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Tony Hawk: Ride

 

Tony Hawk: Ride

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Sports
 
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Author:

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Robomodo

Features:

1-8 Player (1-4 Online)
4 MB to Save Game
HDTV 720p/1080p/1080i
Game Content Download

The Tony Hawk series has seen its share of ups and downs over the years. Before EA's Skate came into the picture, Tony Hawk branded games had been a force in the video game industry starting in the late 1990's. Somehow along the way though the franchise became a little stale and never really made any significant leaps over its competition or original predecessor. Well, after some time spent re-tooling along comes Tony Hawk: Ride, which just happens to be the 10th instalment in the Tony Hawk franchise. This time around the game comes with a large skateboard peripheral and hefty $130.00 (CDN) price tag. Large plastic peripherals have worked well in the past for Activision's Guitar Hero franchise, so it only makes sense they would proudly flog yet another large peripheral. It all sounds great in theory; however, is Ride worth all that cash and will it change the way we play skateboarding games forever? Read on to find out.

Graphics

Overall, and on it’s own, the visuals in Tony Hawk: Ride for the Xbox 360 are solid. It has a next generation look to it, it is clean, and there are no giant 'eye-sores' to be had. Everything from the character designs to the environments is decent. That being said, the visuals are nothing incredibly innovative and there is no question the game does not make that graphical leap one would expect after a 2-year absence. One of the major issues from the previous game (Tony Hawk's Proving Grounds) has reared its ugly head again. Yes, the clipping issues are back and more prevalent than ever. I was actually surprised by the amount of clipping that I saw. There were repeated instances where my skater would pass through a solid object such as a concrete barrier or a metal rail. It is not that the issues took much away from the gameplay but it is that these things are rather more of a disappointment than anything else. Also, some of the framerate issues and ridiculously long loading times also take away from the overall experience. Clearly the development team spent more time tweaking the skateboard peripheral than they did with some of the visual aspects of the game. Given how far we are into the Xbox 360's life cycle, and the fact Tony Hawk games have been around for quite some time, you would expect the graphics engine to be solid. Unfortunately this is not quite the case.

On a more positive note, the character design is a strong point of the game and the professional skaters who make appearances throughout look nearly identical to their real-life counterparts. In story-mode you can create your own customizable skater too. Almost every aspect of your skater can be altered, including face, eyes, hair, clothing, shoes, accessories, tattoos, etc. You can also customize your own skateboard with various deck graphics, grip tape, wheels and more. Bottomline, you likely won't run into your twin brother at any point during the game and you can certainly spend a considerable amount of time in this area. Overall, the graphics in Ride leave you with a 'been there and done that' feeling as nothing you encounter in the game is incredibly original or "new".

Sound

The Tony Hawk franchise has always been strong when it comes to its cutting edge soundtrack and Ride is no exception. Ride features approximately 50 tracks and there is pretty much something for everyone. There are not as many big name bands this time around; however the tunes which are included are pretty good. Bands such as Green Day, Beck, Chevelle, MGMT, Queens of the Stone Age, Wolfmother and Yeah Yeah Yeahs all have tracks in the game. I was quite impressed with the set list as all-in-all the list is impressive and adds lots of flavour to the game.

The in-game sounds are also very strong and they are almost what you would expect from a skateboarding game. Such things as your board smacking the pavement, grinding over rails, and gliding over streets, all the sounds are what you would expect to hear in the real world. The Tony Hawk series has truly perfected all the sounds we have come to expect with skateboard games. Even details such as the sounds of city, with cars whizzing by and chatter from the city-folk are all fairly well done. The voice acting is also decent; however it does seem scripted and somewhat stale at times. Overall, Tony Hawk: Ride is solid in the audio department and I really don't have any significant concerns.

Gameplay

Tony Hawk: Ride is quite the departure from the other Tony Hawk games mainly for its large skateboard peripheral. The developers clearly wanted to give gamers a true-to-life experience and give them something that is much more immersive than your typical boarding game. So to that end the game does work, as Ride is the most immersive skateboarding experience we have seen to date. Developers Robomodo and Activision should be given plenty of kudos for coming up with something so original and innovative. Unfortunately, the execution of such falls a little flat.

