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Gameplay

Sound
  Graphics

Value
Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Sports
Min OS X: 10.1.2    CPU: G4 @ 733 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 700 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM


Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4
November 13, 2003 | Greg Turner
Pages:123Gallery

Unassisted flight. There are probably few activities on earth that can give a person the feeling of flight, the exhilaration of freeing yourself from gravity’s tether. Hang-gliding, perhaps. Bungie jumping, maybe. Skateboarding, certainly. And now you too can experience what it’s like to soar like an eagle. Or, in this case, a Hawk. Tony Hawk, professional skateboarder.

The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series has established itself as a leading game franchise. First appearing on the Sony Play Station, the original game was touted as revolutionary. It set the stage for a number of extreme sport titles.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 was the first of the series to be ported to the Macintosh. Like most good sequels, it built upon the foundation of the first game and added key features to make it a must-have title. Now, Aspyr Media brings Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 (THPS 3) and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 (THPS 4) to the Macintosh platform. If you’re familiar with Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, then THPS 3 and THPS 4 should be like riding a bike. A graphically beautiful bike with fluid game play and hour upon hour of challenging, fast, fun game play.

For those unfamiliar with the series, the premise is fairly simple. Players choose one of 13 (THPS 3) or 14 (THPS 4) pro skaters and skate through a number of levels completing specific tasks and collecting rewards. As the game progresses, players can improve upon their skater’s statistics, obtain new and better special tricks, and unlock new or hidden levels and skaters.

Performance
For those of you running older systems, I have some good news. THPS 3 ran just fine on my 800 MHz iBook with 32 MB of video RAM. Once or twice, the frame rate fell noticeably. This happened while the game was running at medium resolution with distance fog turned off. Distance fog is a feature that obscures objects in the far-middle and background, allowing the computer to fully render close objects and the foreground environment. THPS 4, however, wouldn’t even start up. I was a little disappointed that Aspyr did not include a message letting the user know that the system was not powerful enough to run the game. Hopefully, users will realize what is going on, but Aspyr could have probably saved themselves some time on the help line with the inclusion of an error message. Aspyr recently released a patch to fix this problem, among some other issues.

THPS 4 did run well on a 1 GHz G4 eMac with distance fog turned on. With distance fog turned off, the frame rate slowed to an intolerable two to three frames per second. One plus, however, is that it enabled me to see clearly the highly detailed movement animations of the skaters. From Rodney Mullen’s kickflip to casper, to Steve Caballero’s front side 540 McTwist, the animations are fluid and brilliant. So, unless THPS 4 is being played on a very powerful system, chances are the user will miss out on a lot of the beauty this game has to offer.

Graphics
The graphics jump from Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 to THPS 3 is not remarkable. The skaters are all rendered well, and the backgrounds and environments are highly detailed. Some of the renderings in THPS 3 are a little blocky. For example, when the player must air into a tree to knock snow onto a bully, the snow falls in large polygonal chunks -- though the environments are so broad and so varied that it does not detract from the overall experience.

The graphics jump from THPS 3 to THPS 4, however, is stunning. THPS 4 contains huge, multi-storied boards. With distance fog turned off, the backgrounds are revealed in minute detail. From the field of play, all the way to the horizon, everything is crystal clear and presented in vibrant color. The game includes other small touches in each level to add to the realism. Small touches like the rainbow reflection of an oily puddle in the game’s Shipyard level. The game also features excellent renderings and animations. Gone are the slightly geometric biceps and heads from the previous games in the series. In THPS 4, each skater’s body looks smooth and organic. And their movements are completely fluid.

Sound
Skateboarding and music go together like peanut butter and jelly. Martin and Lewis. Nollie and heel flip. The folks who develop the THPS series know this, and pack each game with track after track of driving, beat-heavy music from a range of genres. From heavy metal to punk and hip hop, the series features music for just about everyone except grandparents. In fact, THPS 4 features more than 35 separate tracks ranging from AC/DC to Run DMC, from old-school skate punk bad The Faction to Los Angeles punk upstarts The Distillers. The music in each title is up-tempo and hard-edged and compliments the fast-paced game play very well.

Neither game cheats the player on in-game sound, either. There is a specific sound made when a skater ollies. For anyone who has skateboarded, the sound is unmistakable: the rumble of polyurethane wheels on concrete, the popping snap of the board’s tail hitting the concrete, and then silence while the board is in the air. With the Tony Hawk series, the sound can become unmistakable to anyone, skater or not. The games also add realism with the inclusion of scraping and banging sounds when the skaters fall, as well as prerecorded “owie” voiceovers that are provided by the skaters themselves.

The ambient sounds are excellent as well, if a little repetitive. From snatches of conversation the player can hear while skating past pedestrians to the screech of tires as cars stop short, there is sound aplenty adding to the overall realism of the gaming environment.



Pages:123Gallery




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