Tony Hawk RIDE Review: Back To The Drawing Board?

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I’ve never been able to play a Tony Hawk game. Not well, anyway.

When the popular skateboarding franchise based on the legendary skater started in 1999 withTony Hawk’s Pro Skater, the title was universally praised. Pushing the right buttons at the right time would allow players to pull off chains of sick tricks never before seen in a skateboarding video game. And try as I might, I could never pull off those in-game tricks as easily as my friends could.

But several sequels later, the once-innovative gameplay became commonplace and redundant. By the time 2007′s Proving Ground came out, I had given up trying to play a Tony Hawk game. And apparently, so had many others: evidenced by poor reviews and being outsold by EA’s new Skate franchise, the Tony Hawk series either needed a serious reboot or it needed to retire to that great, big skate park in the sky.

That’s where RIDE comes in. The newest and 10th iteration of the gaming franchise, developed by Robomodo, is a brand-new way to play Tony Hawk — with a skateboard-shaped controller. The proprietary peripheral looks like an actual skateboard without wheels, and has a motion sensor on each side of it, allowing actions you perform on the board to correspond with pulling off cool tricks in the game. The controller itself is sturdy and well-made; it’ll certainly break other objects before it breaks itself.

The gameplay is mostly on rails, meaning you’re given a path to follow so you don’t have to worry about navigating the environment (unless you want to in the “hardcore” difficulty). There are three modes offered: Road Trip, which is essentially like a career mode where you’ll play through different cities and earn points and unlockable items by completing various events; Exhibition, which lets you skate in any of the cities you’ve unlocked in Road Trip; and Party mode, you can play through what you’ve unlocked in Road Trip with friends.

Granted, I’ve never ridden a real skateboard for more than a few minutes, but for the most part, the actions you’re tasked with do mimic the motions you’d perform on a real board. To do an Ollie, a trick where the skater and skateboard leap into the air, simply keep your rear foot planted on the board and pop the nose of the controller into the air. To grind a ledge or rail, Ollie onto it; once you make it on you pretty much stay on, and you can move around to perform different tricks while you’re grinding. And to speed up, use one foot to scrape the floor (in my case, carpet) as if you were really pushing your board.

Then the game introduces you to what it calls “flick tricks” and “tilt tricks.” Like their names suggest, flick tricks can be done when you pop an ollie (or nollie) and quickly flick the nose (or tail) of the board to the left or right. For tilt tricks, the movement’s more subtle: tilt the entire controller right or left while in the air. Playing with the skateboard controller sort of feels like a giant Wii remote you play with your feet… albeit a Wii remote without the accuracy-enhancing Wii MotionPlus add-on.

Here’s what I mean: When doing a tilt trick, I tried to tilt the board slightly to the left or right just after performing an Ollie, but this often had me doing just a flick trick if I tilted too much, or nothing at all if didn’t tilt enough. This didn’t matter so much when I was just messing around, but it became frustrating when I was trying to complete specific tasks in the Road Trip Challenges. (Side note: If you want to pointlessly cheat NES Power Pad-style, you can totally use the board with just your hands.)

I also had problems performing a grab trick — where you’re supposed to grab the nose of the controller while it’s up in the air — because sometimes, no matter how much I made sure to cover the front sensor with my hand, it just didn’t register.

Don’t get me wrong: the game works pretty well. But for something that costs $120 and in a time when motion-controlled video games are all the rage, I wish the skateboard peripheral read my moves more precisely. So I’m not sure everyone should spend the money for the novelty, but as someone who’s barely been on a skateboard, I was able to get into it and have fun once I learned how to do some of the moves. I should also note that I played the game with a friend who’s skated a bit back in high school, and we were pretty much even in RIDE; I’d even bested his score a few times.

Finally, a Tony Hawk game I can play.

Tony Hawk: RIDE is now available for the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii for $120. This review is a based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version purchased by the reviewer.

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