Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3+4 - Where to now?
With the success of the rebirth of the first two Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater - THPS 1+2 - for new generations, we’re going to look at where Activision and (insert developer name here) can go next…
The reason we cheekily threw in the “insert developer name here” gag, is because Vicarious Visions who handled 1+2 development and release duties with absolute aplomb, has been shifted sideways to help out the Irvine, CA crew that is that little part of the business known as Blizzard. On what, we don’t know, though our educated guess is they’ll be running support or lead on Diablo II: Resurrection, a remake of sorts of the ever-popular Diablo II.
Somehow shrinking down Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater II and recreating an entire camera viewpoint and control scheme for Game Boy Advance...
It’s actually a big move. In years past Vicarious Visions has always played support for Activision titles, working across the likes of Call of Duty, Destiny, Crash Bandicoot, Skylanders, Spider-Man, Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Guitar Hero, to name just a few. But they’ve also been one of the more innovative and tech-specialist studios in the Acti stable, having brought games such as the Star Wars: Dark Forces and Jedi Knight series to consoles while also somehow shrinking down Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and recreating an entire camera viewpoint and control scheme for Game Boy Advance.
So what does this mean for the high likelihood of a follow-up to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, which we can only assume would be Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3+4? Is it possible a separate team has splintered from the now internal Blizzard division of VV? Is there a chance Neversoft can rise from its grave and utilise the optimised Unreal Engine VV manipulated for 1+2 to follow on? Or will other support mobs in High Moon Studios, Raven Software, Beenox or the like take the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater reigns?
All big questions for a re-emerging franchise, and one we can’t see Activision passing on where future opportunities are concerned, but before we go any deeper on who might run development on a 3+4 joint, let’s take a look at the history of those two games, and how we think they can be remolded to fit what Vicarious Visions did so successfully.
It was also the first of the series to truly tap into the Jackass skater humour that dominated that period of time...
While the jump in gameplay approach and goals and challenges between Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 might have seemed like a massive gap, the shift in approach from THPS2 to THPS3 is an even bigger one. For one, THPS3 was the first in the series to have peds populating the playspace, and also featured the double-tap trick system. It was the first in the series to explore multiplayer and most notably, featured the first create-a-skater of the female persuasion option. Obviously 1+2 ensured all manner of freedom was on offer in the create-a-skater option, but highlighting this in some way in any 3+4 re-release would be welcome. It was also the first of the series to truly tap into the Jackass skater humour that dominated that period of time across the likes of MTV (before YouTube was really a ‘thing’).
Any level of re-release around this needs to keep all of that in check, but there is room for additional love here, and maybe some more modern gags should the team or teams have time and license to play with the switch to Goofy.
Frank and the Rock
THPS4 introduced more open levels and adoptive challenges from in-level NPCs. What this meant was the sandboxes themselves weren’t beholden to an overarching time-limit, however, goals and challenges (beyond Gaps) were, with each kicking off once an objective was accepted by the player. This helped in learning the layout of maps without feeling rushed and gave players priority proprietary (say that fast five times).
Some of the level design was a bit crowded for ours though, with Alcatraz proving a bit of an architectural mess...
Working alongside this was an even more ramped-up lean on skater humour with levels, NPCs and challenges all reflecting over-the-top, topical and situational gags. Some of the level design was a bit crowded for ours though, with Alcatraz proving a bit of an architectural mess, making lines and combos very difficult to maintain, even for the best of us at the series out there. Some tweaks to level layouts, transitions and grindable lips would be super-welcome across the board in a re-release of THPS4.
More Music, More Skaters, More Events
Why not look to more homegrown heroes like TK Maidza and Sampa The Great...
We got very lucky as Aussies in 1+2 with the likes of Alex Lahey, DZ Deathrays, A. Swayze and the Ghosts and the sublime Baker Boy where music is concerned, but why stop there? For the music side of 3+4, why not look to more homegrown heroes like TK Maidza and Sampa The Great for hard-hitting hip-hop club fusion to smash vert to, or Genesis Owusu for dub-funk stylings while you just roll around the series’ larger maps. We couldn’t imagine a more chill way to deal with harder challenges than by putting combos and lines together to the cool AF Dallas Woods. Because, Straya.
And while we’re singing loud and proud, maybe throw in a Red Bull Skate of Origin comp, you know, for good measure. (That’s right rest of the world, Aussies represent across the sub-culture board in big, grand old ways. And in style.)
The thing is, though, while there’s plenty different baked into THPS3 and THPS4 over the first two games, a 3+4 outing needs to learn from some of the pitfalls of the 1+2 release. For one, the deeply layered, often complicated and convoluted UI and menu system needs simplifying. Multiplayer matchmaking also needs tweaking. No one wants to be dropped in alongside someone who regularly accumulates 50+ trick combos and multi-million point scores, unless they’re able to keep up.
Speaking of keeping up, when it’s time to face those competition levels, save us an option to watch the competition’s runs. Stacks and all. It might be hard, or it might be easy, but we beg of you, please Activision, tell the next studio to dump RNG skater comp placements for animated, dynamic stat-based runs we can watch and learn off. It would just liven the experience up even more, and assuming we’ll see new skaters that weren’t in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skaters 3 or 4 *cough* Ryan Sheckler *cough*, give us something fresh and new to lay eyes on.
And finally, if we’re adding new skaters, new music and new textures and other neat features, let the next team off the leash to create a couple of new levels in the design and themed vein of THPS3 and THPS4. This would challenge the old-schoolers out there who still remember all the original levels as if they were the back of their hand, and give the devs something lasting and new to supplant themselves as modern custodians of an ancient series.
Skateboarding is still a massive *thing*. It is both and neither a sport and a cultural phenomenon… it just *is*. To this end, it remains a malleable platform for expression and professionalism in equal measure; a testing ground for mettle and creativity. Toughness and camaraderie. A world and sub-culture brimming with bold and nurturing personalities. And so it deserves to be represented as such. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 was absolutely a push in the right direction, but with a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3+4, the sky’s really the limit.