home > review > Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 Review
GamesFirst! Online since 1995

|| Get Prices

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 Review
game: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4
five star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: Activision/Neversoft
date posted: 09:10 AM Fri Nov 1st, 2002
last revision: 06:35 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

Unlimited Game Rentals Delivered - Free Trial

My thumbs are sore and my hands ache. These are good pains, though, caused by playing Tony Hawk\'s Pro Skater 4 for hours on end. From the moment I put the game into my PS2 and the intro video started, I have enjoyed every second I have spent with THPS4. Lay your fears about this game to rest. It isn\'t too easy; it isn\'t too short, and it definitely isn\'t just a rehash of THPS3. Tony Hawk\'s Pro Skater 4 is the best game in the series and is sure to make gamers everywhere very happy.

When you first start playing the game, the biggest change you\'ll notice is that the two-minute time limit has finally gone the way of the dodo. Now you start each level in a free skate mode and must go up to various people marked with giant flashing arrows over their heads in order to start a challenge. Each goal has a different time limit. Some goals give you two minutes and some give you just a few seconds to complete the task.

The various challenges you face borrow some objectives from the previous THPS games such as getting the S-K-A-T-E letters in each level or reaching certain high scores, but most of the objectives are completely new. You\'ll capture lions and a monkey at the zoo, wallride buses in London, and even save a painter from a shark attack in San Francisco. In each level you also have to collect all of the letters to spell \"Combo\" without landing your current combo until you collect all of the letters. Some of my favorite challenges in the game are those that require you to perform tricks and combos as they are called out. This is easier than it sounds, but there is still something satisfying about pulling off a long combo string or hitting every trick on the first try. There are also competitions on each level rather than having specific levels dedicated to competitions, as was the case in the previous THPS games. When you complete a challenge, it is completed for all of the skaters. No more playing through the game 20+ times to unlock everything. There are 190 goals in the game, but the real fun doesn\'t begin until you have completed 90 of them.

When you finish 90 of the goals, a harder set of goals opens up on each level as well as the pro challenges. The pro challenges are unique to each skater and tie in to each skater\'s actual career. Tony Hawk\'s pro challenge has you clearing huge gaps between vert ramps while at the same time performing specific tricks. Steve Caballero\'s pro challenge is a doubles vert run with BMX rider Ric Thorne where timing as well as doing the right tricks is important. Chad Muska\'s pro challenge combines his musical and skating careers, as you have to perform tricks in order to rack up points and fill up 8 \"beat\" bars. An interesting thing about this challenge is that each type of move produces a different musical sound. When you beat a skater\'s pro challenge, you unlock their video. Overall, the 190 challenges--especially the pro challenges--are just that, challenging. There is a lot of stuff to do and most of the goals will require more than just one attempt. THPS4 is a difficult game, but it is extremely satisfying when after an hour or more of practice and trying new things, you finally finish a goal. The goals never seem repetitive and half of the fun in THPS4 is wondering what you\'re going to get to do next.

There are also a few mini games thrown in here and there that give you something to do when a certain goal is starting to frustrate you. Tennis isn\'t very fun because the ball is hard to see sometimes, and your character is too fast and twitchy to really be effective. The home run contest at Alcatraz is pretty fun, and you actually get a little bit of cash for smacking a few dingers here. At the zoo, there are a couple of things you can try. You can dodge poo that three naughty little monkeys throw at you, or you can catch eggs from three careless birds sitting on a high wire. There are a few other mini games, but most of them aren\'t too great. Overall, it was a nice thought to try and bring a little more variety to the game, but I\'m happy enough just skating around.

A great option in THPS4 is that you are able to quickly restart a goal rather than having to go looking for a particular pedestrian again. You can also view a list of goals for each level and can jump directly to any goal at any time ? provided you talked to that person already. You can also set custom restart points in each level, so if you are trying to master a certain trick line, you can quickly jump back to the start and try it again.

When you beat a goal, you receive a little bit of money and occasionally you get a stat point. The stat points will apply to all of the characters, so don\'t worry about having to mess with them too much. The money you get for completing a goal, as well as the money you collect by picking up cash icons throughout the levels, can be spent on a large number of unlockable items. New decks, clothing, movies, cheats, and two levels are available for purchase.

There are also four secret characters you can buy. Worth mentioning only because of his impact on certain goals and not just because I like to spoil things for people is that Jango Fett from Star Wars Episode 2 is in the game. One of his special moves is he uses his jet pack for a little extra height. This means potentially higher combo scores and a little bit of extra oomph when you are trying to reach a high area. This ability makes some things in the game quite a bit easier, but it is up to you whether you choose to take advantage of it or not.

In order to finish many of the goals, you have to take advantage of the new moves available in Tony Hawk\'s Pro Skater 4. First off, you can now grab onto the back of passing cars, motorcycles, buses, and even an elephant and be pulled along and build up much more speed than was ever possible before. Some goals require you to skitch, as it\'s called, to build up speed for big tricks or simply to see how long you can hold on. Another new ability is the spine transfer. The spine transfer allows your skater to go up one side of a quarter pipe and down the other as well as get out of bowls and halfpipes easier. It also acts as a rescue move when you fly out of a halfpipe. If you find yourself flying too far off of a ramp, you can hold the spine transfer button to reorient your skater so they\'ll land on their feet. You can even manual out of it and continue your combo.

