Tag Archives: Xbox One

Halo Fest 2020: Halo 3: ODST

When Halo 3: ODST was shown at E3 2009 I wasted no time preordering it, though I did have some minor reservations. I mean, the game was essentially a standalone expansion pack for Halo 3, a game which reasonably wrapped up the trilogy, and this game wouldn’t even feature the iconic Master Chief! Halo 3 was also 2 years old at this point, despite the undeniable staying power of its excellent multiplayer. Still, the reviews ended up being absolutely glowing, with the biggest criticism being the sticker price. Today ODST is still as celebrated for the interesting deviations it made from the core series as it was at release. On top of everything I’ll go into below, I also fondly look back on it for first introducing the “Firefight” gamemode, a “Horde mode” like cooperative wave survival mode that my brother became particularly enamored with.

Over 10 years later, I was able to easily play Halo 3: ODST again as part of the Master Chief Collection on my Xbox Series X. As with Halo 3’s MCC port, ODST didn’t receive the ridiculously thorough remaster treatment of the Halo: CE and Halo 2 anniversary editions, but the fact that it still looks so stunning today with little more than some upscaling speaks volumes about Bungie’s expertise. They were clearly at the top of their game with Halo 3: ODST, and it ages even better than Halo 3 as a result.

The boys!
“The boys!”

Since so many of ODST’s gameplay elements are related to its story, and this is a side story taking place out of chronological order from the main series anyway, I’ll start by recapping the plot. Unlike Halo Wars, which took place before the events depicted in the main Halo games and has little direct relation to their plots, Halo 3: ODST actually takes place during events depicted in Halo 2. Aside from that, it is still very much its own story, however, and while I’m fairly vague in these plot summaries they absolutely do still contain spoilers, so skip the next paragraph if you want to avoid spoilage.

The story: Breaching Earth’s defenses, the Prophet of Regret’s carrier has taken up position over New Mombasa while Covenant forces terrorize the city streets below. In a desperate move that could help turn the tide of the war, multiple squads of the UNSC’s elite Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs) are ordered to drop onto the ship and capture the Covenant leader. ODST fireteam Alpha-9, led by Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck, is attached to Office of Naval Intelligence officer Captain Veronica Dare for the assault. As the fireteam prepares to drop, Capt. Dare unexpectedly orders them to adjust their drop locations to land in the city instead. As they drop, Regret’s ship performs a surprise low orbit slipspace jump, resulting in a destructive shockwave that sends the fireteam’s drop pods wildly off course. The members of Alpha-9, now completely scattered, individually make their ways through the wreckage of the Covenant occupied mega-city to regroup. One of the members of the fireteam, picking up Dare’s radio signal and subtly guided by Vergil, the city’s Superintendent AI, locates Capt. Dare as she attempts to infiltrate the city’s underground data center. Upon reaching the data center’s core, Dare reveals the true purpose of her mission: to secure the Superintendent AI. The pair quickly discover that the Superintendent AI has been taken over by a Covenant defector. This Huragok, a rarely encountered species of alien dubbed “Engineers” which the Covenant use as biological supercomputers, could be extremely valuable in learning the purpose of Regret’s attack. Escorting this renegade Engineer back up to the surface and fending off multiple Covenant attacks along the way, they eventually meet up with Buck and the rest of his fireteam and make a hasty escape from the city.

Holding out against a ton of Covenant air with nothing but a huge pile of heavy weapons.
“Holding out against a ton of Covenant air with nothing but a huge pile of heavy weapons.”

Structurally, ODST plays unlike any other Halo game. You initially assume the role of the new member of the fireteam referred to as “the Rookie”. By the time the Rookie wakes up after his violent landing quite a few hours have passed and you’re tasked with wandering the dark, deserted streets of New Mombasa searching for signs of what happened to the rest of Alpha-9. Each of the clues you find results in a flashback mission switching you from your silent protagonist to one of his much more developed (and talkative) squadmates. These missions are structured more like your typical Halo mission and, taking place in different areas and at different times, allow Bungie to really mix up the scenery and the action. Once a mission is complete, you’re sent back to rejoin the Rookie in New Mombasa, with these sections ultimately functioning as something of an abstracted hub area. Very cool.

The Rookie surveying the New Mombasa streets.
“The Rookie surveying the New Mombasa streets.”

