Tony Hawk's Pro Skater

a game by Neversoft Entertainment

Platforms: PlaystationNintendo 64Nintendo 64

Genres: Action, Sports

See also: Skateboarding Games, Tony Hawk's Games

Those of you out there old enough to remember (or maybe even owned) those fat old Powell Peralta decks with your huge Rat Bones wheels will easily recognize this game's authenticity. Sega's Top Skater notwithstanding, there's been a total drought of good skateboarding titles from the glory days of Atari's 720. Unfortunately, it's been too easy as of late for gamers to lump all snowboarding and skate titles into one generic garbage pile (trust us, we know). Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is one skate game that must not be overlooked. It's quite possibly the first skateboarding title to come along that wilj really push the design of all future boarding games.

To ensure that THPS looks as good as it plays (we'll get to that later), Neversoft employed extensive motion-capture techniques for each and every trick. Everything from your by-the-book kickflip or frontside grind, to a 720 Benihana is gracefully recorded for maximum realism. An important part of why THPS feels so responsive is because each move or animated sequence seamlessly transitions into each other without so much as an awkward stutter. Combine these visuals with the game's partiality toward extremes and you have THPS; it walks that fine line between believability and playability.

A good rule of thumb in THPS is, if something's there, you can skate on it. Feel free to ollie onto benches, curbsides, over garbage cans, rails and anything else you might see at a school, in a mall or at a skate park. There will be a total of nine courses in the game, each with a different emphasis, whether it be street style, vertical, both combined or downhill tracks. Secret paths and bonuses also prolong the replay value of THPS.

As for the skaters, Tony Hawk is joined by eight other professionals, including Bob Burnquist, X-Games gold medalist Bucky Lasek, Rune Glifberg, and other notable tricksters of the street. Each one is rated in four different categories: ollie, speed, air and balance. Since the ratings correspond with real-life specialties, those known for their street finesse will possess better balance for grinds and ollies, while ramp monsters like Tony Hawk and Bucky Lasek get the most out of your vertical hang time. Each character will also have signature moves which are key to winning competitions. Successfully complete a chain of tricks and you fill up your "special" meter and score big points.

Linking moves to form aerial combos is the name of the game. The best part about THPS' gameplay is that you have complete freedom to string together any number of tricks to customize your style. You'll find yourself devising new ways to squeeze in every move in the book before coming back down. Get too greedy and you'll find yourself wimpering on the pavement. These wipeouts are some of the most cringe-inducing sequences we've ever seen.

If Neversoft can clean up the clipping problems with the in-game camera, THPS will be a near-perfect skateboarding experience. We can't wait.

MANUFACTURER - Neversoft Ent. THEME - ACTION NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1 or 2

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