The Tony Hawk franchise revolutionized skating games and set the standard for the genre. It reigned supreme over all other skating games for almost a decade. When 2007’s Skate came along, the Tony Hawk franchise started to waver in terms of quality. Though I personally thought Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground was an excellent game, albeit somewhat bogged down by needless gimmicks, many saw the light at the end of the tunnel. That light was…simulation.
One cannot review Tony Hawk: Ride without touching upon the ‘game vs. simulator’ argument. For those who are unfamiliar with this heated debate amongst the gaming community, it revolves around two schools of thought where sports games are concerned. In the realm of football games, for instance, there are those who think that Midway’s classic NFL Blitz, a football ‘game,’ is infinitely superior to Madden NFL 2010, a football ‘simulator.’ In the realm of skating games, there was once only Tony Hawk, but when Skate hit the scene, sporting more ‘realistic’ controls, then Activision felt the pressure to get with the times and follow the trend of ‘realism’ that has plagued almost every genre in our medium.
But back to the game itself; Tony Hawk: Ride attempts to do away with “complex” button combinations and instead deliver a realistic skateboard simulator with its new skateboard peripheral. In doing so, it fails on all fronts. Tony Hawk: Ride is neither a skateboarding simulator nor a skateboarding game. It is an unholy mess, and what’s more, it’s an unholy mess that’ll set you back $120.
There’s no reason to discuss the design of the game. There’s no reason to discuss the online functionality or 8-player party mode or anything like that because the key component–the ability to actually play the game–is fundamentally flawed if not broken. The “revolutionary” skateboard peripheral is nothing more than an overpriced piece of plastic.
As I calibrated it, I was ready to give THR a chance. But then I spent hours struggling with the unyielding board, experiencing flashbacks to a time of bad 90’s peripherals that also promised the world and delivered nothing. I thought I had learned my lesson, but my love for the franchise blinded me.
The game has three modes of varying difficulty, but you’ll only be able to play on the easiest setting because even steering is a constant battle. ‘Casual’ mode has the game taking over most of the steering with you pulling of an odd trick here and there, but at that point you feel so detached from the action on screen that you might as well be watching someone else play. Harder difficulties are infuriating tests of patience as the horrible steering mechanics will have you launching yourself into the level geometry left and right. It’s easier to steer a real skateboard, and therein lies another problem.
THR is inaccessible to both gamers and skaters. It’s nothing even close to riding a real skateboard. It might entertain a child for a few minutes but even they will discover that the game isn’t fun within the first stage. And the fact that there isn’t even the option to play with a ‘regular’ controller is inexcusable. You can practically hear the big fat check in Tony Hawk’s pocket as he praises the bundled peripheral.
The fact of the matter is that everything you loved and enjoyed about the Tony Hawk series is gone. The original developer, Neversoft, is nowhere to be seen and THR feels like an unwelcome stranger. As curious as you may be about the workings of the board, do not, under any circumstances, purchase this game. I made that mistake and I’ve hated myself all week for it.