|Release date:||21 November 2003|
The only name that matters in console skateboarding returns, but this time you're playing as you - not him
One of the hottest properties in videogaming it may have been, but the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series was in danger of becoming a little stale. After four iterations, you couldn't help feeling that the existing format had been taken as far as it would go. So, it's all change in the Tony Hawk's camp; a radical new game structure, a full-blown storyline and a new name to boot. Another key difference is that you don't play as the pros any more; you play as you. You can do this either by emailing a photo of your beautiful mug to Activision, who'll convert it into the right format and send it back to you (for which you'll need a Network Adaptor), or you can use the detailed Create-A-Skater feature to digitally create your likeness. That done, you're ready to take on one of the biggest challenges of your skating (and indeed gaming) career...
To help marry the increasingly disparate interests of hardcore THPS players and newbies, Neversoft has, for the first time in the series, introduced a difficulty level. Probably a wise move, as it keeps the hardcore happy without making the whole affair completely intimidating to newbies (which TPHS 4 arguably was in areas). Whatever difficulty level you select, you start out as a complete nobody in a New Jersey small town, tinkering with your board and dreaming of bigger and better things. So, when you hear that skating legend Chad Muska is coming down, you and a friend waste no time in going down to meet him, at which point you receive the first of many, many challenges. Although you can no longer play as any of the pro skaters, you can expect to run into them all as you work your way up the ranks from rookie to pro.
Besides the new storyline, THUG is crammed with new features. One of the most radical additions is the fact that you can now get off your skateboard. Cleverly, you can still keep those all-important combos going even when you're off the board; whenever you dismount, a small timer appears and you have until it runs out to segue into your next trick. Another major new feature is the ability to commandeer vehicles at certain points in the game. Certain missions require you to take control of karts, BMXs and cars to fulfil your objectives, adding another whole new dimension to the Tony Hawk's formula.
Besides the huge single player story mode (more objectives, massive environments), THUG has a staggering array of customisation options. Besides the excellent Skatepark editor, there's a nifty trick editor too, which allows you to chain together grabs and flips to create exotic new tricks, which you can then name. If you want to go the whole nine yards with the customisation options, you can even build your own skatepark, populate it with goals (e.g. placing the letters S-K-A-T-E) and challenge mates to beat your creation. All of this is particularly exciting for Network Adaptor owners, who can upload and download user-created parks, tricks and missions, giving THUG a replay value that literally stretches to infinity.