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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PlayStation 2
PUBLISHER:
Activision
DEVELOPER:
Neversoft
GENRE: Extreme Sports
PLAYERS:   1-8
RELEASE DATE:
October 24, 2002
ESRB RATING:
Teen
IN THE SERIES
Tony Hawk: Shred

Tony Hawk: Shred

Tony Hawk: Shred

Tony Hawk: Ride

Tony Hawk: Ride

More in this Series
 Written by Chris Reiter  on August 26, 2002

First Impressions: Getting high never looked so good.


Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 -- what statement can be more pulse pounding for lovers of extreme sports games? If you've been following the franchise to this day, you most likely are sitting there, urinating in your pants from the excitement of yet another sequel on the way. What started in 1999 on the PlayStation, and still continues to this day across all platforms, Activision has been milking the Tony Hawk skating franchise just like one of those favored annually released sports titles should be milked. But, unlike some of the other game yearly deliveries, the one where Hawk flies always continues to get better than it should, and I for one love it for that.

Last year, it was then that fans of the Hawk label were able to go online using their PlayStation 2 with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. Leading that same online emphasis for this fall's release, developer Neversoft is cramming even more for their latest in the series. Some of the newest additions to the game include a new mini-game option. If you hate skating, but favor either tennis or basketball (with a skateboard), you can pop into a game of either one and use your board in whacking the balls through a tennis match up, or combine your skate skills in a basketball tournament to still keep the feel that this is primarily a skating game after all. After heading into either one of these options where you'll earn money, you can then head on over to the game's skate shop to buy new skate gear amongst other items for whatever character you have available.

The main mode of the game this year may come off as the biggest shocker to most, however. Time limits are a thing of the past, as Neversoft has chosen to throw them out entirely. Now you can skate freely for as long you'd like within any of the game's increased levels. Currently, the known list of levels available so far is a bay area inside San Francisco, a college campus, and also a public zoo. Bigger than the last game's, these levels are being tuned, toned, and tinkered with in every nook available to make these game worlds as largely real to life as you can possibly go.

Similar to the previous Tony Hawk, and without the time constraints this time, you can cruise around each environment and do as you please. Along the way you'll want to eventually stop and get down to business, as you'll notice scattered about each level are individual people with needs. Some will ask you to complete known tasks from past games like collecting a set of letters to spell out a word. The new objectives on the other hand will consist of competing against other skateboarders in finding out who can perform a specific chain of tricks before the clock runs out, or even entering a street luge race against other skilled boarders. Once goals are completed, you'll not only gain points to build your character's stats, but for whatever objective is finished by whichever character completes it, that same status will spread to all of the other main skaters within the game. This way, you won't have to attempt to dive into every level goal again and again with every individual skater, saving you the trouble.

Amidst the standard tricks from the past Hawk titles -- from grinds, to manuals, flips, and of course last year's revert addition, this year Neversoft is adding in two new ones to the list. The first, being a skitch ability, allows you to grab onto the back of a car in order to build up speed and hitch off for some quick inertia. The second one is called a spine-transfer, where going up and over any game object is made easier without losing any speed or positioning in accomplishing a move. Presently, it's unknown whether or not any skaters from last year's Tony Hawk have been retired, but with some good news to report: Bob Burnquist of skating fame who didn't make the cut into last year's release, has returned to the franchise for the fourth title.

One other thing that's sure to raise the eyelids of most is that Neversoft is tweaking their already perfected gameplay system. Going the way of science, the characters in the fourth Hawk will control and feel more real with new physics. Hopefully, this shift in change won't be too dramatic, as the case was when 989 took the Twisted Metal cars and gave them lifelike control components, and ended up ruining the game's name from there on.

As grandiose as last year's outstanding visuals affected the skating world that is Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, this year Neversoft is only going to make them all the more better. In a sort of colorful contrast, the graphics of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 were entirely sharp. In order to remove the game from its fantasy world into ours, Neversoft has opted to go with a naturalistic, roughened atmosphere. Clear asphalt will literally turn into a grainy stylized mass with parts of the street that are actually damaged, for example. Skaters will also receive their share of skin textures, that when compared to the cartoony apparatus of people from the previous title, will look as though they've been packaged and sent into our reality and back.

Each game area is being maintained in enlargement to citywide areas. Unlike in the third game, you can explore everywhere like as if you were really there, checking out the many famous landmarks Neversoft is virtually crafting from actual world locations. Random tourists in every spot will flock about going through their every day business; construction workers will drill in the middle of roadways; cars will whiz by everywhere you look; and you might even catch a glimpse of a parade charging down the block. Just by knowing the game's engine will be vastly improved upon is enough to say that this sequel is shaping up to be the best of what's to come.

Final Thoughts
Not every extreme sports lineup is as popular or as addictive and entertaining as Activision's Hawk label. With SCEA's modem now available, it's good to know that for this year's release, PlayStation 2 owners won't have to look around for the right third party modem to connect to the game like with the incident last fall. And when Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 hits shelves this October, it'll yet prove to the world again that the king of all that is skating is none other than Neversoft, and their flawless system to bring to gamers only the finest in what is a simply irresistible series that should never ever end.


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