The New Mombasa streets area has a couple of other interesting tricks up its sleeve. First, the expansive map is more or less wide open. While you’re guided to the location of each subsequent clue, it’s only by a waypoint, and there will be multiple ways to reach it. You’ll probably end up taking different routes whether you want to or not, as navigating the maze-like city streets isn’t easy, often requiring the use of the in-game map. Along the way you can choose whether to engage the Covenant patrols you encounter or attempt to sneak around them entirely. You can even find the aforementioned clues and play their associated missions totally out of order if you want to.

More importantly, these New Mombasa sections have an absolutely unique tone. As the Rookie, you’re all alone in the dark, rainy city streets. Remnants of the day’s earlier conflict surround you: ruined buildings, destroyed vehicles, and dead UNSC and Covenant soldiers alike. It conjures a lonely, bleak feeling. The Superintendent AI’s poltergeist-like attempts to guide you only add a further creepy layer to this. There’s also something of a light survival feel to these sections, as ammo is scarce; your UNSC weapons will probably be depleted after your first few encounters, forcing you to scrounge for Covenant weapons and ammo. The pacing is altered by all of this too. In the proceeding Halo games you’re shuffled from mission to mission with an urgency that is, I suppose, appropriate to the epic task at hand. You know, saving the planet and whatnot. In the New Mombasa streets, however, there is no such urgency. You’re just one person, completely isolated. It all feels very grounded and very personal.

A squadron of Banshees fly by the remains of the space elevator.
“A squadron of Banshees fly by the remains of the space elevator.”

The graphics and sound are a large component of why this all works. The lighting and shading certainly conjure a particular mood, but with ODST’s soundtrack they’ve incorporated a greatly expanded variety of different musical influences, from the more traditional Halo sounding orchestral tracks and electronic ambiance to smoky jazz-inspired, piano and saxophone laden pieces that sell the game’s intentionally film noir vibe. Halo has always had extremely strong soundwork, but ODST is really something else entirely. Anyone who thinks Marty O’Donnell is a one trick pony really needs to stop what they’re doing and go give the ODST soundtrack a listen. Right now!

Gameplay wise, Halo 3: ODST is built directly on top of Halo 3 and plays more or less the same, but it’s hard to mark the game down for that. I mean, that is one damn fine foundation. Some of the few differences between the two games relate to the fact that you’re not playing a literal supersoldier like Master Chief. I recall Bungie making statements before ODST’s release that perhaps oversold that just a little; that as a normal human, you’d be weaker and less capable and that suddenly even the previously laughable grunts would be fearsome opponents. That sort of thing. Instead, there is another new health system, this one feeling similar to Halo: CE’s with a shield-like recharging “stamina” layer and a core health pool that is only refilled with health packs. Unlike Halo: CE, however, these health packs are relatively plentiful. There’s also no hijacking vehicles, no dual wielding, no use of Halo 3’s special equipment, and no radar.

New Mombasa Streets: VISR off.
“New Mombasa Streets: VISR off.”

New Mombasa Streets: VISR on.
“New Mombasa Streets: VISR on.”

Bungie giveth as well. As an ODST your standard armaments are a new silenced version of the submachine gun and, something of a throwback to Halo: CE, a lovely new silenced magnum pistol. There’s also the VISR mode which serves as both a sort of night vision and also highlights friendlies, enemies, and certain objects with a thin colored outline on your HUD. The only negative to VSIR mode is that there’s no real reason to ever turn it off, and leaving it on means seeing only one, lesser version of the game’s lighting.

The VISR mode’s ability to highlight objects is key to ODST’s single collectible system: audio logs. Similar to the terminals of previous games, these logs are hidden throughout the New Mombasa streets. Interestingly, rather than typical voice memo type recordings, these are audio and still images recorded from security systems scattered around the city and tell the story of a single character, Sadie, and her attempt to meet up with her father as the fighting erupts. This story links directly into ODST’s overall plot, giving some insight into the Vergil AI and its fate. While I remember liking these audio logs, I could barely stand them this time around. The script feels unnatural and the voice acting and sound effects come across like a old time radio play. Sadie’s main nemesis in the story, the city’s police commissioner, is a particularly ridiculous mustache twirling villain stereotype that I just couldn’t take seriously.

At least that’s not an issue the campaign has! The voice cast is excellent, with notable TV actors including several of the core cast of Firefly with Nathan Fillion, who Buck is both voiced by and modeled after, and Battlestar Galactica’s Number Six, Tricia Helfer, voicing Veronica Dare. Say what you will about Buck’s sarcastic attitude or he and Dare’s relationship issues, but in the brief time we spend with these characters they express a lot more personality than we ever got from Master Chief, and the strong cast only helps that.

