This Is Why Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 Changed Visual Style

"No matter what, a new Pro Skater game on PS4 and Xbox One was going to look a lot different."

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New screenshots of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 recently emerged showing a new visual style that looked almost like cel-shading. With its release set for the end of September on Xbox One and PS4, this seemed awfully late for visual changes to be made, leading some to wonder if the move was made as a result of negative feedback to Pro Skater 5's graphics.

"We've always been confident in the look we were going for, but it took a while to ensure we could maintain the framerate with this style," Robomodo CEO Josh Tsui tells GameSpot when asked why the look changed with the game weeks away from release. "It was essential that the game run at 60fps at 1080p, even with 20 people skating online in the same session. We've achieved that, so now fans are seeing a better-looking game."

An overhaul of a game's graphics close to release is uncommon, but not unheard of; not long before it came out, Borderlands famously changed from a more realistic art style to the cartoonish look that each game in the series has used. In the case of Pro Skater 5, Tsui says this isn't a case of changing styles--and that means it isn't fans who are responsible for the new look.

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"We pay attention to everything the fans are saying, but that isn't what drove the visual upgrade," he says.

Tsui also disagrees with the assessment that the new art style is cel-shaded.

"I wouldn't describe the new style as cel-shaded, it's just more detailed and vibrant," he says. "Perhaps you can say it's more over-the-top--the lighting has been improved and we've pumped up the game's colors. Also, details like motion blur, depth of field, and outlining were tweaked, in the interest of improving the player's focus on the skater and nearby obstacles and terrain."

However you'd describe it, Pro Skater 5 looks markedly different from the classic Pro Skater games. Tsui doesn't necessarily disagree, though he does highlight the fact that those games are from a much different era, having been released more than a decade ago.

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"Keep in mind THPS4 came out 13 years ago! No matter what, a new Pro Skater game on PS4 and Xbox One was going to look a lot different," Tsui responds when asked why a style unlike that of the old games has been adopted. "Ultimately we went with a style that's playful and inclusive but still harkens back to the classic titles. You look at the crazy stuff that went into the first Pro Skater games and it just made sense to give this a fun style. The power of new console hardware allowed us to do that."

The change reflected in the most recent screenshots didn't involve overcoming any specific technical challenges, as "this is the design we've been working on for a while."

"The game has been evolving for a long time, and we've pushed the visual style forward in increments to balance it alongside other technical benchmarks and gameplay and multiplayer optimizations."

Pro Skater 5 is due out for Xbox One and PS4 on September 29, with Xbox 360 and PS3 versions coming on November 10. The current-gen versions will be the only ones to offer the "seamless" online multiplayer mode that allows for 20 players to skate together at the same time. Check out our E3 impressions for more on what to expect.

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