Review by Pyro Vesten

"THPS4 is a perfect example of how a series should evolve and improve with each installment."

It’s difficult for me to give THPS4 a completely unbiased review as I am honestly one of the biggest fans of the series around. The original had me addicted for months and months. The release of the second installment of the series saw my addiction reach new heights as I literally (and shamefully admit) put in hundreds upon hundreds of hours of my life into the game, completely mastering ever trick, level, skater, combo line and gap in the game. I continued playing THPS2 all the way up to the release of the third installment of the series, which, while being a fabulous game, didn’t completely satisfy me.

Fast forward to the present. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. Finally I have my hands on a copy of the latest game in one of my favourite game series of all time. My thumb is excessively sore and stiff, me left hand is also suffering some serious damage, I am sleep deprived and dosed up on coffee. My addiction continues. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is back.

I don’t care to waste too much time explaining the entire Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series as I’m under the fairly reasonable assumption that almost everyone that reads this will be at least partially familiar with the series in some way or another, so lets get into it.

Graphically, you will notice small tweaks and improvements in models, textures, animations, effects and environments over THPS3 but the striking element about THPS4’s graphical department is the sheer size of levels, which are much larger than those found in the previous games. Draw-distances are pushed back so far that they are not an issue, and the game runs silky smooth constantly. The graphics however, bar the small improvements remain relatively the same as those seen in THPS3.

Skater animations are as smooth, fast, detailed and realistic as ever, as are the little touches like sparks from grinds, skid marks from wheels and blood-stains from sick bails. Sound effects are crisp, clear and ever present. The subtle environmental effects also add a nice aural touch to the game.

THPS4, as we have come to expect from the series features a top soundtrack of Rock, Punk and Hip-hop. AC/DC, System of a Down, Run DMC, Iron Maiden, Public Enemy, Less Than Jake, Goldfinger, Sex pistols, Floggin’ Molly and The Offspring are just some of the bands with songs featured on the soundtrack. There’s a total of around 35 songs on the soundtrack with enough variety to keep almost everyone happy. While I must admit that I believe THPS4 has the weakest soundtrack of the series, this is based on my personal opinion of the songs rather than the technical elements of the soundtrack. For what it’s worth the soundtrack is still fantastic and definitely the largest of the four games to date but it’s all a matter of taste and opinion as to how much you’ll enjoy the songs featured in the game.

The most noteworthy addition to gameplay in THPS4 is the new goal system. Levels are un-timed, unlike previous games, and goals are activated by talking to people/triggering events/beating previous goals etc. What this means is that you have to actively seek out goals and interact with levels much more this time around.

Levels are much larger this time around, and feature that same great design fundamentals we have come to expect but at the same time feel a little more open that previous outings while still remaining completely packed-full of stuff. Levels feature tens, if not hundreds of different lines that are all there for the skating, you just need to work out how to string them all together. Discovering lines is but another of the fantastic elements of the series.

Goals range from the fairly familiar collect s-k-a-t-e, high and pro scores to more creative goals specific to certain situations and levels. Through the course of the game you will find yourself being chased by Lions, crapped on by an Elephant, pissing off numerous police officers, skitching cars, busting insane grinds, manuals, transfers, crazy combos and tricks, collecting numerous objects, helping out criminals, seeking out gaps and transfers, impressing onlookers, winning competitions of course and much, much more. Many of the goals are very simple to complete, but as the game progresses the difficulty of particular goals follows suit.

Eventually you will unlock a set of Pro goals for each of the expansive levels featured in the game adding quite a degree of difficulty to proceedings. There are, in total, 190 goals this time around. Fully completing each of the goals (which include specific goals for each of the skaters featured in the game) will be no easy task, and will likely take all but the most elite THPSers weeks, if not months to complete.

Nailing goals will earn you stat points that can be used as you so desire and will also put cash in your back pocket which can be spent on bonus skaters, levels, clothes, movies, cheats and tricks.

In addition to the whopping amount of goals, cash icons are back to be collected on every single level, adding hours more gameplay to the already huge game. The best news in my mind however is that the GAP CHECKLIST is BACK!!! That’s right, someone copped a well-deserved severe slapping for not including a gap checklist in THPS3 and it is back this time around. Getting 100% will require you hitting every single gap in the game, which I’m sure you are aware is no easy task.

Create-a-skater and create-a-park also make a return for the fourth installment of the hawk series, both of which have been tweaked and improved to provide the tools to create some seriously personalised skaters, and (if you have the time and dedication) some truly awesome parks which in themselves will pile hours of potential gameplay and replay value to the title.

Multiplayer is back and better than ever. Living in Australia I’ve yet been unable to experience the awesomeness that would be Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater Online, but I can assure you that playing through the multiplayer modes with a few friends in your living room is more fun than ever before!

Activision have continued to set new standards for the extreme sports genre, and have really raised the bar in terms of what gamers expect from sequels. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 is a prime example of the ideal evolution of a series that is four games old (and counting). Each new Hawk game has seen a slew of new featured and additions to gameplay, and THPS4 has shown that Activision still have a few tricks up their sleeves… don’t even get me started on the soon-to-be-released Tony Hawk’s Underground.

If you’re anything like myself, after completing the game 100% you will find enough replay value contained within to keep you playing for many months to come, making the game exceptionally great value for money.

Fans of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater should already own this. If not, you are really missing out. For anyone else, my advice is to check out the games in sequential order to gain the amazing experience the rest of us had playing through the entire series in order. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 is an excellent package, but is best experienced after having played through the previous games to truly appreciate the experience.

The brilliance continues…

9.5/10 (Rounded to 10/10 for GameFAQs)

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 10/09/03

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