At the beginning of this century, extreme sports games were all the rage. You couldn’t walk down the gaming aisle without seeing a Kelly Slater Pro Surfer game, or more importantly, a Tony Hawk Pro Skater game. This was back in the day when yearly releases were very uncommon and sequels over the number two even more uncommon, but Neversoft and Activision kept extreme sports fans like me happy every October or so. Each year the game would get better, improvements would be made, levels would grow, and gamers would smile. As of late the extreme skateboarding genre has been taking many kicks to the head. Nothing seems poised to have these games makes a comeback, so let’s take a look at the joy we use to get from them, and where it went horribly, horribly wrong.
The first Tony Hawk Pro Skater game came out during the PS1 generation, it was released August of 1999, and it was something that gamers had never seen before. The game garnered amazing reviews, and gamers bought it up by the board-load. They loved the controls, the career mode, the tricks, the soundtrack and the graphics, and the competition, there was no doubt that a sequel would appear to grind the rail. And Activision answered the call, a little over a year later Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 was released and was met with high sales and high reviews. This was also the first time the player could use the “manual” which would allow you skate on two wheels and link tricks together so that you could school your friends in the high score.
I remember I use to have friends over, we’d create ourselves in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 and battle on the boards. We would spend hours and hours finding every little place to grind, to flip, ollie and revert. We became skating masters without ever skinning a knee or breaking a bone, which is a good thing, we may have gotten controller burn, but that’s easily healed. Many say that 3 and 4 were the pinnacle of the series and that once Underground came out the series began to go downhill. They obviously had run out of fresh gameplay ideas at that point, these games are the ones that introduced getting off of the board to run around the world instead of skate around it. Not the brightest idea, but it worked for a bit, you could climb buildings to find special jumps, do tricks from rooftop to rooftop and spray-paint every now and then. The flashier graphics and better controls made these games very fun, but gone were the days where you were stuck in one level and trying your hardest to spell S-K-A-T-E, they hid those in the game, but it just didn’t have the same feeling to me. Adding in a campaign like story really took away from the earlier magic of the game, and sadly, they stuck with that idea for the remaining games.
While Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 was released on the cusp of the PS2 era, Tony Hawk American Wasteland was released on the cusp of the Xbox 360 era. This game built upon the mechanics of T.H.U.G. and was the last game of its kind to fully hold my attention. The story was pretty engaging: you were skating around Los Angelos trying to get away from your past, saving the damsel in distress. You travel with Mindy so that she can get her drawings into a little skating magazine called oddly enough American Wasteland. As you travel you build up your rep and make money to continue skating, while this game boasted some of the biggest skating maps at the time, it still lacked the magic and charm the originals had. The final nail in the coffin was Tony Hawk Project 8 that left me with a bad taste in my mouth, seeing as I bought the game, then got stuck at the very beginning due to the fact that the controls were a bit off and I couldn’t snap a picture of myself. I tried time after time for a few days, then finally gave up and the neglected name has sat on my shelf since then, maybe after writing this I’ll dust if off and see what I can do, but don’t hold your breath.
When the brief peripheral phase hit gaming everyone jumped into the act, even poor old Tony Hawk. Tony Hawk’s Ride and Shred were the sad and final pats on the mound by the shovel. The game sold for about eighty dollars, which was pretty pricey back then for a hunk of plastic to pretend to board on, the game and its sequel were failures. I personally have never played the game, and almost purchased it when it was on super sale but I passed, probably a smart choice on my part since my knees are horrendous. It’s been five years since these franchise destroyers hit the market, and Tony Hawk still hasn’t made an amazing comeback. Yes in August of 2012 we were blessed with an HD remake of the original title, but that isn’t enough to get the firestorm moving again. A full retail game that takes the best of the series and removes the “off the board” mechanic, improves the picture mechanic and makes it like Infamous: Second Son, and brings back the magic that the Birdman had all those years ago. We all know that Activision likes to make money shelling out sequels, so why don’t they take a chance and make an old school Tony Hawk game for the Next Gen and rake in all that cash?
Get real time updates about future posts directly on your device, subscribe now.