Tony Hawks Is Dead, and his Coffin has wheels

May 18, 2009 § 1 Comment

Those waiting for the Tony Hawks series to return beautifully to form with the tenth game’s exclusive reveal on GameTrailers last week were, in all probability, disappointed by what was shown. The announcement of a skateboard peripheral from the same publisher that’s currently crowding up your house with Guitar Hero drums, microphones and of course guitars, is certainly not unexpected, but more surprisingly Tony Hawk himself has claimed that this will be the closest thing to real skateboarding ever achieved in a video game. But will this even appeal to long-time series fans?

Without a doubt the reason behind this change to the Tony Hawk formula is Skate. EA’s first foray into the skateboarding genre with its trick system mapped to the right-analogue stick brought about a much fresher experience to a genre that had remained more or less the same since the first Tony Hawk game was released nine years previously. The presence of competition wasn’t enough to makeNeversoft change their winning formula that year, and their reward was a five-to-one sales trouncing by Skate, prompting them to withdraw the Hawk from service for a year and rethink their strategy.

The result, whilst certainly unique, strays an uncomfortable distance from what have made the games so popular over the years. Insane combos, over-the-top special tricks, and a ridiculous game world all combined to give the Tony Hawk games a unique feel, far removed from the actual act of skateboarding yes, but amazingly fun all the same. The announcement of a skateboard peripheral feels odd for this very reason, it’s trying to bring a sense of realism to a series that has always derived its fun from the insane, and in doing so brings the series -for better or for worse – in direct competition with Skate.

Skate has its audience of players who enjoy its realism, and with this move Activision are emphatically trying to directly one-up their game. After just two years however, it’s unlikely that Skate fans are going to be tempted back with what will likely be a costly peripheral to purchase, and an experience that is for all intents and purposes, inferior to Skate in all areas outside of its control scheme. It’s not – for instance – open world.

What could Activision have done differently? Some could argue that the market simply no longer exists for the kind of game Neversoft used to create, that not playing catch-up to this new kind of skateboarding game would spell certain failure for the franchise. I’m partial to agreeing with this view, but rather than try and reinvent the wheel once more, why not call and end to the series with a loving celebration of the game’s best moments? Why not bring back the old Tony Hawks formula, of trying to complete as many goals as possible in five minutes, remake the best levels from the series (focusing on the first three outings) and call it Tony Hawks: Anniversary? Why not embrace their own series strengths rather than go afteranother’s?

Tony Hawks Ride will sell just fine if Activision put their typical high-budget advertising campaign behind it. It might even outsell Skate if the results of the Rock Band vs. Guitar Hero battle is anything to go buy. What it almost certainly won’t do, is restore the series to its former glory in the eyes of the fans, but it’s hard to believe Activision is even aiming to please them.

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