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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD and a return to roots

Thursday, 26th April 2012 07:07 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Remember how you used to be amazing at Tony Hawk’s games? You probably aren’t any more. Sitting down with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD on 360 is a wake-up call. It isn’t as easy as you remember it.

“Let’s just make it simple. Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s add some really cool features to the game and just give [the fans] what they want.”

I used to be great at Tony Hawk’s games. Five minutes with Pro Skater HD teaches me in no uncertain terms that my glory days are over. After years of modern mollycoddling, the demanding nature of the controls and level design leaves me bloody.

“I’ve been playing the crap out of it now, so I’m getting pretty good at it,” laughs Aaron Palacios of Sandbox Strategies, the PR firm looking after Robomodo’s reinvention of the first, classic Hawk titles, as I repeatedly face-plant on Warehouse.

“It’s a great combination of arcade and sim. Put it this way: I spent about 6-8 hours on it and I got really good. I do agree that for some people, myself included, it’s hard at first, but we’ve refined the controls. You’ll be good at it in no time.”

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is a return to the franchise’s roots, a mix of fan favourite levels from the first two games for PSN and XBLA release. Warehouse, School II, Mall New York, Hangar, Venice, Downhill Jam and Marseille have all been included, and everything’s been left exactly where it was in the originals: the SKATE letters are in the same place, as are the tapes (although they’ve been replaced with DVDs).

It’s old school all the way, and it’s a shock to instantly fail a lot. Things have certainly moved on since Hawk’s heyday, but Palacios points to the game’s depth.

“That’s part of the greatness of it: if you could pick it up and play it and be great at it in the very first second, how much time would you spend on it?

“We’ve got the controller, specifically, in a really good place right now, where we’re able to make Tony or any other character do what you want to do. We’re really happy about it.”

Ridden, shredded

The Tony Hawk’s series is one of video gaming’s classic riches to rags stories. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater first released in 1999 and became a PlayStation classic. Activision certainly got the most out of it; the HD re-release will be the fifteenth game in the series, and a bid to rekindle Hawk’s fire. The ignominious trashing of recent efforts – the peripheral-based Ride and Shred are best left forgotten – led developer Robomodo back to the fans.

Back to basics. Hawk putting his marketing
spin on Robomodo’s latest stab at the series.

“Activision has this franchise and it’s been one of the top franchises for the past decade,” says Palacios. “Tony’s a great partner to work with, and we were thinking, ‘What’s the next step? Where can we take the franchise from here?’

“We were seeing what the fans were saying, literally looking online, at media outlets. If you pay attention, whether it’s on Facebook or when we release a trailer, we get tons of comments and likes right away. We’re just taking the feedback that they provide. We saw that they wanted to go back to the roots of the game.

“Let’s just make it simple. Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s add some really cool features and just give them what they want. That’s how the levels came about. We took the most popular levels the fans were asking for and we put them in the game.”

While the levels are classic, the visuals have been properly upgraded. It certainly is HD. Robomodo’s keen to leverage current gen tech in other obvious ways.

“Being the first Tony digital title, we’re focusing a lot on multiplayer,” says Palacios. “We want this to be a new wave online experience. Don’t get me wrong: of course there was online multiplayer in the past. But we have a strong focus on multiplayer. We have multiple modes we’ll be announcing in the near future, and we have cool new modes in there for single-player as well.”

The first digital title? There’ll be more?

“That would be a logical step, but I can say that there’s nothing right now. All of our focus and dedication is on making this the best possible game it can be. We’ll see what happens after release.”

If you want more you’re going to have to play this one a bunch. You’ll need to: getting back on Tony’s original board isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD releases this summer for PSN and XBLA.

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