Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is finally an official thing! Activision have just announced that Robomundo and Disruptive Games will be teaming up once again after their work on previous entries, Ride, Shred and the HD remaster of the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.
Obviously, we have a few reservations seeing as Shred and Ride (the ones with the criminally awful skateboard peripheral) were terrible games that effectively killed off the brand. Even their HD port of the original Pro Skater was rougher than we hoped.
But let's give the two studios the benefit of the doubt for a while. Tony Hawk's 5 will not come with a skateboard controller, it's a proper Tony Hawk's title to be played with a standard controller, the way it should be. Ride and Shred were crippled by the peripheral, so let's scratch that from their record.
As for the HD port, we'll assume it was something of a rush job that saw the studio still trying to get to grips with the series. They had to completely rebuild the game engine for it, which may explain some of the odd rough edges, but the following years have surely seem them get to grips with the new engine.
Original dev team, NeverSoft, were bought by Activision long ago and the studio was gradually absorbed by other internal studios. But with any luck some of those guys are still in the business and have been recruited to bring the magic back to the series.
The Tony Hawk's series extended way past the Pro Skater brand, with entries like American Wasteland, Project 8, Proving Ground and the Jackass-inspired Underground titles. But these later titles never commanded the same degree of respect or interest as the original Pro Skater games.
It looks like Activision have had a long look at the history of the series and has made the right choice by bringing it back to its roots. Gone are the open worlds of later games and 'crazy' challenges and story lumped with the Underground series. Instead, the game will be split up into regular levels once again to be packed with challenges.
One slight concern is the mention of powerups being used in some areas, including the ability to shoot projectiles. Let's not burn the building down quite yet outrage enthusiasts. The 'projectiles' will probably be used for some sort of multiplayer mode or the occasional challenge; I don't think they're turning Tony Hawk's into a shooter.
There's no official word on the other 'powerups' yet, but you could speculate that these could include things like speed boosts, increased multipliers, temporary invincibility (from dropping combos) and the like. As long as they're not too powerful or distracting from the raw skating, it could be ok. Let's face it, the TH series has never been particularly realistic in terms of gravity and the number of tricks you'll pull off in one combo. That's more Skate's (EA's dormant skateboarding series) style.
Speaking of Skate, this new entry could be important for the resurgence of the whole extreme/street sports genre. Let's face it, boarding, BMX and inline skating titles have all but died in recent years, save for the indie efforts of OlliOlli. Hardcore fans have been begging for a new Skate for ages and discussions of Tony Hawk's return today has the Dealspwn office enthusiastically raising their hopes for new entries for the likes of the Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX series or finally getting an Aggressive Inline sequel.
Online console gaming has become much bigger since the Hawkman's heyday and there's already talk about extended online options and character levelling. We'd love to see some Destiny-like random players popping up in an online skate park with the option to continue our solo challenges or maybe have a few matches against each other or maybe even a form of co-op? Come on, who's not looking forwards to a few rounds of Graffiti again?
Create-a-park options could see the game's lifespan improved significantly, especially as we'll be able to share creations online. Could Tony Hawk's 5 become the LittleBigPlanet of the extreme sports world? Why the hell not.
After a few rough entries in the series though, it's essential that Robomundo and Disruptive games nail those controls though. We're fairly certain they're not going to try and go down the sim route (a la Skate) as they're more likely to stick with the insanely long combos and lightning quick combo inputs that we remember. Nailing those reverts, manuals and transfers is going to be essential too.
With a release set for later this year, we're excited but also certainly going to wait until the hands-on reports emerge before considering a pre-order. Until then, I'm going to drag out my PS2 and dust off Pro Skater 3 and 4. Tomorrow may contain aching hands and peeling thumbs -like the good old days.