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The History of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater: Ollies, Grabs, and Grinds


March 10, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next
 

Of course, the growing success of the Tony Hawk series did not go unnoticed by the competition, though few competitive releases were able to gain anywhere near the same type of critical acclaim or traction in the marketplace.

A game released just before Tony Hawk's Pro Skater even serves as a good example: Street Sk8er (Electronic Arts, 1999; Sony PlayStation), which was based on a Japanese title from a year earlier, had few distinguishing characteristics and quickly became an afterthought.

Another very similar title, Thrasher: Skate and Destroy (Rockstar Games, 1999; Sony PlayStation), was released shortly after Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and banked on being the superior skateboarding simulation, which it was.

Unfortunately for Rockstar, players preferred the more user friendly approach found in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to the hardcore simulation of Thrasher. Other titles like Acclaim's Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX (2000; PC, Sony PlayStation, and others), changed the mode of transportation, but still relied on the same style of play to thrill gamers, making some players wonder why they just shouldn't be playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater instead.[9]

Others still, like Sega's cel-shaded Jet Grind Radio (2000; Sega Dreamcast), mixed stylized aesthetics with unusual gameplay mechanics -- in this case riding around on inline skates and spraying graffiti while avoiding the authorities -- receiving critical, if not commercial, success and a sequel on the Microsoft Xbox in 2002, Jet Set Radio Future.[10]

The fifth game in the Tony Hawk series started the Underground series, which consists of two games: Tony Hawk's Underground (2003; Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2, and others) and Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (2004; same platforms plus Sony PlayStation Portable). These games are sometimes referred to by their acronyms, THUG and THUG 2, which fit perfectly with the games' premises.

These games represented a radical departure from the other games in the Tony Hawk series, as they focus more on a storyline than on strict gameplay. Players can create a skater, using face mapping with a camera if desired, and take the character from amateur to pro status.

For the first time, players have the ability to step off their board and walk, run, climb, and even drive vehicles, which is actually required to reach certain locations. Although the game is littered with colorful characters and interactive experiences, some criticized it for not having enough skating quests.

THUG 2 is a direct sequel to THUG and continues the story, though this storyline was criticized by many fans of the series because it seemed to promote the punk skating culture rather than the extreme sports aspects.

The basic premise is that the player accompanies Tony Hawk on a World Destruction Tour, the purpose of which is to raise havoc in various locales around the world in order to beat the competition, Team Bam]. The idea is that the losing team has to pay for everything at the end of the tour. One feature THUG 2 brought back that was praised was the two-minute time limit in Classic Mode.

Fans of the Hawk series also largely applauded the expanded versions of locales that were ported in from previous Hawk games. Overall, both of these games were well-received, for instance with IGN rating THUG and THUG 2 as 9.5] and 8.6] out of 10, respectively.

One key reason why THUG 2 received a lower rating was best summed up by Douglas Perry in his review of the game on IGN: "It's hard not to see Tony Hawk's Underground 2 as Neversoft's hurl-everything-you-can-in-a-last-ditch-effort in the hope to create something new. The effort, while recognized, is an example of a series that in many ways has perhaps run out of steam and good ideas, and fans of the series are likely to respond with a mixed reaction of disappointment, while grumpily trudging to the store to buy it anyway."]

This statement could in fact be applied to all the other Hawk games that followed, which suffered from what some refer to as "Tony Hawk Syndrome," which is similar to the "Madden Model" (see book Chapter 10, "John Madden Football (1988): Modern Sports video games Kickoff") of releasing the same game year after year with only incremental improvements or differences.


Box back from the Microsoft Xbox version of Outlaw Golf (2002). Golf is a surprisingly common target for "extreme" and comic video game interpretations, probably because it contrasts so sharply with what most think of as the sport's stuffy reality.


Screenshot from Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer (Activision, 2002; Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox, PC, and others), which mimicked Tony Hawk's trick system and use of real athletes, but had nowhere near the same commercial or cultural impact. Despite repeated attempts at unique alternatives, the most consistent performers have been games based on skateboarding and snowboarding, such as Electronic Arts' SSX series (starting 2000, various platforms).


[9] An infamous sequel, Dave Mirra BMX XXX, was in development until Mirra refused to endorse the troubled production. The game was eventually released by Acclaim Mirra free as BMX XXX in 2002 for the Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo GameCube and Sony PlayStation 2, with the notable addition of crude humor and nudity, the latter censored for the PS2 version. Naturally, these questionable additions did not make up for the poor gameplay or mediocre visuals and the game was poorly received by critics and gamers alike.

[10] Jet Set Radio was released on the Nintendo Game Boy Advance in 2003, and, despite the lack of 3D graphics, retained much of the gameplay of the original.

[11] Led by Brandon Cole "Bam" Margera, a skateboarder and media personality associated with the "Jackass" TV and movie series.

[12] http://ps2.ign.com/objects/545/545800.html.

[13] http://ps2.ign.com/objects/640/640600.html.

[14] http://ps2.ign.com/articles/554/554325p1.html.


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