It is hard to overstate the importance to gaming that Tony Hawk Pro Skater has had since it was released in August of 1999. It wasn’t the first extreme sports game, but it was one of the best at the time, and is considered a classic–and with good reason.
Beyond the friendships that were made (and possibly ended) at the hands of Tony Hawk, it helped to forge an entire genre and sub-category for sports games, and without it, many titles would never have seen the light of day. It was the right game at the right time, and created a yardstick by which all other games–at least on the PlayStation One–were judged. The controller scheme alone is still considered something of the default scheme for any board-based game. Maybe you can argue that the same scheme is simply the logical way to play games like that, but then you still have to give Tony Hawk credit for doing it right 13 years ago.
So with the current trend of re-releasing older titles with a fresh new coat of HD paint showing no signs of abating, it makes sense to remake and reissue such a seminal hit, which is exactly Activision is planning.
Originally developed by Neversoft, which has since been acquired by Activision, the HD remake of Tony Hawk Pro Skater is being handled by developer Robomodo, the group responsible for Tony Hawk: Shred and Tony Hawk: Ride. But despite the change in developer, the game is being built using the original Neversoft code, so it feels just like you will remember it—well, for the most part. Most of us remember being godlike in the game, which may be a result of nostalgia tinted memories more than reality.
The remake will bring seven of the original levels back: Warehouse, School 2, Mall, Phoenix, Hangar, Marseilles, and Venice. The seven were chosen by fans following a tweet last year by Tony Hawk himself, asking for fans’ picks. Each level will feature a new HD look, but retain the same design and layout that you will remember. The levels will also include the same goals and objectives the original game had, including a few new ones. Things like the classic “collect the S-K-A-T-E” icons returns, as does the hidden tape—although it has been updated to a DVD. If you want to further update it in your head, you are free to imagine that it is actually a blu-ray.
The soundtrack, which played a major role in the original, will also be a focus of the remake and will be split evenly between classics from the original and new tracks for the game. There will also be an online multiplayer with five modes, but those modes are being kept under wraps—with the exception of S-K-A-T-E.
But all of that is just the gravy. The graphics and animations were a big part of what made the game what it was, but they were also secondary to the actual gameplay. So that begs the question—will it be any fun?
After having the chance to go hands on with Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD at GDC, I can firmly say yes. The game looks great, and the graphics are current-gen. They won’t surpass some of the newest games with multi-million dollar budgets and massive teams dedicated the look of the game, but they do a more than respectable job. In the original game ramps were just curves, but in the new version they are detailed with wood grain and surfaces scarred from skate wheels. The grime of the original presented as a darker color is now intricately detailed to give you a real sense of where you are. The look has been so improved that you probably won’t recognize the levels at first—at least until you skate them. One of the things that made those levels so memorable was the design and layout, and that has remained unchanged.
The controls are much as you remember them, but are more responsive than ever before. Playing Tony Hawk is like riding a bike for the first time in years—you never actually forget, but it will take a few bloody runs to get back your skills. Once you do though, the game stands up.
When Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD is released this summer on XBL and PSN for around $15 (probably $14.99, but the pricing has yet to be officially confirmed), it won’t just be a great re-release, it will be a great extreme sports game regardless of the medium. It may not have the content or the insane detail to graphics that recently released games like SSX have, but you may be surprised at how well it compares, even 13 years later.