Gamestyle Archive intro: it is very difficult to recall some of the Tony Hawk instalments especially this one according to Alex Carroll.
Published: November 2002
It’s not the number of tricks you can do that makes a good extreme sport game. It’s not the celebrity names, it’s not the licensed music, it’s not the number of objectives you need to complete, and it’s not about video footage of strippers. The key thing that defines the epitome of the genre is replayability. Pro Skater, Burnside aside, didn’t really offer the player enough reason to play for extended periods – there wasn’t really enough scope for improved scores once you reached a certain level of competence. However, Pro Skater 2 addressed this with some truly astoundingly replayable courses – School 2, Venice Beach, Skatestreet – they all play just as well now as they ever did. It’s Neversoft’s uncanny ability to allow the player to define their own lines throughout the levels, racking up ever more incredible scores, that is so rewarding here.
Pro Skater 3 was thought by many to be a step back, though, the game moved too quickly through the poorly designed levels, most of which you’d only play once just to complete and see the next level, rather than the endless sessioning in free play and single run modes that the levels in 2 proved to have. There were a couple of gems, though – Canada and LA hinted at past brilliance in level design. However, it’s now the 4th iteration, and putting the actual game itself aside for a moment – having multiple consoles often brings about more problems than you’d imagine at first – the extra cost of additional controllers, having to splash out on expensive switch boxes for all the leads, that sort of thing.
The biggest problem, though, arises when a game is releases across the machines you own – do you buy it for Xbox, Gamecube or PS2? Well, in the case of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 – you don’t want to buy it for Gamecube if you’ve got either of the other two consoles. It’s a very similar story to what happened with the third in the series – a complete lack of optimisation meant that the frame rate was sketchy, the graphics were low resolution and the colours were pale and washed out, and sadly there’s nothing new in this iteration either. Furthermore, despite the inclusion of a widescreen mode, there’s still no 60hz option, meaning that the game runs considerably slower than it’s US counterpart, not that the PAL Xbox or PS2 versions have a 60hz option either, mind. It’s all a bit of a shame – Activision clearly didn’t dedicate the time to the Gamecube port, and it shows.
Back to the game, though, and I’m not going to go over the new additions to the series in too much detail as Darran has already covered most of it in his review of the (superior) Xbox version, but if you’re lazy the major updates include an updated career mode, spine transfers and skitching, as well as a cheap correct yourself in the air move so you need never bail again. I would like to say the graphics have been improved, because those in the Xbox version are gorgeous, but that’s not really the case with the Gamecube Pro Skater 4, so I won’t. The improved career mode means you need only go through the objections once as they are then completed for all other skaters, which would naturally decrease the game’s lifespan but thankfully there are a huge amount of tasks to do in each of the levels (190 in total), and some are impressively tricky to pull off later on, especially some of the Pro challenges. However, this career sharing also extends to the stat point system (which are no longer collected mid-level but are awarded after completing certain tasks) so all skaters increase in skills regardless of how often you’ve used them in the game.
Handy for 2 player modes, that, although if you’ve got 2 saved careers on the same card the 2 player thing falls completely flat as you can’t both have a skater from your own save, unless they’re both ones you’ve created in the create-a-skater. Messy. But at the end of the day, once you’ve got through the main game, it all comes back down to replayability – just how good are the supplied levels in game? Well, they’re not, really. The first level is undoubtably the best – offering plenty of lines, vert ramps and space for freestyling (and also features the most innovative tasks, too) they go downhill from there. San Francisco is dull, lifeless and too small, and Alcatraz would be more at home with Mario jumping about it. Kona offers some respite, though – it’s a faithful recreation of the famous US skate park and the grounding in reality shines through, but then it’s followed by the dreadful Shipyard, the boring London level and the lazy finale that is the Zoo. Two more levels are available to buy, Chicago (from Mat Hoffman 2) and Carnival, but they’re far from enjoyable, sadly. Even the create-a-park only has 2 themes, and if you want a decent sized park most of the available RAM has already been taken up by the unnecessary backgrounds.
With only 2 levels that you’re likely to play on for any length of time, even the graphically and aurally superb Xbox version suffers, but with the lazy Gamecube port we’ve been left with it’s actually really hard to recommend it at all unless you’re desperate and don’t have the other machines. Really. And believe me, that’s a bigger disappointment to me than you’d imagine.
Gamestyle Score: 6/10