Dutch's level is a total throwback to previous games.
“Dutch’s level is a total throwback to previous games.”

I beat the game on “Heroic” difficulty, and even with the aforementioned lack of ammo and other constraints I found it to be one of the easiest campaigns so far. That’s not to say there weren’t some intense moments. The first time I ran into a Hunter I struggled like hell to take him down, depleting all of my grenades and most of my ammo in the process, only to have his buddy saunter into the room just as I was catching my breath. Sheer panic. There was also a lot more variety in the action than I’d remembered, with missions featuring a tank section, a wide open Warthog-centric level, some Banshee flying including a unique Scarab fight, and even yet another Warthog run-like level towards the end of the game. Even with its relatively short length, there’s definitely enough to make it feel like a full Halo game. While a part of me does have to wonder if you had to have played the previous games in the franchise to really appreciate it to its full extent, I personally think Halo 3: ODST is something of a masterpiece and is easily one of the strongest games in the series.

We are ODST!
“We are ODST!”

Just a quick footnote, but similar to Halo 3’s “Landfall”, ODST’s considerable promotion efforts included the absolutely awesome The Life. This live-action short shows the journey of an ODST from a young recruit to a battle hardened veteran. Compelling and absolutely worth a quick watch if you’re a Halo fan and haven’t seen it!

Halo Fest 2020: Halo Wars

Now for a complete change of pace from the original Halo trilogy, we have Halo Wars. Despite the fact that Halo actually started life as an real time strategy game, it still strikes me as incredibly unlikely that Microsoft would have ever greenlit this. I guess they figured a console RTS had more of a chance of success with the Halo brand behind it than without, and they were probably right. Still, I didn’t know many Halo fans who were all that excited about the prospect at the time, and console FPS fans and RTS fans were mostly two different breeds. Regardless, this badass trailer produced by Blur did a lot to get the Halo fans pumped up and RTS fans (well, the ones who would condescend to play an RTS on a console) would be placated by knowing that Ensemble Studios, responsible for the Age of Empires and Age of Mythology series, utter classics of the genre, would be at the helm.

The badass cutscenes were also produced by Blur.
“The badass cutscenes were also produced by Blur.”

Me? Well, as both a Halo fan and an RTS fan (and admittedly, not a hardcore one) and having played my fair share of Age of Empires II, I was probably about as close to their target demographic as you could get. Despite this, I wasn’t all that hyped up for it, and while I did play through the demo (which I briefly talk about here, though I somehow have no recollection of) I never got around to playing the full game. While it was pretty well received by fans and critics alike, it’s reasonable to assume that a similar level of disinterest (along with numerous internal factors) would lead to Ensemble closing its doors, sadly making Halo Wars their very last game.

For this playthrough I played the Xbox One Halo Wars: Definitive Edition on my Series X. The “Definitive Edition” is a remaster of the original game released alongside Halo Wars 2. With higher resolution textures and improvements to lighting and particle effects but not a lot else, it’s essentially just a re-release. While this means it’s not going to blow you away with contrast between the versions like the first two Halo games I covered, it is, at least, very faithful to the original. The game has aged pretty well, so that’s not a problem.

Well, it certainly LOOKS like an RTS...
“Well, it certainly LOOKS like an RTS…”

I’d actually started my playthrough on “Heroic” just as I did with the first three Halo games, but I found that the effort to beat some of these missions on Heroic simply wasn’t worth it – I could beat them, sure, but it took longer due to losing units more easily, and that sapped a lot of the fun out of the experience. Lowering the difficulty one notch to “Normal” was a big improvement for me. I suppose I enjoy overcoming bumps in difficulty in FPSes a lot more than I do in RTSes, where my builds and priorities are the biggest differences in how I play from session to session rather than toying too much with tactics. That, and the kinds of scenarios you encounter in a single player campaign like this so often constrain your options for the sake of variety, not doing a great job of reflecting the full array of options present in a pure skirmish match as a result.

The console control scheme makes excellent use of radial menus.
“The console control scheme makes excellent use of radial menus.”