Picture a skateboard with no wheels lying on the floor. This is essentially what you get right out of the box, except this board has sensors which detects which way you are leaning, whether the front or back of the board is raised, and it even detects if you are reaching down to attempt a particular board grab of some sort. For all the tech-heads out there, the board features accelerometers inside and four infrared sensors. The infrared sensors are located on each side of the board. All together, they combine to give you a fairly close approximation of the motions of a skateboard.

It seems like a decent quality board which handled my 240 pound frame with ease. It will be interesting to see how it handles the abuse it will take over time, but in the few hours I spent on the board it held up quite well. I never really got the sense the board was about to break as I jumped and swivelled around on the board. I actually went out of my way at times to see if the board could handle a beating and I have to say it passed with flying colours. So all-in-all you are getting a decent and sturdy peripheral for your hard earned cash.

When you first fire up the game you enter into a handy little tutorial, which I found incredibly helpful by the way, where you learn the basics. From simple moves like boosting speed to more advanced moves like kick flips, the tutorial in the game is terrific and you immediately begin to realize how tough the game can be. Pulling off a simple ollie by raising the nose of the controller up quickly was rather simple. Additionally, turning by leaning back and forth was not much of a problem. Yet grabs, which are accomplished by waving your hands in front of one or more of those IR sensors, can be hit and miss. Also many of the other advanced moves can be incredibly difficult to master. There is no question Ride can be fun, and it is an immersive experience, but you are going to have to log in several hours in order to master this at times awkward peripheral.

I really got the sense I was in over my head when I hit the first half pipe and I actually attempted a few tricks. Turning and Ollie’s were straight forward but once I attempted to string a couple of moves together all hell broke loose. Far too often my character would not do what I wanted him to do and my movements on the board were not translating into an effective gaming experience. At one point, I was wishing I could just use a regular Xbox 360 controller where simple button presses and controlling the dual analog sticks would be the name of the game.

Being a bigger guy I often had difficulty balancing on the board as I shifted my weight around from one move to the next. Granted it is much easier than actually skateboarding itself, but I just expected the experience to be a little more forgiving. There are three difficulty settings. In the lowest setting, casual, riding the board is fairly enjoyable, but I must say I really didn't feel like I was in control as the game steers the board for you in this setting. In casual, all you do is focus on tricks, and jumps. It is the perfect setting for kids, but for those familiar with the franchise, or those who may have played EA's Skate; there is no question you will want to amp up the difficulty. On the higher difficulty settings you are in full control of the board which at times is simply a 'gong show'. Every little movement becomes amplified and at times my skateboarder would be doing all sorts of funky moves on screen. From spinning around uncontrollably or steering into concrete barriers repeatedly, the experience is frustrating to say the least on the higher settings. Needless to say, there is no "in-between" with Ride. It is either too easy or too hard of an experience.

Ride features a single player mode like previous Tony Hawk games and much of my time was spent here. I stuck it out in casual the majority of the time as I didn't have the patience for the higher settings. Failing challenge after challenge on the higher difficulties gets tedious after awhile. But enough about that. Most of the single player experience involves skating around, building your style meter, and pulling off bonus crazy tricks. As you progress along completing challenges, races, and trick sessions, there are several cities for you explore. They are not incredibly detailed as one would imagine but they adequately do the job. All in all the single player experience is like Tony Hawk games of the past, but it certainly feels like a much more shallow experience. It is almost like you are getting a stripped down version of a true single player experience because of the peripheral.

The multiplayer aspect of the game is alright; however I am not so sure many will pick up this game for the online experience. I rarely found anyone in the lobbies and racing around doing tricks just seemed kind of pointless alone. There is an 8-player offline party mode which is fun where you have your turn and then pass the board off to the next person which can be enjoyable. Otherwise, the multiplayer aspects of the game are nothing to write home about.


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