Gameplay ImpressionsGameplay Impressions
The aim of Tony Hawk: Ride’s publisher, Activision, was to ditch the complex button-pressing combinations that are normally needed to master a Tony Hawk’s game and offer an evolution of the series with a more accessible and immersive experience that anyone should be able to pick up, play and enjoy. It’s a move that is normally reserved for the motion-sensing lovers and casual gaming crowd of Wii , but the success of Guitar Hero has obviously encouraged Activision to be a little more ambitious with one of its most prestigious titles.
Aesthetically, the skateboard is an impressive piece of kit. Not only is it a sturdy and heavy enough to ensure that it should be able to sustain a fair bit of foot-banging abuse over the coming months, but it’s designed with smooth contours and rounded edges that give it the look of a real skateboard. There's even a surface texture that is similar to the grip tape used on real boards to ensure comfort and stability. Sensors are found on each side of the board and register when you push your right front forward to tilt it slightly (we ride “goofy”) ,or tilt the tail for an ‘ollie’ You even turn the board side-on and grab it (move your hands passed the sensors) to perform grab tricks. The skateboard has been designed extremely well and when you first calibrate the board and step onto it you can see that the developer, Robomodo, has obviously spent a lot of time thinking about design and how best to implement the controls.
Unfortunately, and there’s not really a lot that the developer can do about it, without the wheels of a skateboard under your feet the peripheral feels pretty much like you’re standing on a heavy lump of plastic. The smooth, flowing movements that you can execute in previous Hawk’s games with the controller are no longer possible because the wireless skateboard just doesn’t do the job that its design deserves.
On the casual setting, you spend most of the time on rails, being guided around the areas and then simply shifting your weight left and right to turn the board and perform tricks. You’re limited as to where you’re going and therefore can’t rack up high-performance style points, or experience the freedom of experimentation around the cities that makes the Hawk’s franchise so much fun. That freedom can be gained at the higher difficulty levels, without guided assistance, but such is the small margin for error and the slow response times of the board, we just found ourselves crashing into things, bailing of a board and even finding that our actions weren't translated at all on screen. The clumsy implementation of the board makes the whole Tony Hawk: Ride experience a frustrating one.
The game modes will be familiar to Hawk's fans with the blend of trick challenges, against the clock races and freestyle play types points providing a decent, albeit predictable set of modes, but there's a few features that should have been included that would have made the whole experience a little less frustrating, such as the option to back out of a challenge during it, rather than having to wait till the end even though you know you've failed.
Indeed, the addtion of the board has obviously took precedence over some of the game's design. Though Ride has some cleverly designed arenas allowing you to make the most of out your tricks and string moves together, graphically it looks no better than a Wii game and even the menus have been designed horribly making it necessary for you to switch to the control pad rather than use the skateboard to navigate them.
Tony Hawk: Ride was an ambitious project to take on and to some extent, specifically the design of the board, Actvision has achieved some success. Ultimately though, your movements translate poorly on screen, unless you're doing the simpler things like turning or moving forward, which means that the game is just too frustrating to enjoy. However, we don't think we've seen the last of this skateboard peripheral. Robomodo has done a good job designing it, it just needed more care in its on-screen implementation. As it stands, Ride is a prime example of how the technological advancement in videogames in recent years, and the rise of the peripherals, isn't always a good thing.
Final Score - 5/10