Day 106: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

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My goal in life is to be famous. As you can probably tell, I have a bit of a way to go.

It’s important to point out that I never particularly cared about being rich. I simply want to create something that reaches a lot of people and effects them in some positive way. Considering how my brain often works, this leads to me thinking how I would handle the various pitfalls that may come with my success. For example, how would I feel if someone where to adapt or remake something I created, completely devoid of my input? Perhaps an even more interesting question – how would they do it without pissing everyone off?

Robomodo’s been behind the eight ball from the very moment they inherited the Tony Hawk series from Neversoft. The series was getting long in the tooth and people started to wonder if Activision’s contract with Hawk was set to last until the next century. Their decision to immediately forgo the series formula and make games requiring that awful skateboard controller certainly didn’t inspire any confidence, but by 2008, there had already been approximately 87 Tony Hawk games, most operating with the same DNA. What, if anything, was there left to do?

Apparently the answer was to make the old games again… again.

Tony Hawk HD’s heart is in the right place, though that heart may be a little hard to find. The concept was sound, at least – return to the basics of the series and try to recapture the magic of those original games we all spent so much time with. HD pulls levels and gameplay from the first two titles, all prettified for the modern age. There’s an disconnect from the start when you notice that these levels were designed with the capabilities of the original Playstation in mind. Everything is large and angular, your Unreal engine ragdoll character feeling out of place surrounded by such sharp edges. Early 3D design was very much about hiding the flaws, working around the fact that it wasn’t high res, so to see it in HD now feels like… missing the point, almost?

I suppose I wouldn’t mind as much if it felt the same as those old games, but my Tony Hawk muscle memory is pretty well cemented, so any modification to the physics immediately feels off. Even after getting the hang of it, I could never return to my college days and let the veil of nostalgia take over. Maybe it’s simply a case of being unable to put the genie back in the bottle, but the fact that the bottle is pretty damn small doesn’t help. The game’s only purpose is something that it doesn’t appear to be interested in actually doing. We’re told that it’s a return to form, a look back at two classic games, but with only seven levels, the sentiment feels hollow, especially when only half of them are any good. I’m convinced that Tony Hawk himself is the only human being alive that actually likes that Downhill Jam level, but it’s included anyway.

Wish I could say the same for the create-a-skater, park editor, or most of the memorable soundtrack; there’s no “Police Truck”, no “Jerry Was Race Car Driver”. Hell, they couldn’t even get Papa Roach. I’m pretty sure I could get Papa Roach to play in my backyard for a warm blanket and some sandwiches at this point. This will probably be the first and last time I ever cite “no Papa Roach” as a negative, but Tony Hawk was always about a combination of elements that meshed together to create something more than the sum of their parts. Those same elements, extracted in such a sterile manner, fall flat, even if it mostly works as intended. It’s a similar issue that arose later when Robomodo was tasked with making Tony Hawk 5. The skeleton was there, but it lacked a soul, feeling more like contractual obligation than game at points.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is much the same. It’s functional. You may even, at points, enjoy yourself, but it’s never the exact enjoyment you’re looking for. It’s an itch a lot of us don’t even care to scratch anymore. Those that do have that need have taken it into their own hands with projects like THUG Pro. As stated previously, I eventually moved on to Skate. Most just stopped caring about skateboard games altogether.

I’m not really sure what can done at this point. Maybe the series just needs to do what Tony himself did, retire and let everyone move on while you still have some dignity left. Eventually, one day, people will forget these missteps and turn to a friend to say “hey, remember Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater? Those games were pretty good.”

The friend will then, no doubt, go “yeah, they should make another one of those.”

Don’t be friends with these people. They ruin everything.

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