I think another issue was the controls. Don’t get me wrong, I think Ensemble did a fine job with translating the RTS to the console, and from other console strategy game experiences I’ve had, I think the idea that strategy games don’t quite work on consoles is total bunk – there are plenty of examples of at least passable RTSes on console. Still, I have a lot of hours playing of RTSes on PC under my belt and playing them with a mouse and keyboard is in-grained at this point. For one, I found my ability to appropriately micromanage my units lacking. Halo Wars lets you select all of your units, all of your units on the screen, and all of the units of only a particular type in either case, which is just enough to allow you to do most anything you’d want to do with a little creativity. Still, that pales in comparison to being able to quickly make groupings of specific units of mixed unit types and assign them to hot keys for later use. Interestingly, I made the same complaint over 10 years ago when I played the demo. I definitely did feel slightly hobbled by this in some of my busier missions though, and this led me to coming up with numerous cheesy strategies of deploying tons of the same unit – masses of fully upgraded Warthogs being a particular favorite of mine, being both cheap to replace when they inevitably get blown away, and hilarious to watch bound haphazardly across the map.

Continuing the trend I started with my re-play of Halo: CE, I unlocked every skull and black box collectible on each map, though chasing them down really wasn’t all that enjoyable as it was in the previous games. Some don’t appear on the map until certain challenge conditions are met, making finding them more naturally impossible, and resulting in them being a bit of a distraction from the actual goals of the mission. More importantly, the reward for unlocking them is a let down. Skulls function similarly to previous Halo games, but in the case of the black boxes, each one unlocks a single entry on a giant timeline of the events around the game. This glorious lore dump is no doubt cool for fans of the franchise, but they’re just short text blurbs – no cutscenes, not even voiceovers. A little on the weak side.

Marines clearing out a nasty Flood infestation.
“Marines clearing out a nasty Flood infestation.”

While I’m being negative, I also encountered a few bugs and other oddities during my playthrough. Probably an artifact leftover from the remaster, but in-engine cutscenes seem to run at a reduced, stuttery looking framerate, I had at least one total system crash during a mission, and on another occasion (on the same mission!) I lost the ability to control a special vehicle which made winning the scenario impossible and caused me to have to reload and lose a bunch of progress. I wouldn’t say these issues were numerous enough to ruin my experience, however, but there were enough of them to take note. That said, I didn’t have any real issue with unit pathing, which is a common complaint I’ve seen online.

There’s also the story. As this is a side story taking place out of chronological order and well before the main series, I’ll go ahead and recap its plot right here. While I’m fairly vague in these plot summaries they absolutely do still contain spoilers, so skip the next paragraph if you don’t want the plot to be spoiled!

The Arbiter's back! Only this is a different one, and he has zero personality.
“The Arbiter’s back! Only this is a different one, and he has zero personality.”

The story: As part of the Harvest Campaign, an effort to retake the planet of Harvest, the first human colonized world with the unfortunate distinction of being decimated by the Covenant, marines of the UNSC colony ship “Spirit of Fire” discover a newly excavated Forerunner facility containing an interstellar map. Using the map, Professor Anders, a researcher aboard the Spirit of Fire, identifies another human colony world, Arcadia, as being a point of interest for the Covenant. Arriving too late, the Spirit of Fire finds Harvest’s defenses breached and the colony already under siege by Covenant forces. Linking up with local defenses, including Spartan Red Team, Arcadia City is evacuated. Efforts to further repel the Covenant eventually lead the UNSC to locate concentrated Covenant activity around yet more Forerunner ruins. The UNSC push the Covenant out, though the victory is short-lived as the Arbiter abducts Professor Anders and flees Arcadia. In pursuit, the Spirit of Fire arrives at an uncharted planet being overrun by Flood, which they quickly learn is actually a Forerunner Shield World. Professor Anders manages to escape, revealing that the Arbiter planned to use her to activate a fleet of powerful Forerunner warships to help the Covenant decisively win the war. Captain Cutter approves a risky plan to use the Spirit of Fire’s faster-than-light drives to destroy the entire Shield World, keeping the Forerunner fleet out of the hands of the Covenant. Successful but now without faster-than-light capability, the Spirit of Fire’s crew goes into cryogenic storage while the ship begins the long journey home.

It all feels, eh, a little generic. I say this having already played almost all of the other games in the series, so perhaps I wouldn’t have felt that way at all if I played it at the time. It might have been utterly groundbreaking for all I know. Either way, this isn’t helped by the fact that the characters were all just a little flat. I really couldn’t convince myself to care all that about Sgt. Forge, Captain Cutter, or Professor Anders. Hell, I probably liked the Spirit of Fire’s AI, Serina, more than the lot of them. Everyone just came across as low effort archetypes to me, and I think I would have felt the same back in 2009.

