Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 was released in 2002 for the Playstation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, Game Boy Advance, and PC. There were also two other versions of the game that you probably didn’t know existed: one for the ill-fated Tapwave Zodiac (remember that thing?) and the original Playstation. The latter being one I thought my buddy made up, but sure enough it was real.
THPS4 brought forth quite a few additions and changes in the franchise. Probably the most obvious being it was the last game in the series to bear the ‘Pro Skater’ title.
One of the biggest changes was the completely revamped career mode. Whereas the older games in the series gave you a list of tasks and two minutes to complete them, THPS4 had an open approach. You were free to explore each level without a time-limit choosing whatever goal you wanted, whenever you wanted to attempt it. The standard goals, like high scores or collecting the SKATE letters were all still there, But there were also… weirder challenges. Stuff like racing through checkpoints using your skateboard like a luge, feeding pissed off sea lions, or knocking pedestrians into the ocean. The Zoo level in particular was where things got out of control; you had to stop monkeys from escaping, grab an elephant by the tail and don’t let go, and distract angry lions with sick combos.
If you thought Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 was when things got stupid, you’d be off by about two years.
Other features added were variations of manual (‘flatlanding’) and lip tricks. In the earlier games, you had no manual or lip tricks outside of the standard or special ones. Here, you had variations; if you tapped a two button combo, your character would do different moves from that position. This feature was also added for grabs as well, double tapping the grab button with a direction would lead to performing a different trick; you might recall that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 did this with flip tricks. The ability to ‘skitch’ objects (such as cars or angry elephants) by holding on to them from behind was also a new addition.
But perhaps the biggest addition was the inclusion of the spine transfer. This move allowed you to transfer out of a quarter-pipe and onto the other side, ‘up and over’ if you will. Factor it in with THPS3’s revert, THPS2’s manual, and a THPS1 flip trick for good measure and you can combo each new move from each installment. Neat, huh?
Given how the levels had a more open approach to them now, they were larger and had a ton of stuff to do in each. As opposed to the ten goal structure of the older games, each level could have up to 21 goals. There was the College, Alcatraz prison, Kona skatepark, San Francisco, and even one of the stages from the Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX series. The levels themselves may not have had a significant boost in visual appeal since THPS3, but they made up for it by giving you a ton of stuff to do.
All the pro skaters from the earlier games were back, as you’d expect, as well as the create-a-skater and create-a-park modes. If you’d be expecting some sort of crazy bonus characters like the other games, you’d be on the money there too. Jango Fett from ‘Star Wars’ and even Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie were among some of the unlockable characters that you’d really want to unlock.
The soundtrack was also loaded with heavy hitters, and it once again showed the Neversoft guys knew their stuff. AC/DC, Iron Maiden, System of a Down, and The Offspring were just some of the big name artists whose songs complimented the gameplay perfectly. Even everybody’s favorite THPS1 artist Goldfinger made an encore performance in this one. THPS4 also marked the first time in the series (if you hadn’t played the at-the-time ‘next gen’ versions of THPS3) where you could customize the soundtrack yourself. If you wanted to just hear ‘Manthem’ over and over again, go for it. In fact, I encourage it.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 wasn’t as large an advancement for the series like some of the older games, but it complimented the gameplay like it should and just kept building on a successful franchise. But it was Tony Hawk’s Underground when the series put all their cards on the table. Next week, it’s gonna be a good one. Don’t miss it.