While at GDC, I talked to skating legend Tony Hawk about the upcoming re-make of the releases that made him an icon to a generation of gamers. He thinks it's great but, of course, he would. Me? I found myself surprised at how much I missed the unique style of extreme sports offered by the Tony Hawk Pro Skater games.
I've become a big fan of the right-analog trick stylings of EA's Skate franchise but, like most gamers, I got my first taste of virtualized skateboarding with the Tony Hawk games. What struck me on revisiting THPS is how much you really need to nail the landings in Tony Hawk HD. If your board's angled even a little off, you're going to bail hard. Speaking off crashing, the signature spray of blood when you wipe out returns with more detail than before. In fact, Tony Hawk said that the better graphics of today's consoles make the splash of blood a little disconcerting compared the original iterations of Tony Hawk Pro Skater.
The new lighting adds a greater sense of mood to levels that you may have played before. The golden sunset of the Venice Beach makes the experience of skating there feel chilled-out and slightly zen whereas the warehouse's environment feels more abandoned and dangerous than before.
Yet, the controls feel as sharp and smooth as ever. It's still satisfying to jump onto a rail, lock onto a grind, transition to a ramp and grab huge air for huge combos. Development studio Robomodo added new animations that subtly give players cues. When you land sloppily off of an air trick, you'll see characters wobble and try to stand up to regain balance. And during grinds, you'll see avatars wave their arms to maintain a centre of gravity.
Along with the new animations come new achievements, too. Of course, you'll still need to collect the letters S-K-A-T-E but other feat you'll need to do include performing a certain number of grinds per level or collecting DVDs. (Those used to be CDs.) Familiar background characters like the bum on Venice Beach and Officer Dick on the grounds of the School levels. Everyone wants to know whether the iconic THPS soundtracks will be making returns and the answer is yes. Kind of. Activision's saying that the tunes accompanying the game will be 50% new and 50% original.
Robomodo's not calling THPS HD a re-master, saying rather that it's a re-make using the geometry of the original games. Right now, all the updated cloth physics, hi-def textures and dynamic lighting combine to make the reincarnation of the classic skate games live up to the memories of those played the originals. Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD will be ollie-ing onto consoles in July.