One of my Spartan's jacked a Scarab. Ridin' in style!
“One of my Spartan’s jacked a Scarab. Ridin’ in style!”

While that all sounded more than a little sour, no, I didn’t dislike the game. In fact, I felt like Ensemble did a great job representing the Halo universe. The presentation is faithful to the original games and quite skillfully executed, with the new units added doing a lot to make both the Covenant and the UNSC feel more like actual military forces than what was represented in the previous Halo games. The soundtrack is great. The cutscenes, awesome! It also definitely succeeds as a RTS, with some interesting units, tech trees, a decent amount of variety in the scenarios you’re thrown into in the campaign, and an interesting take on the classic formula, with simplified resource gathering and some other concessions seemingly made around the platform. I think one of the bigger compliments I could give the game is that I had been feeling the urge to play some classic RTS games lately and Halo Wars managed to thoroughly scratch that itch. Once completing the campaign, I dove into several skirmish matches against AI which were a ton of fun and sealed my overall positive impression of the game.

I’d say if you’re a Halo fan, you should definitely give it a chance. If you don’t have any RTS (or other strategy game) experience you absolutely might bounce right off of the game. Then again, it might also end up being one of your favorite Halo games, and your gateway into a whole new genre. Now, back to Bungie

Save or Die!

As a little kid I became obsessed with skateboarding thanks to my best friend’s skater older brother, who we both thought was so cool. As it goes, my friend and I spent far more time flicking through Thrasher and Transworld Skateboarding, doodling halfpipe filled skatepark plans, and pining for half of the awesome gear in the latest California Cheap Skates catalog than actually skating. Regardless, I think there was something about the whole culture that appealed to the nascent misfit rebel in me. Beyond magazines and catalogs, there were a few other outlets for wanna-be skaters. While you could only watch Christian Slater Gleam the Cube so many times, a game like Skate or Die on the NES could be played over and over again… and I did! The disappointing Skate or Die 2 was one of the only Nintendo games I talked my parents into buying me at release, in fact.

Man, I love this new moody version of Burnside!
“Man, I love this new moody version of Burnside!”

In my teenage years I got into punk rock something serious, and given the association, picked up skateboarding again. Nowhere near as physically coordinated as I was as a kid, and a lot more risk averse at that, I didn’t have any luck with continuing where I had left off, but I did discover a whole new joy of skateboarding – being alone with my thoughts while trying a trick I barely understood how to do over and over again in some empty parking lot somewhere. A useful release during some pretty stressful years. Of course, I still pined over CCS catalogs, but now I could actually afford some of the stuff in them. At around the same time I had developed something of a summer vacation ritual of bingeing on the X Games late at night. Then, to complete the circle, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater dropped. The 90s were a hell of a time!

Or should I say 2000s, because while THPS had a reputation of being more of a PlayStation-centric series at first, it was ported all over the place, and I, being a Nintendo 64 devotee at the time, had to settle for that inferior version. That’s not to say it sucked though – the core of THPS was absolutely intact, and although the fog plague every locale (in more wide open areas) and the soundtrack was fucking butchered, it was totally serviceable for us schlubs with no alternates. While I have fond memories of jamming out to the awesome soundtrack (that very much aligned with my musical tastes) and struggling through that original selection of levels, I can’t tell you exactly how much of the game I played. I mean, I vaguely recall completing all of the challenges on all of the maps, but who knows?

Falling from great height (with style that is) in San Francisco.
“Falling from great height (with style that is) in San Francisco.”

I have a lot more scattered memories of the series from then on – hanging out in more than one “punk house” watching friends get high and pass the PlayStation controller around playing THPS 2 and THPS 3, feeling deeply disappointed that I couldn’t play an apparently improperly burned copy of THPS 2 on my Dreamcast, that kind of thing. It wasn’t until I dove back in with Tony Hawk’s Underground on my original Xbox that I spent any quality time on a Tony Hawk game again. THUG was pretty fun, though I don’t remember vegging out on it nearly as deeply as I did with the very first game back on my Nintendo 64. That nostalgia is why I was curious about the remaster “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD” which hit XBLA back in 2012, but as I wrote in this blog at the time, while it looked pretty nice, it just didn’t click with me. While I’d been tempted to check out other Tony Hawk’s titles, along with other challengers to the throne such as EA’s lauded Skate series, that was about it for me. That was, until I heard about all of the hype around this second attempt at a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater remaster. This time with the added addition of THPS 2 levels and even some enhancements from later titles in the series. What can I say, I’m a sucker for some good, genuine hype.

