, you can use the entire time just on the one that is currently assigned to you. Also, the time limit is not always two minutes: the time you have to complete a goal can be anywhere from ten seconds to above two minutes, depending on the difficulty.

There are usually over 15 goals in each level for you to complete. Yes, you still have to collect S-K-A-T-E as a goal, and yes, you will still have to get a high score in a certain amount of time; but you won't really care much anyway. The majority of the objectives in THPS4 are new and differ with each level. Some examples only in the first level are racing an inline skater, grinding through football players, and helping a drunk bum get rid of the ''pink elephants'' that are haunting him. As you can see, many of the goals included in THPS4 are unique and hilarious.

If you don't feel like accomplishing goals, you don't have to! You can spend as long as you want riding around the level, exploring. And you'll be doing a lot of it, too! The areas you'll skate in are huge, and there's so much to do in each. There are also several hidden secrets in each course that you'll find only by visiting every nook and cranny. You won't get bored going through the game, since there's so much to do and so much to explore.

Graphics: 9/10
Visually, THPS4 is stunning. Character animations are smooth, and moves look realistic, as do the people around you. The world and levels are almost flawless, although there's some slowdown here and there.

Sound: 10/10
Whether it's the awesome soundtrack, the realistic sound effects, or the character voiceovers, THPS4's audio is great. The tunes in the game are a mix of punk, rap, and rock; the noises everywhere, big or small, are perfect; and all the people you talk to have different voices. There's little room for improvement here.

Control: 10/10
Manuevering your player is easy, as is doing tricks. Button configuration is available for each, so you can customize the controls however you want. Also, the balance meter is present again, allowing you to level out your player's body on grinds and manuals.

Gameplay: 10/10
See everything above the ratings for a full description of this category... there's just so much to do everywhere. The uniqueness of everything in this game is a huge plus.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 is a unique new game that puts an awesome new twist on the old THPS engine. You'll probably have fun playing THPS4, whether you like skateboarding games or not. Buy this game today!

Score: 10

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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