The original 1999 Tony Hawk Pro Skater game launched an entire genre, and now several publishers are on the action sports bandwagon in a big way, eating off the table that Tony Hawk built. Activision has turned the success of the series into an entire line of similar products, but of course, the Tony Hawk series has always been the jewel in the crown. The yearly installments in the series have all featured pretty dramatic improvements on all fronts, while retaining some of the core gameplay mechanics that emphasize timing, skill, and creativity. On the surface, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 appears to make only minor changes to the formula, taking the career mode in a new direction and adding some seemingly minor gameplay elements. But as you play the game more and more, the value of the small tweaks and changes becomes pretty obvious, adding up to what’s certainly another outstanding installment in the series.
Many of the level goals in Tony Hawk 4 will be pretty difficult even for series veterans, so accomplishing them will be really satisfying. The game throws some strict time limits at you in some of the goals, and some of the later combo goals are tough to pull off. In previous games, failing a goal or missing a jump meant that you had to spend time skating around to get back in position. Here, when you fail a goal, you can use the pause menu to jump right back to the start of that goal, instantly. This gives the game a real trial-and-error feel, letting you reattempt the same combo line over and over again until you finally get it, though being able to restart a goal at any point keeps this from getting frustrating. You can also jump to any goal that you previously tried, which is a handy way to skip around from place to place in a level.
Overall, Pro Skater 4 works well and gives skaters something to be happy about.