E3 2002Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 impressions

The new Tony Hawk game delivers a radically redesigned career mode and the same gameplay that made the series famous.

Activision has the Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 here at E3 in playable form. While the gameplay hasn't been changed much at this point, the rest of the game seems pretty different.

The most obvious changes have been made to the career mode. The series' career mode has been radically redesigned, removing the basic list of goals from the beginning of every level and integrating them into the game, much like Acclaim's Dave Mirra's Freestyle BMX 2 and Aggressive Inline. Additionally, there's no two-minute time limit anymore. Instead, you skate around at will, taking on goals as you please. Goals are discovered by talking to pedestrians. For example, in the college level, you'll find Ollie the Magic Bum, who will challenge you to pick up letters that spell out "combo" all while performing one consistent combo. Other goals we saw include grinding along a wall to rip down some banners and the ever-present "spell skate" goal. When you take on a goal, a timer appears and starts to tick down. Completing a goal gives you goal points, which are used to unlock levels and the like. You'll also earn stat points as you progress. Every level has multiple configurations, and they shift and change as you complete goals. Every level also ends in a medal-style competition, so there are no more competition-specific levels.

There don't seem to be a whole lot of new moves in Tony Hawk 4. The main new feature is the ability to transition from one side of a ramp to the other in a smooth fashion. It works very simply: When you launch up a double-sided quarter-pipe, hitting the revert button causes you to reorient yourself and skate down the other side. The game will also allow you to make those transitions via lip tricks, but those transitions weren't in the version we played. Skitching is in the game, and it's done by holding up while near or behind a car. Cars and trucks now have sharper edges on them, so it's possible to grind on moving vehicles instead of just car-planting off them. Pick-up truck beds have depth as well, so you can ollie up into the back of a movie truck and hang out for a while. Tony Hawk 3 introduced special manual tricks, such as truckstands and caspers. In Tony Hawk 4, the manual tricks don't require you to configure your special tricks. From a standard manual, you can combo into truckstands, pogos, and more.

The levels seem much larger than any previous Tony Hawk level. The college level has a large parking garage, a gigantic quad, and lots of little back areas and streets in between. Graphically, the game looks slightly improved. The skaters look smoother, especially in the Xbox version of the game. The levels are larger, yet the game still runs at an extremely smooth frame rate, with a long draw distance. The only time we saw any draw-in at all was when a drop into a dark pipe shot us out in a spot that overlooked almost the entire level.

The PlayStation 2 version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 is being shown here with online play. Online plans for the Xbox and GameCube have not been announced at this time. All three versions of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 are currently scheduled for a November release.

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Jeff

Jeff Gerstmann

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4

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