Review by RyuGB
"A game with Tony Hawk and Lions? I'm all over it."
None can deny the influence of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater franchise. The original release re-invigorated the once stale action sports genre, single handily brought the sport back into the lime light, and in the process has birthed a new generation of skaters.
The question is; coming into this fourth installment does the hawk still reign supreme?
Taking a clue from Aggressive Inline, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 ditches the confining time structure of previous installments, and instead embraces a free-roaming
approach, with the only timer intrusion being when you go to complete a goal. Also, the handy goal checklist allows you to complete whichever goal you want, whenever
you want. The trick engine is just as addictive as before, and performing flatland maneuvers is an far easier affair then in Tony 3. However, the biggest improvement by far is in the goal variety. Sure, eternal standbys such as spelling S-K-A-T-E, nailing high scores, and competing
in competitions is still present, but they are in turn joined by a host of ingenious goals that not only test your noodle, but often tickle your funny bone as well. These new additions include: Collecting the letters C-O-M-B-O in a single combo, nailing called out tricks
(with a time limit no less), as well as amusing tests such as being bait for some very hungry lions, saving a painter from a deadly shark, or recovering a professors stolen car. Point is, ingenuity, and ultimately entertainment abounds. Upping the ante, all goals given to you by pro skaters include authentic recordings by their namesakes!
Tony Hawk 3 was the first online capable PS2 title. Sadly, since Sony dropped the ball on releasing the network adaptor, that facet didn't nearly receive the attention it deserved. However, now that Sony has finally launched it's online program, Tony 4 looks primed to make up for lost time. Tony 4 supports eight skaters at once (opposed to 4 in Tony 3), a ''Homie List'' so you can easily track down your friends, and even throws in team-play for good measure. Besides last years modes (Trick-Attack, Graffiti, King of the Hill, Slap), Tony 4 throws in a heaping helping of brand spanking new challenges for good measure. You have Goal Attack, which uses Career mode goals to test teamwork skills, Combo Mambo, which rewards highest trick strings, and of course Capture the Flag. Park Editor gets serious attention this time around, since you can send created parks to Neversoft. If it's good enough it will be made for both download and play soon after. (Talk about a serious ego boost for all you park fanatics.)
Standard multi-player is also present and accounted for fun(sans a few online only modes), and features a rock steady frame-rate. Sadly, it only allows two-players, but it's still as great fun as always.
Utilizing a brand new engine, Tony spits out much more graphical goodness then before.
For one character models are all that much closer to their namesakes (except for those ugly NPC versions. Yuck!), clothing and boards deteriorate, and bail blood has been reduced to minimal (and realistic) proportions. The levels are much larger then those in Tony 3, and surprisingly no draw-in and little pop-up is present to mar this outstanding visual package. Other niceties such as realistic lighting/shadowing, plenty of NPC action, nicer textures, and subtle touches as fluttering birds further draw you into the game. This is by far the most fully realized world in an action sports game to date.
Sound: If rock is your thing, Tony 4 delivers in a big way. Even better, if you don't like a particular song, feel free to turn it off with the new custom play list feature.
As I stated earlier, Neversoft went all out and recorded a large variety off audio from all the pro skaters. The quality is outstanding, and certain skaters (namely Tony, Bam, Rodney, and Bucky) seemed to
really show their personality through their contributions. All other sound effects gut their due as well; cars, animals, the subtly of different surfaces; you name it, Neversoft has it covered. Heck, pro NPC's even call you out by name! (Unless you are using a created skater)
Not one to mess with perfection, Neversoft set out to iron out the minor quibbles some players may have had with the control interface. For one flatland moves are easier then ever to bust out. Furthermore, Neversoft has added a handy spine transfer maneuver that extends combos all the more. Otherwise, it's exactly the same you've come to expect/love.
Let's get this straight: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 was a wonderful piece of software. However, if Tony 4 followed in it's footsteps, the series fans most likely would have moved on. Thankfully, the ever diligent folks at Neversoft spotted this accident waiting to happen, and took ever measure of prevention needed. The series may eventually lose it's luster, but it will have to wait for at least another year.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/08/03, Updated 02/08/03
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