I`m writing this in a sweat — the cool kind of sweat that comes from several hours of physical activity in the rancid heat of southern California’s L.A. River — which despite its name is really a meandering aqueduct of ridges, ditches, basins and bowls. It’s an ideal environment for skateboarding, and Tony Hawk RIDE uses it as an early racetrack. Like all the cities and skate parks in the game, it has its secrets and sweet spots. I’ve been skating through its tangle of asphalt for the past few hours trying to fi nd the best route through the racetrack, and it’s making me sweat.
My calves ache. My feet are sore. And when I’m not playing RIDE, I notice that my legs beat with a dull throb reminiscent of the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater, which sent me out into the world with thumbs that had been rubbed raw while trying to perfect that game’s skating moves. In RIDE, I’ve had to transform my own body into the master controller for the game, using my own endurance and sense of balance to roll in Tony Hawk’s virtual world of extreme skating.
RIDE’s solid plastic skateboard controller is easily one of the most durable accessories to ever ship with a videogame. Approximately the size of a small, thick skateboard that’s curved along the bottom, I operate it entirely with my feet. Instead of pushing buttons to make my onscreen character jump or fl ip his in-game skateboard, I actually tip and rock the skateboard controller. Instead of wiggling joysticks to make myself grab the board, I swing my real arms. Steering is a matter of shifting my actual bodyweight.
RIDE is not for the lardass-y or lazy. Physical activity is essential, and like most tricky real-world activities, it requires practice. During my first few days with RIDE, I was convinced that the board’s motion sensors didn’t work. But after a sore week, I learned how the board sensed me and the space around me. I gradually gained the skills necessary to master most of the tricks the game asked. I even came to appreciate the way the game’s skate parks feel like isolated skating environments, cut off from the real world. I don’t have the best score possible on the old L.A. River racetrack, though. In order to get that, I’ve got to sweat it out.
THE GOOD: I jumped up and down on RIDE’s skateboard controller like mad and it didn’t break. RIDE’s hands-free controller could lay the foundation for future Tony Hawk sports games that take advantage of the same controller, such as a Tony Hawk answer to snowboarding games like SSX Tricky, or a Tony Hawk surfing game. RIDE’s hardware is sturdy enough to support an entire sports franchise.
THE BAD: RIDE shares the fate of many plastic peripheral games: All of them are obnoxious to load and sign-in. RIDE requires the use of a standard controller for some parts of the game’s interface, which prompts a lot of getting on and off the board, setting controllers down around the room, etc. It seems especially unnecessary considering the RIDE controller has the standard buttons built into its side.
THE BOTTOM LINE: With some patience, practice and physical commitment, Tony Hawk RIDE can transform a living room into a skate park.