Other moves have been slightly modified to give you even more ways to rack up big combos. Grab tricks can be modified with a second press of the grab button. This will tweak that grab or even produce a completely new trick. The flatland tricks are back from THPS3, but they are normal moves this time. There is even a competition in the London level where you have to do flatland tricks. I have found that there is nothing more satisfying than to stick some flatland tricks into the middle of a long combo. It really allows you to take advantage of every aspect of skateboarding ? street, flatland, and vert ? in order to rack up huge amounts of points. The wild and exaggerated special moves are back and are even more over the top. Lets just say there are ferrets, fireworks, basketballs, and even a jet pack involved. Special grinds will have your skater playing a guitar and much more.

The levels in THPS4 are much bigger than anything we have seen before in the THPS series. Not only are they much bigger, but the levels are more realistically laid out than in previous games. No longer is there a quarter pipe against every wall or an empty pool located conveniently in the middle of the level. A lot of the levels in THPS4 lean towards the street side of skating. Don\'t get scared by that statement, though. Some levels have more vert stuff than others, and there is usually at least one section of the level dedicated to a series of quarter pipes, but if you want to really take advantage of everything THPS4 has to offer, you have to learn how to work the curbs and coping. Of course, as any skater knows, the real world does not come complete with giant halfpipes and pools just waiting to be skated out in the middle of the town square, so the levels in THPS4 are definitely more realistically designed than anything we\'ve seen before.

There are nine levels in the game, seven of which you unlock as you play through the game and two that you have to buy, but there are a few levels that aren\'t that good. The best levels are probably The College, San Francisco, Kona, and the Zoo. They are all fairly well rounded and have a lot of good trick lines to take advantage of. The worst level in the game is definitely the Shipyard. Not only is it the worst level in the game but possibly the worst level in the entire series. Good trick lines are few and far between and the goals you have to complete just aren\'t as imaginative or as fun as the other levels. Not to mention the fact that there is a lot of water at the Shipyard and you are going to fall into it a whole lot. The other levels at Alcatraz, London, a carnival, and the Chicago level from Mat Hoffman\'s Pro BMX 2 aren\'t too bad but they aren\'t fantastic either.

The Create-a-Skater and park creator modes are back and better than ever. There are a lot more pieces to use in the park creator and you can resize the park to your liking. You can\'t change the elevation as much as you could in THPS3, but it is easy enough to work around. The Create-a-Skater mode has even more options for shirts and pants and all that, but now you can also change the size of your skater\'s arms, legs, hands, feet, head, chest, and more. Once again, you can make both male and female skaters. These modes add a lot of replay value to a game that you\'ll already be playing for months.

Graphically, not much has changed since THPS3--slightly better textures and everything looks a bit smoother. The animation is simply amazing, but I wouldn\'t expect less from the THPS series. The graphics look good and get the job done, but don\'t expect big changes from the last game.

The sound in THPS4 has had a few improvements, however. All of the game\'s goals are given to you in full audio. The skaters recorded a lot of voice work for the game, but some of the lines sound kind of flat and unenthusiastic. The other characters, particularly Ollie the Magic Bum, are absolutely hilarious. The skaters also recorded moans and groans and screams so that now each skater has a different yell when you bail. The sounds of skating, as always, sound good.

The music in THPS4 is also pretty good. AC/DC\'s \"TNT\" is the track that plays during the intro, and the way the video is edited to match the music is pretty slick. The usual mix of hip-hop, punk, and hard rock tracks is present, but there are a lot more songs this time--thirty-five tracks, including songs by System of a Down, U.S. Bombs, The Sex Pistols, NWA, and Run DMC (RIP Jam Master Jay -- Ed.). Some of the hip-hop tracks are ok, but I was quick to shut most of them off in the play list. I\'m a metal head at heart, though. There is enough variety in the tracks overall to have something that appeals to everyone, and that really is the point behind putting so much music in the game.

I think it is worth emphasizing the challenge that THPS4 offers. The pro challenges are extremely hard, for the most part, and the time it takes to master each one can actually be measured in hours. The normal goals range from extremely easy to ridiculously hard, but none of them are too frustrating. It will take you a long time to complete all 190 goals, collect all of the cash, and clear all of the gaps. Overall, the game is far more difficult than any other game in the series, but series veterans will be able to figure everything out eventually.

Tony Hawk\'s Pro Skater 4 is a great game. It is easily the best game in the series and stands as one of the must own games on the PS2 (or any other system it appears on). The game is much longer and much more challenging than any of the previous games in the series. 190 unique challenges, plus a handful of mini games, as well as new moves to master and high scores to beat, THPS4 will keep you busy for a long time. Just about everything in this game is perfect and it is an absolute blast to play. My only complaint is that the level designs are a bit weak compared to the rest of the THPS series. Realistic level designs are fine, but try to make them more like College and San Francisco and less like Shipyard next time. Ok, Neversoft? Tony Hawk\'s Pro Skater 4 is a fun and challenging game that virtually everyone will enjoy.

On a slightly different note, I want to address the whining I have had to put up with regarding the THPS series over the last year. Certain mainstream magazines and websites decided to bash the THPS series a bit and say it was getting stale, and they were just rehashing the same ideas over and over gain. Gullible readers bought this rant hook, line, and sinker and suddenly the Tony Hawk\'s Pro Skater series was no longer \"cool\". If getting new levels, new tricks, new special abilities, and a completely revamped solo player experience gives you a feeling of deja vu, then just about every game on the market is a rehash and every series must be getting stale. The THPS series has added more to the \"extreme sports\" genre and to videogames in general than just about any other modern franchise. The series has managed to be innovative even in its fourth installment, but most importantly it is a lot of fun to play. Give me ten new levels, some fresh tunes, and a wealth of extras to unlock, and I\'ll be playing the Tony Hawk\'s Pro Skater series for a long time to come. Good luck with another year of complaining about the THPS series. I\'ll be waiting patiently for Tony Hawk\'s Pro Skater 5.