After watching the Tony Hawk: Shred QL for the second time, I got to thinking about this. The current direction of the series seems to be a bad one, but what do I actually want out of a new Tony Hawk game? It's a tricky question to be sure.
I guess first and foremost what I want is a reboot. Activision, if you're listening, reboot the shit out of this series. I want it as far away as possible from its current peripheral-loving state. I want the game to resemble in no way shape or form the Tony Hawk that we have come to know (and not quite love) over the past few iterations. It's easy to just say "reboot it!" though. Coming up with a proper vision for the series is the hard part, and it's apparently what the devs have been struggling with as well.
A few years ago, a game called Skate came along and completely shook what people expected from skateboarding video games. I'm of the opinion that the dual analog control scheme that they came up with was the most critical change that was made to the genre, and something similar needs to happen again. Going back to the tried and true face button trick system that the series used to make a name for its self would be a bad idea. Playing exact copycat with the Skate games would fail to interest me as well. What I'm trying to come up with is something that will force my interest in this series again. Neither of those control schemes would achieve that. This is really hard for me to figure out. Of course if it were easy to come up with amazing new control schemes, then every game would control flawlessly. The best idea my mind can put together right now is to use a control setup that is inspired by Skate's, but that moves the system forward and allows for more precision when dealing with tricks. If there was a fault in the Skate series, it's the inaccuracies of the flip trick controls, and the shortage of grab tricks. The whole idea of controlling the board with the right stick, and controlling the skater with the left stick is cool. If that idea can just be taken and really expanded on in one or two truly significant ways, then that could be awesome.
Assuming they can get a interesting and comfortable new control scheme nailed down, there are two scenarios that they could pursue when talking about the general tone of the game.
- They go back to the series' roots a bit and make a game that feels crazy and over the top, but in a way that isn't completely silly and fake.
- Take the 100% realism approach and try to create a skating sim that could dethrone the Skate series.
The full-on sim route would definitely interest me the most from the get-go. If they made an announcement claiming that they've reinvented the genre and have taken an extremely realistic approach, I'd be skeptical, but pretty dang excited at the same time. I think there's the question as to whether or not a super realistic skating game would be fun, or just frustrating. It's hard to say, but I would definitely welcome a try at realism since we've all seen where the series has gone lately.
My first option was to take a less strictly realistic approach, and more of a "string combos together like the good ole days!" approach. If they were to take it in this direction, I think there's a very real possibility that it could turn out like proving grounds, american wasteland, THUG, etc. THUG was actually an interesting game, but those other two did a pretty good job of ruining Tony Hawk. They'd definitely have to be careful about it, but the soul of Tony Hawk has always been an arcadey experience. If they were to totally abandon that, it would actually be kind of sad.
Having played countless hours of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater in my time, I know for a fact that locations and the soundtrack matter. Maybe more than anything else in that first game. All I ever wanted to do was skate around the warehouse, or the school level, just jamming out to all of the great music in that game. Actually, as I'm writing this I'm remembering something that Jeff said during the Skate 2 Quick Look. It was something along the lines of: "One of the great things that the early Tony Hawk games had was that they made you want to find a good spot and just skate. That's something that Skate 2 achieves as well.". Something along those lines anyways. He's exactly right, and I believe that the skate parks and the soundtrack went a very long way in creating that feeling.
Multiplayer. Whether or not it's required is the question. Skate seem to have done a fair job in this department with Skate 3. Even so though, it wasn't a selling point for me, and I never bought Skate 3. Jeff said it himself that if you weren't into the multiplayer, than Skate 2 is "kind of a better game". I took that advice and passed on Skate 3. So as you've probably guessed, I think multiplayer should not be included in a THPS reboot. Keep it simple. If there isn't a solid foundation to build on, then multiplayer is just another layer of non-polished, non-fun game that get's thrown into the mix. Skate was able to concentrate on multiplayer because their base was rock solid coming out of Skate 2. The next Tony Hawk needs to prioritize and focus on what really matters: the skating. Don't even throw in local co-op modes if that would help the core game's quality. They have to rebuild this house one brick at a time.
Reading back over this, I'm not 100% sure that any of my suggestions would actually make me rabidly crave this series as I have in the distant past. It's sad when you have the freedom to throw out any idea you want to improve a series, and still don't quite feel like it would be good enough. I think the only scenario that could give my honest hope for a good new THPS game, would be the sale of the IP to another publisher and another development team. That's just the only way I see this game making a resurgence of any significance. I'd gladly welcome being proved wrong, though.
Thoughts? Should the Tony Hawk series just die?