Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater 4 Published by: Activision O2 Developed by: Neversoft ESRB Rating: T for Blood, Violence, Suggestive Themes, Mild Language, Mild Lyrics For: Gamecube, PS2, Xbox, GBA, PC Version reviewed: Gamecube Price: $19.99

If you've read any of my other extreme sports reviews, you will see that I give some fair critique and history of the genre. I shudder at doing that again. So, I'm going to talk about Tony Hawk, and the innovation and invention of this particular style of gaming. Many people have gotten into extreme sports, and this is in part due to the financial and critical success of these games. Why are they so playable? What makes them different from games like Madden of FIFA Soccer? The games have literally evolved from a set environment with scant interactivity to these huge, time free open ranges. And it started with a niche title called Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater on the PlayStation. Back in the early days of the PlayStation, it seemed the console had little more power than the SNES. Most of the launch lineup consisted of 2D titles that had little playablity. In my opinion. Soon, however, this system that stemmed from a rivalry between Nintendo and Sony brought forth a game that Activision desperately needed: Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater. The 3D graphics brought something that had never been seen on a home console, lifelike movements and motion, and made it fun (without blood, mind you) so that most players walked away with blood blisters on their thumbs (okay, so maybe blood was an element). The game was soon ported to Nintendo?s lagging console, the N64, still the far superior, in my opinion, and another group of gamers saw Tony?s magic in the air. A year later, Tony saw another incarnation on the PS1, and another port on the N64 (which is where I got addicted), as well as more fun levels. By then, the generation of game systems where Tony Hawk's games were born were dying out, and within six months THPS2 got released on the new PS2. And the graphics on the ?64 were better, stated a former friend/PlayStation 2 loyalist. Within another six months, THPS3 was released for the current generation of consoles, and the rest is history and bandaged thumbs.


Truly a technological achievement. THPS4 (for future reference, here is what that acronym means. Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater 4. Hope that helps anyone who might be wondering.) has some of the best animation and graphics in a skateboarding game to date. If you crash on the ground, then your jeans will start showing scuff marks, and eventually tear to the skin. When you boardslide (a grind trick), or do any type of grind, then your skate deck will start losing the graphics on the underside of the board. You need to look out for little effects like that, but it does pay off in the end. Each environment in the game is gigantous, and this shows no better than in the Alcatraz level. There are more grinding areas in this level than most, but that isn?t what sets this level apart from London or San Francisco. What sets this level apart is the multi-tiered environment in which this level rests. Scattered throughout the level are various staircases through which you can ride, and thus get higher in the level. Eventually, you get so high as to make each fall perilous, and the view gorgeous; you can literally see the San Francisco coast, which is no small feat. The realistic physics engine will keep you on your toes during combos?it is no easy task to get big air after doing an extended stall or grind. You are more likely to crash. Seriously. Gravity is much more finely tuned in THPS4, meaning that when you ollie, it looks like a real ollie. It is remarkably hard to preform flatland tricks, given that Mat Hoffman?s Pro BMX 2 had the tricks in there, and they were relatively easy to preform. Again, this is in large part due to the refined physics engine. While the manual is less twitchy than in THPS2, and grinds are less difficult than in THPS3, the physics present a new set of challenges just waiting to be discovered and tried out.


How much more fun can this series get? It is, very literally, the only extreme sports game that left me wanting more even after I turned off the ?Cube. I continually wanted to best the level objectives, and with no time limit, this came naturally. Soon, I learned to ride like the best, and this is no more evident than when I started to string combo chains together. This is a skill best learned early rather than later, so use the first two levels to learn the skill of stringing combos together, as well as to complete goals. Career mode is actually free skate with a twist; you talk to people who yell and shout at you. These people are the people who give you the level goals, and this is where the game gets timed. It is actually a better system than last year?s Aggressive Inline, which used a feature called the Juice Meter to determine how long your run lasted, but this is a different game. The time works well during the level goals, and gives you more incentive to complete the goal, which gets you more recoignition in the level. Another quite cool aspect is the Pro Points. Again, this system is similar to Aggressive Inline, what with the points, and the levels, and the skaaaters?okay, I?m done with my Professor Frink, Simpsons reference for the day. Seriously, though. There are 190 goals in the game. Once you complete 90 of those goals, you can go onto your Pro Challenge, some of which contain realistic aspects, such as Jamie Thomas?, Bob Burnquist?s, or Tony Hawk?s. These challenges present short amounts of time for doing tricks that, frankly, can be difficult to pull off. And even if they aren?t hard to pull off, you still have to get all the tricks into a remarkably short amount of time. Doing these challenges opens up a special surprise, the pro video for the skater, and opens up all of the harder challenges in a level. You can tell the difference between the easier and harder challenges by the color of the arrow floating over the person?s head. The blue arrow means one of the initial sixteen challenges for each level. A red arrow means the harder challenges that are unlocked after the Pro Challenge on each level. All of this adds up to a surprisingly addictive combination of gameplay and free roaming elements that are, well, extremely fun and challenging to pull off.


With such bands as the Sex Pistols, Iron Maiden, and AC-DC, THPS4 definitely does have a history of music within its soundtrack. The content of these bands are objectionable, with the Iron Maiden song entitled ?The Number of the Beast,? and the Sex Pistols having a song called ?Anarchy in the U.K.,? in which on of the lyrics is ?I am an anti-Christ.? Sheesh. You?d think that the developers wouldn?t put this kind of content in the games soundtrack?but, you thought wrong. The fact is that these bands are quite popular with the kids these days, especially the so-called ?punk? and ?extreme? crowds. Give me THPS3?s soundtrack any day, which contains the Ramones? ?Blitzkrieg Bop.? You know, ?Hey. Ho. Let?s Go.? Yeah, that?s the song. There are excellent voice-overs in the game, from the actual pro skaters, as well as cameos by pro BMXers Mat Hoffman and Rick Thorne, who provide their own voices to the game.


Exactly the same as THPS3. Exactly. So, in other words, pretty good controls, with some slight improvements, as well as slight problems.


Ok, as mentioned above, there is blood, as well as some objectionable songs on the soundtrack. There is also a little bit of bad language, none of which involve the Lord?s Name in vain, which is definitely a plus. The content descriptors say that there are suggestive themes, but there are none that I can see. The game is pretty clean in that respect, but not as clean as Mat Hoffman?s Pro BMX 2, but this is the far better game. Check it out.

Graphics A- Gameplay A+ Sound B Control A Appropriateness C+

Overall 86%

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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