|System: X360, PS3, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Robomodo||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
September 10, 2009 - I've never been a skater, and I won't purport to be aware of the skateboarding culture in any sizeable way. Sure, I know what a half-pipe is, and I've seen an ollie performed once or twice, but when it comes to the "real" sport, I am a total novice. It is with this lack of basic knowledge that I hesitantly tried out Tony Hawk: Ride recently.
Tony Hawk: Ride represents a complete change of pace for the Tony Hawk series. While prior entries focused on complex button combinations that needed to be memorized in order to pull off tricks and gain points, Tony Hawk: Ride is all about well, the ride. Instead of using a traditional controller, Ride will instead use a wheel-less skateboard peripheral that allows you to skate, flip, and do tricks by mimicking real actions that you would take on a skateboard.
The peripheral itself is very light, but it has a nice firm base which keeps you balanced. You can position yourself on the skateboard anyway you want, but we were advised that it is best to keep your feet parallel, facing either the left or the right. Once you get into position, you can start the game and navigate through menus by using the buttons of the left and right of the skateboard. The buttons are identical on both sides, so it doesn't matter whether you like to ride left or right. There are also four IR sensors, placed in the middle of each side. These sensors are used for "grabs" and will be how you perform the majority of the tricks in the game
The first mode we tried out was called "speed run" and was basically a free mode where the only goal is to navigate using the board. You can attempt to perform some simple jumps or a few tricks, but it's not entirely necessary. To begin, you stand on the board and then wave your foot in front of one of the IR sensors on the side of the board to push off. From here, your avatar will skate endlessly, without you needing to push more on the skateboard, which makes it a perfect opportunity to try out all you can do on the skateboard.
Since Speed Run is a simple on-rails course; you don't have to worry about actively steering. However, the speed run has several areas where you can choose to go left or right, and to make a choice you will have to point the board in the direction you want to go. Doing this was fairly easy, and I didn't have any problem staying on the board or losing balance while steering. After I got a feel for basic maneuvers on the board, it was time to try something a little more difficult. During the speed run, there are plenty of areas where you can perform jumps and even try your hand at a trick or two. To jump using the board, all you have to do is use the leg you have on the back of the board to pop up the front at just the right moment. Although this sounds simple enough, it did take a few tries before I was able to pop my leg up successfully in time to execute a perfect jump. However, when I did, I was advised to grab the front of the board (or simply wave my hand in front of the IR sensor) to pull off a very simple grab trick.
The speed run was a great place to get comfortable with the board, and I suspect veteran skaters will be able to grasp the mechanics of the board fairly quickly. The next mode we were able to try is where these skills will be put to the test. The half-pipe is the arena that skaters use to show off their best tricks and stunts, and we were able to take part in a score-based mode that allowed you to skate around the half-pipe doing the best tricks you could to rack up points. We were encouraged to place hands over sensors, to try flipping and kicking the board in different directions and shift our weight around to try and trigger some stunts. Although we were only able to perform a few rudimentary grabs, we were told that there were plenty of different ways that players could experiment with this mode, and there were tons of pro tricks that could be performed.
Although my experience with Tony Hawk: Ride definitely made me feel a little on the amateur side, the development team was quick to point out that as much as Tony Hawk: Ride is for hardcore fans and real-life skaters, there will be plenty for more casual players to enjoy. You can play through the entire game on a casual setting, which simplifies the overall control and streamlines the steering. I'm confident that even the most casual players, with enough time on the easy speed run modes, will be able to master the peripheral and succeed at playing this game. It may take some effort to master, but keep in mind: no one knew how to master the plastic guitar before Guitar Hero, so perhaps the same logic applies to plastic skateboards. We won't have to wait long to find out, as Tony Hawk: Ride will be in stores later this fall!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor