Tony Hawk's Past, Present and Future

This is arguably the best extreme sports game series ever made.

By fishdalf, Posted 24 Feb 2009

Part 1: The Rise of the Tony Hawk's Series

This is arguably the best extreme sports game series ever made; it completely redefined a genre and took the gaming world by storm. We begin our feature by taking a look back at each installment from the past nine years in the hopes of discovering just how this beloved franchise became so popular.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Year: 1999

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, the game where it all started. Before this, extreme sports games were pretty non-existent and the ones that were available were pretty damn awful by anyone's standards. There were exceptions but these were few and far between and they were neither skateboarding games, nor games that focused particularly heavily on pulling off tricks.

From the moment you picked up and played the game it became pretty apparent just how deeply the developers cared for skateboarding; yes it was more fun than you could shake a stick at, but it also incorporated an element of simulation that would surely appeal to people connected with the sport outside of video games. I guess that's the main reason Tony Hawk lent his name to the franchise in the first place; it was a way to get kids into the sport from the comfort of their own homes.

The controls were solid; the goals were challenging yet fun, and most importantly the trick system was like nothing gamers had ever experienced before. It wasn't just about completing a set list of goals in order to progress to the next level; it was about achieving a high score and then topping it in bigger and better ways than ever before.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
Year: 2000

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 had a whole lot to live up to; it wasn't just about riding the success of the first game; it was about improving upon it in every single way. Thankfully it delivered with bigger and better environments that offered up more variation in the way you were able to approach the game, better graphics that brought the parks and the skaters to life, and arguably the most revolutionary feature in any Tony Hawks game to date - manuals.

Manuals were performed via a quick push up and down on the D-pad, this sent your skater into a wheelie of sorts and from that you were able to link tricks together for bigger combos. Now instead of relying solely on grinds to get from one place to the next you were able to maneuver across the level any way you liked.

Another major addition to the series was that of the create-a-park and create-a-skater modes. Now you didn't have to settle for playing the game the way they wanted you to; you could construct a park and set up lines that suited you best, and customize a skater to match your style of play. A feature that was pretty ground-breaking at the time and one that many developers have attempted to incorporate into their games ever since.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
Year: 2001

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 was the first to make the leap onto the next generation of consoles and what a leap it was. Not only was it considered the best Tony Hawk game up to that point but to this day is widely considered as the best extreme sports game ever made. In fact it was so far ahead of it's time that the PlayStation 2 version even had online capabilities before Sony had released a single network adapter.

A major part of the games success was due to the introduction of the revert, which allowed skaters to come down off a half pipe and then make the transition into a manual at the push of a button. Many believed this was the final piece of the jigsaw and granted gamers the full ability to continue a combo for as long as their talents would allow. With this skill came an increase in difficulty however, and you were now required to hit scores exceeding a million, which served to split players into those who could and those who inevitably couldn't.

It is also believed to have some of the best level designs of the series, although many would argue that they are all far too easy to navigate, with simple lines running throughout the majority of them.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4
Year: 2002

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 was similar to the second installment in one major respect; the pressure was placed firmly on its shoulders to succeed. The basic game play mechanics were in place, now it had to take them and implement them in ways that would keep things interesting.

They did this by completely overhauling the story mode, scrapping the 2 minute time limit and allowing gamers to roam free throughout the level for as long as their hearts were content. Now they had the choice of whether to partake in tasks, or simply flit around the level perfecting lines and discovering new gaps that would never have been found while restricted to a timer.

The game also introduced to us some great new features that are still used to this day, such as: flatland tricks, which let you manipulate manuals with double button pushes; spine transfers, which let you ascend vert ramps and cross to others on the opposite side (back-to-back) and skitching, which let you grab on to the back of a vehicle in order to gain speed during combos.

Part 2: The Fall of the Tony Hawk's Series

Ever since Tony Hawk's dropped the suffix 'Pro Skater' many believe the series to have somewhat self-destructed. We begin the second part of our feature by taking a look at the next four installments, in the hopes of discovering just what went wrong with the series and why.

Tony Hawk's Underground
Year: 2003

Tony Hawk's Underground is considered by many to be the last half-decent game of the series, the point at which things began to plummet.

