Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

Gaming Needs: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD Levels

Posted in Gaming Needs, Skateboarding, Video Games by Jacob Zinn on December 19, 2011

At this year’s SpikeTV Video Game Awards, Activision released a teaser trailer for 2012’s upcoming Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, marking the return of the series.

After taking a year off following the poor and poorer sales of the motion-controlled Ride and Shred, a new (or, more accurately, remastered) Hawk title will be hitting Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network next year.

THPSHD will feature select levels from the first two Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater installments, polished in high definition and priced under $20.

The original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater flew off the shelves when it came out two months after the Birdman touched down with the 900 at the X Games. The sequel, THPS2, garnered perfect scores from numerous critics and is widely considered one of the greatest video games of all time. Hawk became a household name and the THPS series reignited skateboarding video games with attitude reminiscent of ’80s arcade classics Skate or Die! and 720°.

Worries have sprung up in online debates over the levels, the main concern being with which ones will be picked and which ones won’t. With such a rich history, the uncertainty of the level line-up that makes gamers nervous.

How many levels can Activision afford to sell for less than $20? My guess is 10, so out of the 18 levels between the first two titles, here are my 10 levels most worthy of an HD redo:

The Warehouse

It’s safe to say that, at least for nostalgia’s sake, the Warehouse is a shoe-in for THPSHD. As the first level of the series debut, it has to be included in any and all mixed and mastered versions of old levels. The dual roll-ins, the kicker gap, the crooked rail and the in-ground halfpipe are all the essentials to a skateboarding game–and the boarded-up taxi. The Warehouse has already been rereleased in previous Hawk games with graphical upgrades to newer consoles, but it hasn’t yet reached 720p or 1080p. Now’s it’s time to shine beneath the dim, flickering fluorescent lights.

  • Bonus Level in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 and Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 with a hidden extra room.

Downhill Jam

Activision announced that the Phoenix, Arizona Downhill Jam level will be in the rerelease. It’s an unconventional course, trading halfpipes and rails for a steep decline and alternative routes to the bottom. But the variety of paths down the slope makes for a level interesting enough to play over and over again–a pseudo-race to the finish with dozens of ways to get there.

  • Bonus Level in Tony Hawk’s Underground 2.

The School

It may not have been the coolest THPS level, but it’s fundamental design makes it worthy of an HD remake. The Miami school had your basic rails and stairs, but also a lengthy halfpipe, an empty swimming pool and giant TV screens. The amalgamation of obstacles–and a few hidden ones on the roof–meant there was more to explore than what you might have found the first go around.

  • Bonus Level in Tony Hawk’s Underground 2.

Burnside

Located under the east end of the Burnside Bridge, the eponymous Burnside is a world-famous skatepark in Portland, Oregon. It’s a skater’s skatepark, built without permission from the city and later sanctioned. In its digital video game form, it’s not very large, but what it stands for is important enough to warrant inclusion in HD. (Also, those unfamiliar might recognize it from Free Willy.)

  • Bonus Level in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3.

San Francisco

The San Francisco level from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (officially titled Streets) has never been rereleased, and for that, it deserves another chance. It’s underrated–it seems everyone overlooked the sloped, winding hill, the path to the rooftop and the bowl tucked away indoors. It offers everything from standard planter grinds to diving off of a building through the glass ceiling of a gazebo. Who doesn’t want to do that more than once?

School II

By far the best level–ask any THPS fan–and my personal favourite, the School II had absolutely everything. Walls to ride, stairs to clear, pipes to carve and bells to ring. It had the roll call rails, the Carlsbad gap, the leap of faith and TC’s roof transfer. It had numerous secret areas, rooftop hijinx and smooth transitions throughout what was then a rather large level. If the School II doesn’t make it into HD, I would bet on a boycott. That’s how badly this level needs to be in this remake.

  • Bonus Level in Tony Hawk’s Underground.

New York City

THPS2‘s NYC level was a contrast from the typical sunny, Southern California levels that often got into the series. The New York City level was set in the evening, with glowing streetlights illuminating paths and uncovering latenight skate spots. It captured staples like angry taxi drivers, the subway, the Brooklyn banks and views of Manhattan. It’s a wonder NYC never got a rerelease, so now’s the time.

Venice Beach

Going back to the SoCal standard, the Venice Beach level was the series’ main introduction of Ollie the Bum, among other interesting aspects. Sections of it switched rapidly from vert to street and vice versa, making it a challenging, albeit compelling level. With more flatland tricks and aerial maneuvers since THPS2, Venice Beach would be pretty-well new to explore again with the updated trick interface.

  • Bonus Level in Tony Hawk’s Underground.

Skate Street
Ventura, California’s Skate Street competition is truly a vert skater’s dream. Deep halfpipes, smooth bowls, and massive roll-ins make it a haven for creative transfers and lines. It’s never seen an encore appearance, so getting Skate Street back–especially with moves like spine transfers and acid drops–will make for some even bigger airs.

Philadelphia

Lastly, the Philadelphia level from THPS2, if only to offset the west coast influence in the series. Truthfully, Philadelphia is a solid level that features LOVE Park (including Robert Indiana’s iconic sculpture) and the curved concrete skateboard park beneath the freeway. The real-life plaza is a professional skateboarder’s mecca and it translated just as well to video games.

  • Bonus Level in Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 and a regular level in Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground.
Next Week on Gaming Needs: THPSHD Soundtrack


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