Review: Tony Hawk Ride (360)

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The Tony Hawk franchise was the first to bring skateboarding to video games in an addicting and fun way. After countless iterations it seemed like nothing could stop this powerhouse, much like the Madden series for football, and then out of nowhere came Skate in 2007.

Since Skate, Tony Hawk has been on a downward turn and was in desperate need of a revamp. The concept: take the popular plastic peripheral (a la Guitar Hero) and integrate it into a new skateboarding game for your living room. While the concept came with a wide range of reactions, in the end Ride doesn’t work because of the game itself, not because of the skateboard controller.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect of the skateboard, but it’s heavy and sturdy — clearly capable of plenty of abuse and has a weight limit that should be sufficient for most gamers (300 lbs.). While the board works like a controller in most regards, it ironically cannot be used in Ride’s main menu and options, which makes no sense. The board will occasionally lose sync with the game and you’ll pretty much have to temporarily remove the batteries to get it to power down and reset, but this was a rare occurrence (happened twice over all my gameplay). Ultimately, though, the skateboard is responsive and intuitively controls gameplay.

I wish as much time and care had been given to the software side of the game as was given quality of the skateboard peripheral. Ride claims to be suitable for casual and hardcore gamers alike, and while I consider myself a hardcore gamer I was really only comfortable on the casual setting. Casual basically plays the game for you, steering your character and getting all the nitty-gritty out of the way, leaving you to basically do the tricks at your leisure. This felt the most like picking up the controller of the original Tony Hawk title, which was more like messing around with button combinations and praying for the best, an experience you also get with the board.

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Once you move into the confident setting the game ramps significantly, now leaving you to steer your character and resulting in unnecessary stops and hang-ups while you try to keep your balance on the board and prepare for a simple trick. When I played hardcore it resembled bumper cars with me bouncing off the items I was to grind or jump over because I could barely move around and perform simple jumps. I will admit to not being a skater at all although I am relatively athletic and coordinated. I did, however, get a group involved of both gamers and non-gamers and we all had similar complaints about the higher difficulty modes.

There are three basic ways to play the game: campaign, online play (Wii players receive a Mii skating mode as a substitute), or party mode. Campaign is much like classic style Tony Hawk: you journey to several locations and skate parks and complete various tasks to progress. In Ride the action is broken into types of challenges so the action no longer seems to be a spontaneous romp through locales. Previous titles gave you a time limit with a list of goals, but breaking it up into small short challenges kills that feeling that you are a skater just coasting around on an afternoon.

There are a decent amount of locations, but given that you can complete each one in about 10-15 minutes, the time passes quickly and you don’t have an opportunity to take everything in. I remember playing classic Tony Hawk titles and spending hours getting to know the maps. In Ride, you’ll more often find yourself just trying to skate in a straight line. By the end of the campaign you’ve likely either cheated a little to get through a tougher difficulty or allowed the casual setting to nearly beat the game for you.

The offline multiplayer mode is basically the same, except that you must pass the skateboard controller around, creating a series of turns to compete in time trials or trick totals. There is also a version of horse, called “es ride,” but thanks to extremely long load times before each brief run by a player, this mode is almost unplayable. As for the other modes, they work okay, but since you’re simply comparing times or scores for no true prize, you may as well play free skate and trade off just to watch the action.

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The online integration lacked any form of social atmosphere — I wasn’t even sure I was in it until the end of the match. Basically you just jump in and find a game, of which there never were many of, and the session begins. There’s no way to talk to the other player, which could have been solved by letting the controller handle the headset, since it's required to navigate the game anyway. Once in a game you just play your set and then wait for a screen that tells you how you faired against the other player and then it ends. You don’t get to see their run or talk to them so you may as well have played against an AI, especially considering that — like party mode — there is nothing to gain by winning at multiplayer. Like so many other aspects of this game, the online component seemed like an afterthought.

The menu introduction has lots of action and beautiful cell-shaded graphics that give the game a gritty feel. For some reason, this is the only place where you will see these types of graphics. The game itself has simplified graphics that barely passable by this generation’s standard. For all the cut corners on the graphical side you would think load times would be short, but Ride loads are excrutiating. About 10-15 percent of your game time will be watching load screens that give you tips you don’t need, especially when you’re trying to restart the harder challenges later into the campaign.

On the plus side, the soundtrack is just as relevant and pleasing as any skating game before it and really helps keep the game from being a completely painful experience. Sound effects are a little weak, but with all the other things you have to pay attention to, you won’t even notice. I did also like the skate videos that are laced between each new session with a pro skater.

Tony Hawk Ride is an experiment to see if skating games can enjoy the same peripheral workup that music and exercise games have — in this respect Ride proves they can. Unfortunately, as with many gaming experiments, there’s still a lot of room for improvement — particularly on the software side of gameplay. The peripheral holds up and I would hope to see more games coming out that integrate it much like the Wii balance board has been put in various other games. With a hefty $120 price tag it seems like a tough sell in this economy, but with promise of future titles and improvements, this game/peripheral combo might eventually justify the cost. For now, while Skate 2 offers a similar experience for much less money and physical effort, I find it hard to think that any gamer — casual or hardcore — will find this to be a viable substitute.

Graphics: 7.0
Sound: 8.0
Campaign: 6.0
Replay Value: 5.0
Multiplayer: 5.0
Gameplay: 6.0

Overall: 5.75

Comments

numrich 12 years, 8 months ago

I can't wait to see what will be worse: Tony Hawk Ride or the inevitable Project Natal skate boarding game for 360?

Jeremiah Johnson 12 years, 8 months ago

Let us hope that Activision gets another Kelly Slater game out ASAP to justify that ridiculous $120 price tag. ;)

Pro Tip: Wait 90 days and pick one up on the cheap! Lol. Poor Tony Hawk.

And Numrich, I hope Project Natal works out as promised, but the cynical part of me thinks that it will turn out to be nothing more but an Activator 2.0.

numrich 12 years, 8 months ago

Activator... ugh. I owned a U-Force circa 1990 and haven't trusted any kind of peripheral since. However, sign me up for a plastic skateboard if a Kelly Slater game comes out in the vein of the "Surf's Up" game. I spent way too much time playing that demo.

toodarnloud 12 years, 8 months ago

the tony hawk games have made me want to take up skateboarding for realz. i'm glad this came out so i don't have to risk injury.

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