Take the career mode for example, where Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 gave you freedom to complete goals as you seen fit, Underground restricted you to only a few at a time, forcing you to sit through the story whether you wanted to or not. It wouldn't have been so bad if the story was good or the goals were utilized well, but they weren't and began to get agonizingly repetitive after short periods of time.

The new features within the game play weren't all that revolutionary either, while they did throw in one or two nice additions others served to deter from what made the game fun in the first place. The 'caveman' for example, while great outside of a combo, wasn't quite as welcome during, offering perhaps one too many 'outs' and taking large portions of skill away from the player.

It wasn't all doom and gloom though, the create-a-skater and create-a-park modes were given healthy expansions, including the ability to add custom goals into your parks, which you could then take online and share with the world. Sadly, this wasn't a big enough pay-off for most and the plethora of poor decisions made by the developers triggered a concatenation of mediocre games to follow.

Tony Hawk's Underground 2
: 2004

Tony Hawk's Underground 2 saw things take a turn for the worse, as it added more useless features into the mix, each one doing more harm than they were worth. The first real mistake saw Bam Margera taking the reigns, as he looked to challenge Tony Hawk in a World Destruction Tour - this was essentially an excuse to act dumb whilst they attempted to out-do each other in a series of whacky events around the globe. As stupid as it sounds there was no preparing for just how atrocious it was to play through and how entirely unnecessary it was in every single way.

There were plenty of new tricks on offer this time around, each one failing as miserably as the next. The bigger probably coming in the form of focus mode, this allowed you to slow down time and perform tricks with a more refined precision. Sounds cool right? It wasn't. It turned out to be more trouble than it was worth and made the task of pulling off multi-million combos a breeze. Then there was the natas spin, which saw your skater jumping on to the top of poles and fire hydrants and spinning rapidly on the spot, these little moves lost the realistic feel that previous Tony Hawk games had. Finally, the game granted you the ability to throw various objects at people as a way to increase your score multiplier, I don't even want to get into how rubbish an idea this was.

One saving grace about the game, however, was the introduction of Classic Mode, which allowed you to play Tony Hawk's retro style. So instead of blasting yourself out of cannons and riding bulls half-naked, you were collecting SKATE letters, attempting sick scores and hunting down secret tapes. Classic Mode also brought back the 2 minute timer, and while it was pleasing to see it make its exit in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, here it makes for a nice variation in play.

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland
: 2005

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland was supposed to rescue the series from a life of mediocrity but sadly only managed to cement the notion. Neversoft claims that the entire game takes place in one huge sprawling world that isn't hindered by a single loading screen - while that's technically true each section is separated by long mundane corridors that act as a substitute. I'm not sure who they were trying to fool but when their main slogan is a complete lie it isn't the most effective way to win the trust of your target audience.

The main reason the game falls short is thanks to yet another lackluster story mode that tries to accomplish too much and actually achieves very little. The goals presented to you are also relatively easy and when faced with one you're usually placed right in front of it - while this is great for beginners the majority of gamers have now dabbled with at least one previous title in the series and will most likely find it all rather trivial.

Don't get me wrong there are positives, such as the introduction of the BMX, which seemed a natural progression for the series, but for each thing they do right there's always a wrong lurking round the next corner. Speaking of which, Classic Mode makes a return, though while it helped vivify a thoroughly dire Underground 2, here it's too short to make any real impact whatsoever.

Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam
Year: 2006

Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam is an appropriate title in many respects, not only did it see Tony and his friends darting through slalom-type courses, but it also marked the lowest point of the entire series thus far.

The game focused primarily on racing and as a result the trick system had been severely pegged back. It's not hard to see why though; you only had to take a gander at the cluttered courses that lay in front of you. There was barely enough room to steer let alone room to pull off tricks. There wasn’t a whole lot of variety either, most of the time you found yourself navigating the same courses over and over after only a short spell with the game, and the fact that they weren’t that pretty served to add insult to injury.

