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2015 is shaping up to be the year of video game revivals. Not only are there new installments of both Rock Band and Guitar Hero coming soon, but with today’s release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, we’re getting the first new Tony Hawk game in five years (eight if you don’t count the 2010 spin-off, Shred) and the first new Pro Skater entry since 2002’s Pro Skater 4.
This series is a major legacy, and Tony Hawk still has plenty of influence to throw around, but surprisingly, the game’s namesake revealed to me that he had to fight pretty hard to make the new game an official Pro Skater sequel.
We also talked about the music in the game, why he didn’t pull rank on his kid, and why you’ll never see a game called Tony Hawk’s Call of Duty.
Playboy: What made you want to do a new Tony Hawk game?
Tony Hawk: Besides seeing all the chatter online from people who wanted the series to be back, I was excited by the idea of bringing it into online, which is something we never got to explore in the previous games. We did a bit of online previously, but it wasn’t so commonplace back then. So the idea that we could bring the game to a community that can play together all across the world was very exciting to me.
It’s been thirteen years, though, since Pro Skater 4. Why did you want to go back to that series, as opposed to calling it Tony Hawk’s Not Board Anymore or something like that?
I think it’s the series that people have the most nostalgia for, and it’s the series that put us on the map. It just seemed like the time to revisit that game’s approach and what made it popular in the first time. I’m not going to lie, I had to fight for that idea and that title, but I’m glad I did.
Why did you have to fight for it?
Just because they [Activision, the game’s publisher] didn’t want to pigeonhole it into something that’s just T.H.P.S.-specific. There’s also a separation between those games and this one in the sense that people can create and share their own parks [in the new game]. But, for me, the gameplay and the feel of the new game is still very much in the realm of the Pro Skater series.
Now, you’re obviously not sitting in an office writing code, but how involved are you in the design of this game?
My input is more based on keeping it authentic to the series and to skating. I play it every step of the way, and I do things like choose the skaters, the maps, and the tricks. It’s more nuanced tweaks than anything else.
Your son Riley is a professional skateboarder, and is also in the game. He’s also, no offense, known for being a better street skater than you.
Yeah, he has been for years.
Is that reflected in the game, or did you go to the designers and say, “You guys better make me better than Riley”?
Ha! No, I wouldn’t do that. All the skaters come with their strengths and weaknesses, and I think they’re pretty on-point in the game.
Speaking of the other pro skaters in the game, were there any who, when you asked them if they’d be in it, said that they got into skateboarding because they’d played one of the Pro Skater games as a kid?
Not in so many words. Aaron Homoki said that he played the game around the time he took up skating. But he did say that when he told his mom he was in this game she was so happy that she started crying.
The music in your games is always a big thing for you. Are there any songs in the game you’re particularly proud to have included?
I’m stoked that we got Death in the game. I don’t know if you saw the documentary [A Band Called Death], but they were one of the original punk bands, so it was cool to get them in there. We also got Cold Cave in there, who are a band I love, they played at my wedding, so that means a lot to me.
Over the years, there’s been some fun characters in these games, including Spider-Man (who was in Pro Skater 2) and the guy from Doom (Pro Skater 3), as well as such celebrities as Metallica’s James Hetfield (Pro Skater HD) and MCA from The Beastie Boys (Proving Ground). So who’s in the new one? Heidi Klum? Hilary Clinton? Groot?
Ha! None of those, but there are some secret characters. They just haven’t been announced yet. But there are some people will be excited about.
Has anyone ever suggested any really weird ideas for your games, like maybe one where you go into space and have to skate in a competition against Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck?
No. Most of the suggestions that I’ve gotten are ones that aren’t relevant to what we’re doing. Things like first-person shooters but you’re on a skateboard. But we’re not trying to do Call of Duty on skateboards. Or even Grand Theft Auto. That kind of stuff I just…dismiss. It’s not like I wanted to make a skateboarding game as a springboard to make another kind of game. I wanted to make a skateboarding game.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 will be out on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 29th, and on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on November 10th.
Paul Semel has been writing about games (as well as music, movies, books, and other fun stuff) for over twenty years. You can find him online on his own site, paulsemel.com, or follow him on Twitter at @paulsemel.
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