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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater

By: Mugsy Max

R.I.P. 720

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is, hands down, the best skateboarding video game ever (as of October 1999). Having said that, you can now go to the store and buy this game. For those of you who have less faith in my gospel, read further and hopefully you will be converted and join the masses.

Skaters and posers alike have been waiting for the day that a true-to-life skateboarding game would be born to lead us to the promised land. That day has come, my friends. Activision and Neversoft have combined their divine talents to harness the true feel of skateboarding in this groundbreaking game. Never before has a skateboarding game been so meticulously all-encompassing. From the tricks to the pros, from the brand names to the music, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater has it all.

The premise of the game is simple: conquer all the asphalt and obstacles in front of you to become the best skater in the world. To do this, you'll have to win three different skate competitions and collect the magical 411VM videotapes hidden throughout the kingdom. And winning is no ride through the park - you're going to play the leading role in some of the gnarliest falls and crashes ever to grace a video game console. Fortunately, that's half the fun.

Wondering which pro skaters you can manhandle? There's Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Kareem Campbell, Rune Glifberg, Bucky Lasek, Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Geoff Rowley, Elissa Steamer, and Jamie Thomas - not to mention a secret character or two. And what companies offered their decks, clothes, and images to the game? There's 411VM, Tech Deck, Birdhouse, Axion, Emerica, Es, Etnies, Flip, Four Star Distribution, Shorty's, Toy Machine, and Zero, to name a few. Whew.

To keep things interesting, there are several modes of play in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. For single players, there's Career mode, Free Skate, and Single Session. In Free Skate you can choose any level available to your career mode character and tear it up for as long as you like. In Single Session, you have two minutes to destroy the track of your choice. For two players, there are three modes of play: Graffiti, Trick Attack, and HORSE. In Graffiti, players take possession of an obstacle when they successfully perform a trick off it. The player who has conquered the most obstacles wins. The only caveat is that obstacles can be stolen if the next guy performs a better trick than his competitor. Trick Attack is a basic competition for the highest score from performing tricks. Finally, HORSE is played like the old-school basketball game, but instead of sinking buckets you have to land tricks.

Now to the technical stuff. The biggest turn-on about this game is the amazing system utilized to perform tricks. Before I go further, let me mention that there are tons of tricks at your disposal. There are kick tricks, grab tricks, and grinds. Each of these types has around eight different tricks. To spice things up, you can also rotate your body in the air, making 360's (or 720's) an intuitive snap. On top of that, each character has their own special set of tricks. And to put the icing on the cake, all these moves can be linked into combinations, like kickflip to 50-50 grind to 180 hardflip. Nice.

Another strong point of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is the ability to skate virtually every surface. You can perform wallrides, grinds, and ollies wherever your heart desires. Most importantly, there is no limit to your imagination with trick combinations. If you want to wallride and then transition onto a car, go right ahead. This is pretty much a first for skateboarding games.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is one of the best and cleanest looking games on the Playstation. There is hardly any polygon breakup, virtually no slowdown, and the frame rate runs at a healthy pace. The pro skaters are true to form, and some of the stages are even taken from actual locations. You're able to skate the infamous streets of San Francisco even if you're sitting on the East Coast. Which reminds me, the stages are huge; finding all the different areas in a stage takes a long time. Continuing with the graphics, the character animations amazingly realistic. Watching my little guy take a spill often makes me cringe, and watching him perform a sick combination is pure magic.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater has just set the standard for skateboarding video games. Up until now, 720 held the throne. Since we're well past the 80's, it's about time we crowned a successor. It's a breath of fresh air to play such an entertaining and well done video game. Since I'm a fan of skateboarding, I truly appreciate the quality of work put into this product, but skaters and non-skaters alike will find this game a joy to play. Highly recommended.

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