Allow me to preface by explaining why this is an impressions piece as opposed to an actual review. Tony Hawk: RIDE aims to provide a level of interactivity normally seen on the Wii, and to this end the developers went about designing a wireless peripheral that looks and acts like an actual skateboard. To all those future RIDE players out there, please note: just because the thing doesnâ€™t have wheels doesnâ€™t mean it stands still. After sliding across the floor on numerous occasions and tripping over my coffee table, sofa, roommate and finally my cat, I realized that something had to be done. Since the game doesnâ€™t allow me to play with an actual controller, an executive decision was made (for everyone elseâ€™s safety as much as mine) to stop the review before I broke something importantâ€¦like my face.
And that’s what ends up being RIDE‘s ultimate downfall; this complete removal of choice . For a title based around a sport that glorifies the unadulterated freedom to defy both the laws of physics and of the tri-state area, there’s a distinct lack of freedom when it comes to how to play. Gone are the button combos and analog stick fueled skating odysseys of yesteryear, replaced instead by playacting some imitation moves that translate into onscreen activity via your board. Players wanting to try out this entry into the Tony Hawk franchise have to shell out the cash for the board no matter what, as the entire experience was designed specifically with the board in mind. If you suck with things like balance, dexterity, or overall bendy-ness, well then you’re up Crap Creek with no floaties.
I have to say though, the board is an impressive piece of equipment.Â Looking and feeling like the real thing, this sturdy peripheral actually manages to perform its task with surprising efficiency and a certain level of dependability. The board was amazingly simple to hook up and calibrate, delivering a steady signal from my crowded console shelf. The integration of the controller buttons was clever and subtle while the grips on the bottom were a nice (albeit failed) touch. When the game actually did what I wanted it to do, I was incredibly impressed because I couldÂ see the device working courtesy of an omnipresent infrared icon at the bottom of the screen. Â Like I said though, the board also has a tendency to take off on you. This is probably because the gameâ€™s main mechanic is (get this!) making you actually try and skate.
Turns out that as a gamer, my meat sack of a body isn’t capable of maintaining a steady stream of ollies, nollies, grinds, and generic kick flips for long periods of time. Brushing my feet past the sensor to simulate a push was easy enough, but after about 20 minutes of street skating I was ready to toss in the towel. One of the reasons I loved the Tony Hawk franchise for so long was because I could spend hours trying to pull off the most ridiculous combos, where the only limits were my attention span and the dexterity of my thumbs. That was the whole point though; it was a game! Escaping reality and trying to jump several school buses shouldn’t equate to actual back-strain once you shut off your console.
There also seems to be a general lack of consistency in the level of skill when it comes to setting up moves and performing tricks. My randomized flailings and jerky recoveries seemed to translate into some consistent moves, but the more complex tricks tended to pop out of nowhere, most of the time with me with me ending up with me having no idea how I had just done that.Â Â Back in the day, I could simplyÂ memorize different button commands and combine them with copious amounts of acceleration and gravity to see what would turn up. There was plenty of freedom within the virtual world of the game to allow my skating prowess to assert itself, and I enjoyed my bone crunching mistakes almost as much as my physics defying successes. This time around, all I could think about was how much I actually suck at skateboarding.
That’s not what theseÂ games are about right? You shouldn’t be alienating your core audience by appealing to the small demographic that knows how to play the real-life counterpart. Those people are out there ACTUALLY skating, not tumbling around their living rooms like they were on a three day binge. RIDE breaks the norm by removing anything game-like about the experience, firmly grounding players in reality and punishing them for not being adept enough to enjoy the thing. Physically interactive titles like Rock Band and Guitar Hero have the right idea; give players enough of a physical presence just to immerse them in the experience, but make them feel like the star by letting them get away with not actually doing it right. I’m not saying make the game insanely easy, just give us an edge or something. I felt like I was being punished whenever I turned the thing on. That’s just not right.
Presentation-wise the game is fairly solid, with a really great songlist and fresh art style. There’s a host of challenges and game types to be had, but they didn’t really make up for the frustratingly high learning curve. I also heard rumors ofÂ aÂ multiplayer section that I couldn’t actually make it to, seeing as how someone shoved the board where I couldn’t find it (and yet again unleash the fury of Drunken Skatemaster). From what I’ve heard, the multiplayer isn’t the saving grace it could be. Seems local players can only go one at a time, and online sessions never really have that head-to-head feel.
Overall, RIDE fails to deliver because the game is too physically complex to elicit any sort of enjoyment. I have hopes that some more games might come out to better utilize the board though, as it would seem a waste to develop this piece of hardware only to have it sink with the game that launched it. This game could have been a really cool experiment, bringing some interactive flair to the 360. Too bad it all went terrifyingly wrong.