And I’m happy to report that this time around the hype was real and Vicarious Visionsremaster was a lot more successful than Robomodo had been with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD. As soon as I hit The Warehouse, just like riding a bike, I was back in my parent’s living room grinding through the goal list, only with the added benefit of not having to use a fucking N64 controller. While it took more than a little practice to be able to meet those “sick score” goals, the game just immediately felt good. Real good. Of course, it only helps that the remade visuals the game received looked great as well, with obvious effort being placed into staying reasonably faithful to the originals and with a masterful attention to detail. The classic soundtracks of THPS and THPS 2 were mostly intact too, with only a few casualties, plus a heaping helping of new tracks that mostly fit in well to give the whole thing some expanded variety.

I love customizing my weird THPS doppelganger with sick 80s gear.
“I love customizing my weird THPS doppelganger with sick 80s gear.”

The made over visuals and expanded soundtrack are far from the only differences though. Most importantly, the trick selection has been greatly expanded. This is most notable when it comes to the additions of manuals from THPS 2 and reverts from THPS 3, which, especially when combined, allow for some insanely ridiculous combo score multipliers. Unless you’re just a natural at the game, learning to use and abuse both moves is invaluable to earning high scores. There’s plenty more too, like new goals for each map, changes to the way “tour” level progression works, the pro skaters/create-a-skater mode and the skate shop. It goes on and on, but again, Vicarious Visions did a good job respecting the original games, and that’s probably what ultimately makes Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 so successful.

I was about half way through the original THPS tour; I had still had a few levels to unlock, most pro and sick scores were alluding me, as was anything above a bronze medal in competitions and a few of the more challenging goals, when something finally clicked. I got fully into the zone for chaining together some combos and thus spent the next week and a half or so cramming in as many sessions of THPS 1+2 as I could while I methodically went through and destroyed all of my remaining goals. When I finally beat the last one I was disappointed that the associated achievement (“Grand Tourer”) didn’t unlock. Figuring that maybe it was the one stat point I hadn’t collected yet, I dutifully went for it and… still nothing! I thought maybe it was some kind of an odd save game synchronization issue so I quit my tour and then quit out of the game. Upon loading it back up the game seemed to sit on the save synchronization screen for quite awhile, and then… my tour progress was back to 47% from 100%. Fuck! Randomly the next day my Xbox App reported that I’d earned the achievement so, hoping that Microsoft was having some kind of a weird server issue, I rushed to my Xbox to see if my progress was restored. Nope. I’m still not sure if it was a THPS 1+2 bug, a cloud save issue, or perhaps something to do with the Series X’s quick resume, but in any case I was fucking furious. Cyco Vision indeed.

Skate or Die... and go to Skate Heaven!
“Skate or Die… and go to Skate Heaven!”

It’s funny that one of the reasons I queued up THPS 1+2 was because I wanted another casual game I could hop in and out of randomly as I’d been doing with Star Wars: Squadrons, but my god did I forget what a vicious hold this game can take over you. Beating both tours became an obsession. The fact that I had that save problem and didn’t immediately bail out of pure frustration speaks pretty highly to that, I think. Some of the goals are far from easy, they might even be a little rage inducing (the rooftop gaps on Downtown and the hidden tape on Streets come to mind) but it’s far from an insurmountable challenge, and soon I found myself having cleared all levels with gold medals in all of the competitions in both tours, and it all somehow felt absolutely worth it.

What can I really say that can top that? If you’re a fan of any of the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games or you’re simply into skateboarding and want to play something a little different, definitely check this one out… but just to be on the safe side, you might want to get into the habit of manually saving your career (it’s hidden under the options menu, oddly) to help reduce to risk of throwing your controller through your TV like I almost did.

I got distracted while writing this and ended up watching reviews of the old Skate or Die games and clips from the old CKY videos for an entire evening. This in turn lead me to spending the weeks after watching tons of 80s and 90s skate videos and interviews with famous pros, and really, just generally fondly reminiscing about my love of skateboarding more than I have in something like 20 years. Thanks, THPS!