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Tony Hawk is back: and this time, he doesn’t have a hokey plastic peripheral to hock to us. Activision is going back to it’s roots with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, a current-gen amalgamation of the first two Tony Hawk games.

To be clear, this isn’t just simply a remake of the original two games. For better or for worse, this is a complete HD re-imagining from the ground up by Robomodo, the developer of the failed Tony Hawk Ride franchise, using the Unreal Engine 3. The real question is, does it stack up to the originals given the $15 asking price?

Just like the original game, when it comes to solo play you can tackle Career, Score Attack, and Free Skate modes: but in HD, there’s the added bonus of Hawkman (kind of like Pac-Man for THPS), and Big Head Elimination (a mode where you have to bust tricks constantly or die). There are seven levels on offer, out of the nineteen found in both of the original games. Specifically, these levels are Warehouse, School II, Hangar, Mall, Marseille, Downhill Jam, and Venice Beach.

While these stages can contain some minor changes, they’re basically faithful re-creations of the originals. Right off the bat I was a little disappointed that the oddball levels like Roswell and Skate Heaven were not included, but ultimately the list is still solid.

You can’t check your move list during a run (so make sure and just set everything to memorable combos before-hand), but you can check your objectives with the new sleek map screen. The screen itself is completely optional — if you want to use it, you can — if you don’t want to “cheat”, feel free to not enable it.

Objectives are faithfully re-done from the original, outside of the “Secret Tapes” being replaced by “Secret DVDs”. I had a blast trying to do as many objectives as possible in a single run, and finding all of the cash in a given level is often a journey in and of itself. If you enjoyed the classic career mode of old, you’ll have an enjoyable time re-creating the glory days.

In addition to your standard single player options, there’s also an online-only multiplayer component. Although my personal favorite mode H-O-R-S-E is not present, by far the greatest inclusion is the “Big Head Survival Mode”. Those mode, simply put, tasks players with constantly shrinking their giant heads with combos — if it gets too big, it blows up.

You can screw with other people’s combos, making it very close to what I dub “the Smash Bros. of skating game modes.” The classic Graffiti and Trick Attack modes are included as well, in addition to leaderboards (which include nifty, non-obtrusive worldwide online score pop-ups).

Gameplay wise, things are a bit different, but I never really had any major issues. Wall rides feel a tad different, but they were always a bit off. Grinding feels a bit more sticky, but ultimately it’s still a serviceable endeavor. While it’s not the exact same 1:1 controls as the originals given the completely reworked engine, it still felt extremely close, barring a few minor glitches.

There are major problems with this release however, that will turn off many long time fans. You can’t create custom parks or skaters. You can’t customize (or even skip single songs) the soundtrack, and the soundtrack itself isn’t the full track listing from both games. Not every level from both games is included (where’s Mexico?). As previously mentioned, multiplayer is online only, strangely with no sign of local split-screen play.

Many skaters, including my personal favorites Chad Muska and Spider-Man are not included. There are absolutely no reverts (until the $5 THPS3 DLC hits in August, where reverts can only be used on those levels).

So if you were expecting a full HD remake, I’d completely skip this one — it’s more of a “greatest hits” compilation. If you’re more interested in replaying the originals, pick up Tony Hawk 2x for the original Xbox (it is backwards compatible with 360s and contains levels from the original game).

But still, in spite of all the above removed content, I still had an awesome time playing Tony Hawk HD. Key moments like avoiding the golf cart in School II while listening to Millencolin’s “No Cigar” or trying to finish up that last combo listening to Lagwagon’s “May 16” felt just as fun as ever.

I loved trying to re-learn all of my personal combos that I used in certain levels, and the new engine looks great. I’ll definitely be sticking around for the Tony Hawk 3 DLC, so expect a report on that in the future.

This review is based on a digital copy of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD for the Xbox Live Arcade.

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