I'm not sure what they were thinking at the time but surely they never expected such a dramatic change of direction to be greeted with any real enthusiasm. Before they had only been interested in perfecting the trick system and compiling a solid story up until that point, so tossing those to one side tells me that they were either running out of ideas, or they wanted to release something quickly to keep fans busy, whilst the main brunt of their effort was focused on the next installment.

Part 3: The New Age of the Tony Hawk's Series

It was at this time that the team must have gave themselves a swift kick up the backside, as this was the point the series began seeing ever-so-slight improvements. It seemed like they were getting back to basics, and introducing features that people actually cared about, and could master, and most importantly - enjoy.

Tony Hawk's Project 8
Year: 2006

Tony Hawk's Project 8 followed shortly after and was probably the least anticipated title to date. That could have been due to the poor run the series had been suffering over the last few years, or the games lack of a gimmick, it was probably a mix of both.

This time around the developers found a healthy balance between game play and story, that's not to say either excelled but both did a reasonable job. The goals weren't entirely awful either. While they were cluttered around the various levels and quite hard to keep track of, they did provide a nice array of tasks for you to complete. Probably the most impressive part was the fact that they were all found in a city that was seamless from top to bottom - no long misleading corridors this time around. It did take a pain-staking long time to actually get into the game in the first place, but sacrifices had to be made somewhere.

While there were no gimmicks as such in the game, it did introduce a new mini-feature called 'nail the trick.' Now every time you entered into focus mode, you could control each foot of your skater via the analogue sticks. Unfortunately, the whole thing turned out to be pretty clumsy, but if given time could potentially develop into a pretty cool feature for upcoming titles. The combo system also needs a bit of reworking if the series is going to go on to be as successful as it once was, they should be making it harder to rack up points with all these new features floating around, not easier.

All-in-all Project 8 didn't take the series to any new heights, but it at least stopped the deterioration by providing some solid game play that can be used as a base to work upon in future titles.

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground
Year: 2007

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground attempted to be a lot of thing’s at once, splitting the main game to allow for three ways to play. You could choose a full-on career for your skater; living the life of a wannabe pro, vying to get sponsored in the hopes of making it into the big-time. Or you could choose to become a rigger, whose sole aim was to build the biggest and best skate park with the tools provided. These Skate parks could then be uploaded to the internet where they could be played and judged by others in the community. Lastly, you could simply choose to take no path at all; the hardcore skaters, who were in it for their raw passion for the game.

The 'nail the trick' feature that made its debut in Project 8 definitely had potential and the developers decided to take the concept and move it to the next level. Now you could not only customize and control what flip tricks you were performing but also your grabs and manuals too. This gave skaters the ability to string all these tricks together and made for some pretty stellar combos. The game also featured a simulation mode for those obsessed with realism. Making it harder to jump, harder to gain speed and harder to pull off tricks.

Perhaps the biggest addition was that of a new video editor. With this you were able to record footage of yourself playing the game in a variety of ways, add cool music, and then show it off to friends. You were also able to unlock extra features as you progressed through the game, to make your videos that much better, and it's here where the game held most value.

Part 4: The Future of the Tony Hawk's Series

Almost a decade ago Tony Hawk's Pro Skater revolutionized a genre and since then has been judged by its own incredibly high standards. There have been many attempts to supplant the series but very few have ever come close and Neversoft has been happy to ride the wave. However, EA stole the show last year with their effort – Skate, and with Skate 2 receiving a thumbs up from the critics; it finally looks like a series that has the goods to compete for skateboarding supremacy.

Neversoft is surely aware of this and they are looking to hit back with their latest effort, although they cannot afford anymore hiccups because now there's a whole lot more at stake. We finish our feature by taking a looking ahead to see what the latest installments have to offer, and how it will hold up in the coming months.

Tony Hawk’s Adrenaline
Year: 2009

The only thing we know about this game thus far – apart from the fact it will be published by Activision – is that it will feature a new motion sensing board for the Wii. Activision was quoted as saying "put down the controller, step on the board, and feel the sensation of going big... Shift your weight to turn and balance grinds, kick back on the tail of the board to ollie, and lean into airs to pull off huge spins." This seems to relate to the Wii version exclusively, as just like ‘Skate-It’, it seems to rely solely on how you balance and shift across the board.

