You can keep your Command & Conquer Generals 2 and The Last of Us; for me the biggest news out of the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards wasn't a new game but the return of something old: Tony Hawk.
Well, not Tony Hawk himself, of course. He's only 43, and five years older than me can hardly be considered old. I'm talking about the return of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, a title I haven't seen the likes of since the third game in the four game series.
No, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 does not count. In fact any of the games in the Tony Hawk series that exchanged the convenience and polish of individually designed levels for unrealistic open world skating bullshit just didn't cut it for me. In attempting to be bigger and badder than ever before they lost the magic that I first discovered playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 on my Dreamcast more than a decade ago. The joyous urgency of having a set of goals, a time limit, and a soundtrack that didn't completely suck.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD isn't a new game, and I don't mind at all. The downloadable title, coming to Xbox Live and the Playstation Network next summer, combines elements of the first two Tony Hawk Pro Skater games and updates them to fit both current gen platforms and the current skateboarding scene.
"We're going back to the core of what made the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games so popular, while leveraging today's console power and online capabilities," said Tony Hawk (via press release). "We've updated many elements to reflect today's skateboarding scene as well. Long-time fans of the series will appreciate the huge amount of polished content at a very low price."
This is what I've wanted in a skateboarding game since they started making them. It's something that was lost from the skateboarding genre, and from the extreme sports genre as a whole. The move to open worlds killed series like Dave Mirra's BMX (well, there was more to that than open worlds), replacing easy-to-consume gaming experiences with large, unwieldy time sinks. While I'm sure there are plenty of people out there that prefer the freedom of an entire virtual playground, I don't have the time or the interest in carving my own way across a huge open environment. I want a skateboarding game that points me to a rail and tells me to grind it. Let me spend two minutes trying my damnedest to get everything I need to get done completed, and if I do a good enough job, give me a new level to do it all over again.
My only concern lies in the fact that this HD redux is being handled by Robomodo, the developer behind Activision's most recent plastic skateboard-powered entries in the Tony Hawk series, Ride and Shred. Hopefully freedom from the ridiculous skateboarding peripheral will help the developer get this game off the ground.
Welcome back, Tony Hawk. Give us a hug.