Why A Minor Detail Causes The 'Tony Hawk' Remake To Fall Apart
I don't want to brag, but I will. I recently achieved 100 percent in both THPS 1 and 2 in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 -- my hands melting into the controls until Tony Hawk and I were no longer 2 but 1. 1+2 = Tony Jordan Hawk Man: Skateboard Extraordinaire.
The game is nigh-perfect except for one thing. They got rid of all the splattery blood that previously accompanied every tragic bail! Ever since I bought the game (and beat it mere hours later), I've struggled to wrap my head and my heart around why this tiny change annoys me so profoundly.
Here's what I've got so far ...
The New Effect Is Too Video Game-y
Look, I know real skateboarding doesn't look anything like it does in Tony Hawk games. When I saw this video of Isamu Yamamoto objectively shredding all the gnar:
My immediate response was:
Also, I guess, good job Twitter getting that copyright sorted out.
I know Tony Hawk games are about as close to real-life skateboarding as Crazy Taxi is to real-life Lyft driving (although, maybe Uber), but I was always immersed in the experience. Yet, in the new game, every time I bail (which isn't often, because again, I'm so good) the new glitchy, rewind effect slaps me in the face with the reminder I'm playing a video game and how in real life I can barely balance in my computer chair, much less a moving board.
In the good old days, I winced and felt twinges of guilt every time my sweaty palms led to Spider-Man bleeding all over the bottom of an empty pool like a child's birthday party gone wrong.
Now? I'm just pissed I scored less in the video game I'm playing. My gut response transformed from, "Ow, dang. That looked like it hurt, sorry, Darth Maul, haha," to, "GODDAMN IT, JORDAN! YOU STUPID BUTTER FINGERS! NOBODY WILL EVER LOVE YOU IF YOU CAN'T LAND A BASIC MADONNA OVER THE HUGE WATER GAP!" (This is why Kate Winslet leaves Billy Zane for Leo in the original draft of Titanic)
As a rapidly aging millennial, escapism and immersion are increasingly difficult to find in video games, and while I realize not every game should spend its entire development cycle crafting realistic horse testicle physics, I don't think it's unfair to ask for the skateboarding simulator to retain an approximate facsimile of actual skateboard crashing rather than inserting subtle Tron-esque elements so I never forget I should probably be spending time with my family instead.
I've Lost All Sense Of How Long The Bail Animation Takes
This gripe is more about the new bail animations generally than the blood specifically, but in the old games, your skateboarder physically pulled themselves up after a wipeout. I could easily estimate when my character would be ready to fly off a skyscraper again because I actively watched him pull his broken, sorry ass back together.
With the new animations, I have no idea when I can roll again. I'm much more frustrated following a bail because the resultant animations have no connection to reality. Skateboarders are no longer collecting themselves; they're respawning like it's Call of Duty: Petty Vandalism.
It feels akin to getting "stuck in animation" in a fighting game. In many (especially older) fighting games, once your fighter initiates an elaborate combo, there's no way to halt its progress midway through. If you've realized you're now in a poor position -- or your opponent has moved -- tough nuts. You're doomed to watch helplessly as your fighter finishes out the prescribed combo, even if it forces you out of position and opens your ass up to being hurled off a cliff.
Similarly, as I watch my skateboarder slide awkwardly on the ground and glitch around, I have no real context for when the animations will end, and I can resume skating. If how long it took to reload was at all related to how hard I bailed -- and subsequently how long it would take to get up after that type of accident -- I'd get it. But there's no real-world equivalent to magically respawning, so I'm stuck waiting an indeterminate amount of time for my video game to stop video gaming so I can resume grinding in endless circles around water fountains.
No Blood Means No Sexy, Dangerous Nostalgia
Let's be honest, most of the customers who purchased Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 probably aren't Zoomers. Even if they were, they wouldn't have been old enough to play the originals when they were first released. For many of us, these games dropped during a critical age of self-discovery and during an era where parents were really picking up the cause of railing against inappropriate video games. "Skateboarding is for loser burn out punks, and their video game has disgusting gore?! This is not for my children!"
I was nine-years-old when I first played THPS2, and I distinctly remember the thrill of skateboarders bleeding everywhere. It made the game feel "mature." Now, granted, this wasn't Halo. I wasn't blowing aliens into gooey paste. But that little glimpse of bodily injury combined with a soundtrack featuring scary punk music I'd never been exposed to (and even scarier -- ska music) made for a game that felt just a little dangerous.
I realize seeing blood in a video game as a 29-year-old in the post-Bulletstorm world probably won't exactly make me feel like I'm getting away with something I shouldn't, but, still, it could spark a sense of nostalgia for the days when it did. And isn't nostalgia the primary emotion we're seeking when we purchase a remake of a 20-year-old game?
Skater Blood Is Juvenile, But Isn't That The Point?
I realize this somewhat goes against my first point, but the inclusion of blood gives these games a similar appeal to the show Jackass, which makes sense as both series heavily feature Bam Margera.
Again, I first played this game when I was nine, which means I garnered equal enjoyment from landing sick combos as screaming to my best friend, "Bro, watch me slam this dude into a wall!" With the new game, it feels like I'm only slamming skateboarder-shaped pixels into wall-shaped pixels -- and my wife doesn't care at all when I yell at her to come watch. It's still cool to some degree, but there's nothing particularly crazy about a bail nor anything wince-inducing.
If the old games had that twisted Burnout 3 appeal of watching cars flip and explode in a way you'd never actually want to experience in real life, but can still appreciate in an escapist way. The remaster is the recent Flight Simulator where instead of twisted metal, you get this:
Sure, it's polished and grown-up, but … isn't this supposed to be punk? What's next? Characters forced to wear helmets and abiding by their parents' 9pm curfew? Screw that! I'm a parent now. Let me rebel against literally no one in this small, insignificant way!
I'm Scared This Means They'll Never Remake Underground 2
Alright, let's get to the real meat of my heart here. By dressing and aging up Tony Hawk, I'm terrified for the future of the series. Specifically, what it means for Tony Hawk's Underground remakes.
I get it. The first Underground wasn't great, and, in general, the storylines and objectives for everything past THPS3 are preeeettty stupid. But that should not detract from how freaking fun they were. Underground 2 is the best damn game in this whole series! Even now, playing THPS1+2, I can't stop subconsciously attempting to tap both bumpers in an effort to hop off my board mid-combo to save myself from a nasty bail. Also, I just want to light cannons while doing sick grinds as Benjamin Franklin. Is that too much to ask?
Presumably, if the older remakes continue to sell well, they'll develop remastered versions of later games in the series. Still, I don't want this lack of blood to become a harbinger of newfound focus, maturity, and professionalism in a series that, again, once prominently featured Bam Margera.
Is that sad? Maybe, but in these unprecedented times, I can honestly say I need some Bam. Maybe we all need some Bam.