Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD Hands-on Preview -- Ollying Down Memory LaneBy Scott Nichols - Posted Mar 19, 2012
Unlike the majority of HD remakes that are arriving on digital platforms, Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD isn’t just a simple port. You can’t just slap HD textures on a PSOne game and call it a day, after all. Instead, developer Robomodo has gone about painstakingly recreating every rail, ramp, and vert to be exactly as you remember them. After the more recent unconventional and lackluster Tony Hawk games, Pro Skater HD is a welcome return to form.
It really can’t be stressed enough how big a visual leap Tony Hawk HD is from the originals. To emphasize the point, the developers started the demo by pulling out the original game’s PSOne incarnation. Nostalgia has been far kinder to the game than its actual polygons, with the blocky characters and blurry textures nowhere near how I fondly think back on the series. But once the demo shifted to the HD remake, memories of long hours spent perfecting combo chains came flooding back. This is the Tony Hawk fans will remember, with silky smooth animations during tricks and bone-crunching crashes when you bail.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD will compile the best stages from the first two games, seven of which were on display at GDC. The Warehouse, Mall, and Downhill Jam returned from Tony Hawk Pro Skater, while the sequel was represented by School II, Hangar, Venice Beach, and Marseilles. And while the level layouts are identical to their originals, some notable additions have been made.
Fans may remember that Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 added a number of features to skating formula. Each level had more objectives than the original’s and the introduction of the manual made added a whole new dimension to combo chains. So for Tony Hawk HD, Robomodo went back and spruced up the first game’s levels a bit. For example, manifests have been scattered around the Warehouse stage that can be collected just like the classic S-K-A-T-E letters.
Meanwhile, manuals make it even easier to trick your way across the entire level, which will undoubtedly lead to higher scores than players could have ever achieved on the PSOne. I was joined in my demo by Robomodo co-founder Joshua Tsui and Tony Hawk himself, and manuals seemed to be a the subject of some controversy between the two. In the demo build I played it wasn’t possible to go into a manual when landing on a vert, and from their discussion it seems like the decision is still up in the air whether that will be changed in the final game or not.
The first game’s levels aren’t the only ones that see new additions for Tony Hawk HD. For example, fans may remember that Marseilles was a challenge level in the second game, lacking in standard objectives. That’s been fixed in the remake, with a host of new objectives and S-K-A-T-E letters to collect. I didn’t get to spend much time seeking out those objectives during my demo, but the idea of new ways to play old favorite levels is a welcome treat.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tony Hawk game without music to shred along to. The soundtrack for Tony Hawk HD will be split down the middle between classic songs and new tunes. Activision wasn’t very forthcoming as to which songs fan can expect to hear, but I was assured that fan feedback played a large role in which classic tracks were selected.
What I saw already looked pretty complete, but Robomodo’s Joshua Tsui corrected me that there’s still plenty more to uncover. The stages in the demo represented about half of the total levels that will be in the game, and the demo didn’t even delve into the four-player online multiplayer options. “This is our first downloadable game,” Tsui told me, “so no one really told us to make it small.”
For fans of the original games, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is shaping up to be one wild nostalgia trip. But with the series now thirteen years old, for a generation of gamers this will be their first taste of the Tony Hawk series’ glory days. Veterans and newbies alike will get to shred online together when Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD arrives on XBLA and PSN this summer.