However, there have now been strong rumours of a motion board for other consoles too. Although instead of relying on balance, it will rely on infrared sensors on the back and the sides of the board. I have personally seen ‘secret’ prototypes of a future Tony Hawk’s peripheral that fits this description via a survey site I regularly visit, and if that is anything to go by then it shows a lot of promise. It looked a little flimsy, and perhaps a tad too small to stand on, but the demonstrations of how you move your hands passed various sensors to mimic that of real-life skate moves was rather intriguing.

So if this does indeed turn out to be true then I guess you can call this a NoobFeed exclusive. Until then look out for more details in the near future. Thank you for taking the time to read this feature, I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to reading your comments.

Special thanks to Planet Tony Hawk for the images.

Craig Bryan, NoobFeed

comments powered by Disqus
  • wow this is long craig!, you touched on some good points there personally i find tony hawks underground the best for some reason dont know why though.

    Tony Hawks 3 will always go down as the best game in the series in most peoples opinions, the series really went downhill after tony hawks underground and i hope that the series can find its feet again somehow

    Posted Feb 24, 2009
  • Haha, pun intended?

    Posted Feb 24, 2009
  • punn?

    Posted Feb 24, 2009
  • I never played any game from this series, but it seems like the 2009 version will be quite illustrious.

    Posted Feb 24, 2009
  • i probalby will end up buying the latest game in the series

    Posted Feb 24, 2009
  • I might buy it.

    Posted Feb 25, 2009
  • avatar RON

    i've only played Tony Hawk's Proving Ground and that was a year ago. that game was an amazing experience and i loved the rigger mode among three gameplays. one of my friend got obsessed with this game and kept uploading captured videos from the game on anywhere he could. and he looked like he'd never play any other game but this for rest of his life. lol. i really should ask him to read this article of yours ;)

    very nice article btw. it’s so far one of the best articles i've read about Tony Hawk's. very nicely done and you didn't miss any good point about. you must be one hell of big fan of Tony Hawk's!

    Posted Feb 26, 2009
  • Well... it's mostly that feeling of nostalgia that the series gives me. I just wish it would step out of it's own skin for a while, and try something radical, BUT with that core gameplay we've always known and loved.

    ev3rton i guess we will have some real competition when they release the next game for the PS3. Plenty of time for us both to get some practise in, and challenge each other week-in week-out.

    Posted Feb 26, 2009
  • yes fishdalf we will play it head to head, havent played tony hawks for a long while though, shud be great fun i just hope its not a letdown and they focus just on graphics because its next gen, gameplay is the way forward as for storyline it doesent really need one Lol

    Posted Feb 28, 2009
  • So, I finally see that famous article of yours, congratulations fishdalf! Personally, this games aren't my cup of tea.

    Posted May 08, 2009
  • This is a very very good article fishdalf. I enjoy watching skateboarding on TV but never thought of playing any game.

    Posted May 13, 2009
  • My first Tony Hawk game was Pro Skater 3 and it was extraordinary :D even though I spent more time with 4 and had more fun with it. Undergound 1 and 2 were also good, but dunno why but I had with American Wasteland more fun. Haven't played Downhill jam, but Project 8 was good, and I still need to get proving ground, and I can't wait for the next one :D well a nice article Craig :)

    Posted May 16, 2009
  • That's a really nice feature fishdalf.Guess I'll have to try the game.Tongue out

    Posted Jun 09, 2009
  • I wonder when we will witness the next Classic Tony Hawks game erm never?

    Posted Jul 16, 2009
  • Brill feature :D

    I used to love the classic Tony Hawk games back when I was a little kid, I'd play Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 all the time and loved it, it had to be one of my favourite games of all time... but unfortuantly the series did go way down hill and now I hate them :( fortuantly there is a much better skateboarding game out there, SKATE which I now play and love :D

    Posted Oct 04, 2009

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Publisher(s): NoobFeed
Developer(s): NoobFeed Editors
Genres: Artcile
Themes: Feature, Editorial, Interviews, Opinion Pieces
Release Date: 2009-02-14

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