If there's one franchise that has grown stagnant, it's the formerly mighty Tony Hawk franchise. As someone who used to await each instalment with bated breath, I've been disappointed by each successive instalment's lack of innovation and forward thinking. Indeed, the franchise lost its way not long after Tony Hawk Underground 2. However, for the first time in half a decade, the Tony Hawk series has finally done something new and interesting.
The first obvious difference from past instalments is the addition of a motion controlled skateboard peripheral. That's right, brush aside those Rock Band drums and push that Super Scope a little further back in the closet, because Tony Hawk's new ride requires a virtual skateboard to play. However, this device really is a marvel of engineering. Built in with 2 accelerometers and 4 motion sensors, this little gizmo will change the way you play skateboard games. The device is placed flat on the ground in your living room, and you manipulate it mostly like you would a real skateboard. Push your left foot (or right if you ride goofy) and your skater will push off the ground to gain momentum. Lean back on the board and your skater will perform a manual. Slap the front end down and you'll lump. Move you hands to do grabs and you'll do various tricks. It's very intuitive and works surprisingly well. The balance challenged will likely want to stay far away from this thing though, as I can pretty much guarantee that lawsuits will happen when some poor sap falls through their glass coffee table while playing the game.
The game is designed to be newbie friendly, and in casual mode players won't even have to worry about steering. Players will have the option to just jump around and do tricks while moving in a linear path until they feel comfortable enough to steer themselves around in the open levels. There is also a vert mode where you put the skateboard sideways and play solely from a side view. Rounding out the modes are hot-seat (or skate) party modes, and some challenge modes. Unfortunately, there is no simultaneous multiplayer on a single console.
The game certainly retains the arcadey feel of the previous games, and brings back a storyline. However, Activison promises that the storyline will take more a backseat than in previous titles.
Ride also cuts down on some of the extreme customization options of previous games. The design a park feature has been given the heave-ho, and you're left with the option to edit your skater from the ground up.
Those with an aversion to product placement will likely want to stay far away from this one, as the game is absolutely slathered in ads. The pause menu is brought to you by T-mobile, the loading screen tips are brought to you by stride gum, and my nausea is brought to you by distressing capitalism.
Tony Hawk Ride is looking like a nice reboot for a series that has been stagnant for years, but it remains to be seen how consumers will respond to another pricey peripheral taking up space in their living rooms. If the kit is priced at a reasonable price point this could very well be the title that puts Tony Hawk back on the map that he dominated when he first burst onto the gaming scene a decade ago. We'll know for sure when the game is released this November.