Today marks Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2’s fifteenth anniversary. Man, I feel old. The Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise has been the standard of skateboarding video games for decades, and, with the series’ fifth installment set to release on the 29th of this month, long-time fan nostalgia and new-age player hype is beginning to flood over. The series completely skipped the last generation of consoles, so a fresh game has definitely been long awaited. Tony Hawk did release some decent skate games since then, like Project 8 and Proving Ground, but none of them really lived up to their predecessors. Some long-time fans even began to lose hope that they’d relive their best virtual skating days, especially after the release of the overtly gimmicky Tony Hawk: Ride.
However, the new Pro Skater is showing some promise, for old and new fans alike. Activision claims to be staying true to the classic Pro Skater gameplay, with online multiplayer and immersive park creation. They’re also attempting to add just enough to make things new and interesting, like power-ups and the ability to shoot projectiles from your board. While that may initially seem silly, Activision is expanding the arcade-vibe of the Pro Skater franchise, which will more than likely come with a variety of new game modes, by adding aspects meant to supplement the original experience rather than water it down.
That is undoubtedly Activision’s biggest hurdle to overcome. Actually, it tends to be the challenge every game developer faces when reprising a beloved franchise. How do you create a great sequel to a thirteen year old game? If you add too much, hardcore fans will hate it. If you add too little, it could seem as a lazy cash grab.
For example, the initial batch of screenshots for Pro Skater 5 underwent a slew of criticisms when they were initially released, with fans and critics both claiming the graphics looked like a PS2 game. In direct response to this, Activision released new screenshots soon after, showing off updated Borderlands-esque graphics. A sequel to a game series that was birthed in low-end, cartoony arcade graphics was now having its graphics criticized for being too low-end and cartoony. With that fiasco, Activision learned what the public’s consensus of an acceptable graphical update is, but that still left numerous aspects of the game, from story missions to general physics, for the developer to interpret on their own. Unfortunately for Activision, they have no way of knowing what the general fan-base will be happy with until after they release the game.
Regardless of whether the fans end up loving or hating the game, Activision and Mr.Hawk have a huge advantage over the fans. There aren’t any other current-gen skate games to play. The lack of better options, combined with either nostalgia or an inherent love of the sport (or both), will have this game rolling off the shelves regardless of what they’ve done to the beloved franchise. Ultimately, fans will have to hope for the best, but at least Activision’s quick graphical correction shows that they are aware that pumping life into a decade old series is a fickle and sensitive process. That said, as long as the game has a soundtrack on par with Pro Skater 2’s, levels like the Oil Rig in Pro Skater 3, and I can dominate my friends in games of Graffiti, then I will definitely be picking it up.
What do you guys think? Do you have faith in Tony Hawk and Activision? Or, will this game be another underwhelming sequel?
Author: Alex McNeal
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