Review: TONY HAWK: RIDE: One Heck of a Ride

Tony Hawk Ride, Guitar Hero Changes

Tony Hawk: RIDE

From: Activision/Robomodo

Reviewed On: Xbox 360 (Also on PS3, Wii)

When I first heard about this game, I knew it would be an ambitious venture. Then I saw it at E3 and I was intrigued, though it was cripplingly difficult in spots at the time. A couple months later I played a newer build and was convinced they actually had something remarkable on their hands (or, er, feet). Now, having played the final game, I can tell you that all the bugs were ironed out, the difficulty was perfected, and this is an extremely fun ride.

The general mechanics of the game are surprisingly simple- after a quick calibration, your leans, pop ups on the tail and nose, and grasping (or just brushing by) of the board's four sensors perform all your tricks. For spins and kick flips, the duration and angle of your lean control the type of trick you do. There are also moments where you'll see a camera icon, and that allows you to do a higher-end trick, or a "style" mode, after filling a meter, that boosts your tricks as well. Basically, you lean, you pop, you grab- just like you're riding a skateboard.

It's a difficult thing to describe accurately, and that will be this game's saving grace or its downfall. Anyone that sees someone else play this will be anxious to hop on next and give it a shot. Even if you're wretched at the whole concept, you will pull off at least a few cool tricks your very first time out and be hooked.

There are two basic level types, a downhill ramp (so you don't have to worry too much about gaining speed) to race on and do tricks, and the Vert half-pipes. The downhill sections work best on Casual mode. With this, you are guided along a general path. You can still lean to choose from multiple possible paths, but your real focus is on pulling off the actual tricks. Even Tony Hawk himself digs playing on casual, and "doing tricks and living that race fantasy" as he's always been "more of a Vert guy," he told us. On the Vert levels, there are sometimes multiple ramps, insane trick point boosts, and plenty of opportunities for the aforementioned camera and style boosts. The Vert levels are played with the board side to side, while the downhill levels are played with the board pointing at the screen, making both feel quite natural. After playing through nearly every map, including the final insane, twisty Tokyo maps, this is without a doubt the most diverse set of layouts of any game of this kind.

One other interesting note: each level is set to around 3 minutes. The developers "didn't intend for this to be a workout game" according to one Activision representative, but found that it does in fact produce a real cardio effect. They considered open world environments, but a single person on the board for more than a few minutes at a time would get completely exhausted very fast. This way, they've turned what looks like a quintessential single player game into an interactive multi-player experience. Much like the first Guitar Hero game, a lot of the fun will stem from players getting together with friends, trying to beat each others' scores and times, and being thankful for the rest in between. When you switch maps, there are some pretty considerable load times, the only obvious downside I found to the game, but at least it serves as a rest period too. Players can also take the action online for head-to-head competition, and scores and times will be recorded on online record boards as well.

Again, this game is hard to describe in just how fun it actually is. At a release event, it was remarkable to see every single person there anxious to try it out. Men, women, kids, everyone wanted a chance to try, and after trying once, everyone went back for more. Even Hawk himself, between interviews, could be found at a station just playing the game. He's logged countless hours on it in the last year, and still he plays just for fun. With that ringing endorsement in mind, and the prospect of watching friends look ridiculous (until they crush your score that is), this is a remarkable piece of technology, an incredibly fun game for skaters and non-skaters alike, and is sure to be the next must-have peripheral.

The Wii Difference:

Quick notes here. The Wii version's graphics are obviously considerably lower-end than the PS3/Xbox 360 versions. However, the board works identically, and the general level designs and options are the same. In addition, Wii gamers can use their Mii in-game, or select pro skaters' Miis, in addition to the selection of skaters and create-a-skater mode found in the others.

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