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Tony Hawk: RIDE

Score: 60%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Robomodo
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Extreme)/ Online/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

The word "tragedy" (in its oldest sense) is often misunderstood. A Google search will equate the term with the likes of "cataclysm" and "disaster." According to playwrights both modern and ancient, a tragedy isn't simply an event of great misfortune; rather, it is the fall of the high and mighty. The Tony Hawk franchise was once great, but the past few years have seen it in a tailspin. After two years of stumbling in the dark, the series aims to make a comeback with Tony Hawk: RIDE. With the release of TH: RIDE, the franchise puts a foot forward... directly onto a skateboard... at the top of a very long and steep stairwell. TH: RIDE tries to offer something to both casual and hardcore gamers, but the finished product probably won't make anyone happy. In the end, Tony Hawk: RIDE is an outlandishly priced tech demo that boasts a subpar presentation and a borderline-unresponsive peripheral.

During a Party Play session of Tony Hawk: RIDE, someone made the keen observation that the best-looking part of the game had more to do with product placement than anything related to the actual gameplay. This is true: from the T-Mobile Sidekicks to all the shameless plugs for Stride Gum, TH: RIDE beats you over the head with all of its sponsors. Outside of the product placement, this game suffers in the visual department. The environments are dull and vacant, the "extreme moments" have about as much impact as a whoopee cushion, there are numerous anti-aliasing and clipping issues, the load times are slow, and worst of all, the physics are laughably, absurdly bad.

The sound doesn't suffer quite as much as the visuals do, but it's got its share of problems. The licensed soundtrack's quality is simply a matter of taste, so I won't get into that. I will get into the performances of the professional skaters, however. All of them are difficult to watch. It's bad enough that a light bloom filter renders their features into a blinding eyesore, but the lines and delivery are simply horrid. During an uncomfortable moment with Screech-lookalike Dustin Dollin, Stevie Williams makes a pandering contribution by suddenly shouting "Holla!"


Tony Hawk RIDE is the game equivalent of a baby born five months premature. In its current state, it's not even remotely ready for release. As mentioned before, the final retail product is riddled with bugs and bad physics, but worst of all: it barely qualifies as a game. It's all about the peripheral, rather than the action on the screen. Only a minimal amount of structure and progression is involved in the single player Road Trip mode, save for the earning of Session Points. Session Points automatically unlock new gear, new skaters, new venues, and other assorted goodies.

The gameplay itself is unsatisfying, shallow, and immensely frustrating. The goals aren't fun to follow (go exactly here and do exactly this), but what's worse is that these objectives are displayed at the bottom of the screen; glancing at the goals can throw you off quite a bit and ruin the sense of flow you probably didn't get in the first place.

Sessions come in a few different flavors, and they are all available from the moment you unlock each venue.

Speed Runs are essentially races against the clock. As you navigate each course, you must collect time bonuses, avoid time penalties, and try to hit speed boosts littered about the environment. There's also a variant of the Speed Run, aptly named Speed Slalom. Your job is to run the course while skating through rings.

Trick Runs are almost self-explanatory. Earn points by tricking up a storm and filling your Style meter. Filling it will often automatically cause your skater to enter into a state in which he/she is either on fire or trailing a shadow. Regardless of the visual effect, it's basically a kind of Super Mode.

Vert Challenges require you to turn the skateboard peripheral parallel to the television screen; this is a good design decision, because keeping the same perspective of the other modes would have proven far too disorienting for use with vert ramps. Make no mistake, though: the controls remain the same.

You can try your hand at these modes by yourself or with friends. This game is indeed more fun when played as a group, but it's also true that suffering in the company of others is easier than suffering alone.

Menu screens are a complete hassle. Sometimes you can tilt the board side to side to navigate up and down different sets of options, but sometimes, you'll have to use a controller. This is a huge pain if you're playing by yourself.


Tony Hawk: RIDE's difficulty level jaunts from one extreme to the other, thanks in no small part to the ridiculous difficulty curve. However, there are a few standard difficulty levels to choose from; each difficulty level has its own set of Session Points to earn. This is unfortunate, considering the game's heavy emphasis on accessibility.

Casual is patronizingly easy; it strips the entire game down to an on-rails experience and offers the skateboarding equivalent of Rock Band 2's No Fail Mode. It will take you within close proximity of objects you can trick off of, and all you will need to do is ollie or nollie. The game takes care of the rest. Ledges and rails will pull your character (almost magnetically) onto them and the board will recognize flip tricks regardless of whether you tried to do them or not.

Turn the difficulty up to Confident or Hardcore, and prepare to unleash a torrent of verbal abuse at your television screen as the game misjudges your tilts and ignores your grab attempts. I'm guessing these take an incredibly long time to get used to, but I can guarantee that the difficulty curve will put many gamers off. Manuals are relatively easy to pull off, however; if you can hold a manual for 400 feet, you will earn an Achievement titled "Stride's Long Lasting Manual!" Woo!

Regardless of what difficulty you choose, several events do not allow you to restart your run until you've gotten to the very end of the course. It's incredibly frustrating to miss your first trick knowing that you'll have to slog through the rest of your failed run in order to do it all over again.

Game Mechanics:

The excuse for jacking Tony Hawk: RIDE's price up through the stratosphere is a poor one. The included skateboard peripheral looks like a blank skate deck. The comparison ends there. It may be loaded with sensors and assorted tech, but Tony Hawk's in-game promises of the peripheral's awesomeness are ill-warranted. If the peripheral does indeed work exactly like it should, then the game doesn't. In short, none of it feels natural, and it's unintuitive, to say the least.

Ollies are performed by simply popping the nose of the board up, and nollies are executed by doing the exact opposite. Fair enough. Want to do a kickflip? Do an ollie and tilt the board at a certain point. Want to do a varial heelflip? Ollie, and then rotate the board while it's in the air -- without tilting it. If you want to perform a grab, you'll have to get sufficient air and cover one of the board's infrared sensors. All of this is possible, but the game misjudges your intentions most of the time. The slightest bit of tilt on the board makes all the difference between a heelflip and an indy. This makes the game's challenges incredibly frustrating. At least manualing feels consistent and natural, though for some reason, there is a sweet spot that moves up and down on a meter, regardless of velocity and/or tilt.

There are two skater stances: Regular and Goofy. Geck0 and I (mostly Geck0) experimented wildly with the board and can safely vouch for the fact that standing on the board just does not do it. I'm serious - we tried everything; from making rowing gestures with an umbrella to laying down on our backs with the boards over our heads. Perhaps the most effective stance for this game is the one we call "Co-op." One person stands on the board and keeps it as steady as possible while the other (the Grab Man) blocks infrared sensors, triggering grabs. By the end of the session, we all reached the consensus that the least effective way to play was... well, the way the game intends for you to play it.

This is probably the Tony Hawk franchise's last shot at redemption. The truth of the matter is that there's so much wrong with Tony Hawk: RIDE that it's difficult to take it seriously. I actually feel pity for the franchise as a whole; it's like watching an outcast try to return to his home five minutes after being tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail. It would be bad enough if Tony Hawk: RIDE's price was set to the standard for next-gen games, but the fact that Activision is charging double is just plain insulting. I strongly urge you not to spend your hard-earned money on this game, unless you want to know what buyer's remorse feels like. It's been a good run, but it may be time to let this franchise die with its last remaining shred of dignity.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:

Microsoft Xbox 360 Fairytale Fights Sony PlayStation 3 Tony Hawk: RIDE

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