Tony Hawk Ride is the latest foray that attempts to bring skateboarding from reality into the warmth and comfort of our living rooms. What sets this game apart from previous games in the extensive franchise? Tony Hawk Ride tries to reinvent the series by including a skateboard peripheral. On paper and in concept this sounds like a great idea, but when it comes down to it the execution of the game and the board fall well short of expectations.
One of the elements you'll quickly notice is that the overall quality of Ride leaves much to be desired and really suggests that the final product was rushed. At first you come to the opening scene: a highly stylized almost comic book like clip of a couple of skateboarders doing some tricks. Now, my initial reaction was that this would look pretty cool in a skateboarding game. Sadly though, once you start playing the actual game the graphics are more attuned to the types of visuals you'd be accustomed to on a PS2 or Xbox. Now I'm not one to advocate that stellar graphics make or break a game, but if other parts of your game are less than satisfying at least you can fall back and say, "at least it looks pretty". Alongside this poor production quality, Tony Hawk Ride has plenty of ads scatters throughout the game, something that most gamers will just love. Obviously these ads do nothing to detract from the gameplay but when you've spent $129 on a game, you would likely prefer not to be bombarded with blatant advertisements.
It's about time we pop an ollie and play the game. Within Ride there is the career mode where you create your own character, or exhibition, which is a carbon copy of the career mode but allows you to pick from a list of famous skaters, such as Tony Hawk himself. You work your way from Venice City in California to Tokyo in Japan and each new city is introduced to you by a well-known skateboarder. Now there's nothing wrong with using a cast of famous skateboarders in a video game, what bothers me is the obvious lack of quality in these videos. Not only do these short segments look like they were filmed with a cheap digital camera, the 'acting' is horrid. It seems as though as long as the skateboard got their lines right, it was cut and edit time. Did I mention most of the videos are out of sync with the audio? Now that's production values.
When you're about to hit the streets for the first time you have to decide how hardcore you are and whether you want to play on 'rails' or control your movement. Each step up in difficulty gives you more freedom and control of your character on screen. Suffice to say, the higher you go in difficult, the more likely you are to be frustrated. Although the skateboard is durable, it lacks the precision you need to be able to control and pull off the moves necessary with any type of consistency that you'd expect. This can be a problem for controlling the direction of your character but is at its worst when trying to pull of specific moves.
What types of events will you be playing? Speed runs where you have to get to the end of the map within an allotted amount of time, trick runs where you have to score a certain number of points or challenges where you have to pull off specific moves at individual points throughout a map. You also have a chance to test your skills in a half pipe and show off your moves in a skate park like what you'd see in the X-Games. Overall none of these modes are very impressive and lack and real reason to keep you coming back. If you do choose to come back and score better on an event you can unlock new gear for your character such as new shirts, hats and boards, but these are rather superficial reasons to retry the somewhat mundane game modes and levels. Each level will take you mere minutes to complete and presents little to no depth to give incentive to play through the entire career mode more than once.
To unlock each new city you have to accumulate a certain number of points (completing a speed run with ten seconds to spare will get you five out of a possible ten points for that level), but doing this in itself doesn't seem like much of an accomplishment. For example if you're playing on casual and doing a speed run, you simply need to ollie obstacles once and a while and that's it. Level complete. If you're playing on the half pipe, you can simply move your board around and attempt to do a few flip tricks (most of the moves are explained in an intro video) and you'll likely pull off some impressive looking moves. This is a benefit and a hindrance. You don't have to try very hard in the half pipe to do impressive moves, but it also goes to show that the technology in the board doesn't simulate skateboarding very well and doesn't always do what you want. If you're playing a challenge map and are asked to do a 'tilt trick' you can have quite a bit of frustration when you do as asked, but the board registers you as doing a 'flip trick'. It's these types of moments that add to the frustration of an already flawed game.
As for the peripheral itself, it's definitely solid. It takes four AA batteries and has four sensors on the front and back and both sides to attempt to read your actions. You simply plug in a sensor to your PS3 or 360, hold down a button and you're good to go. The fact of the matter though is that the board doesn't work very well and far too often your actions are interpreted incorrectly. Bundle this with a rather bland career and exhibition mode, limited online play which is basically just a top scorer challenge and an unlikely to be used hot switch local multiplayer mode, and Tony Hawk Ride fails to do all that it set out to accomplish.
Credit must be given for the leap of faith and attempt at doing something new. If Tony Hawk Ride had been a success it likely would have opened the door even further for these types of games that use peripherals to emulate real life objects. The problem is that the game feels rushed, the skateboard does not respond well enough to your movements and the game itself isn't all that rewarding or exciting. With some improvements to the actual board and a game that improves upon all that is lacking, this franchise could have a bright future, but as for now Tony Hawk Ride is not worth your time or your money.