Tony Hawk Ride Updated Hands-On

We jumped on the skateboard peripheral to play an updated build of the skating legend's new game.

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After taking a year off, Activision's Tony Hawk franchise is back with a new developer and a brand-new control scheme. Chicago-based Robomodo is tasked with development duties, and the game is controlled using a proprietary full-sized skateboard controller. Tony Hawk Ride is the name of the game, and the new peripheral-driven gameplay has certainly been the subject of plenty of discussions lately. Thankfully, we got the chance to try out Ride's innovative deck once more when lead designer, Patrick Dwyer, visited London.

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If your skateboarding skills are rusty, it might take a while to get up to speed on the new controller. Thankfully, it's not too complicated to control on the easiest difficulty setting, because you don't need to worry about steering, which leaves you to focus on pulling off mad tricks instead. Leaning back on the board performs a manual, and doing this quickly will result in an ollie. The board has four infrared sensors located on the ends and sides, and extending your arm over one will perform a grab. Each sensor's range is quite long, so you don't need to bend right down to the deck to perform a grab. Similarly, if you want to feel like a real boarder, you can use your foot to kick off; however, swiping a foot or hand past a side sensor is also enough to get you moving.

While we spent most of our time on the easiest difficulty level (called "casual"), we decided to knock it up to the hardcore level to see what it was like. Hardcore certainly requires more skill and dexterity: the slightest tilt on the board will cause your character to veer off in that direction. You'll want to have a good sense of balance before attempting this level of difficulty, but it's good to see a more challenging mode for skateboarding enthusiasts.

Don't try this at home kids, unless it's attempted on carpet with a plastic peripheral.
Don't try this at home kids, unless it's attempted on carpet with a plastic peripheral.

We were able to play a number of different modes during our time with Ride, including speed runs, trick runs, and the challenge mode. Speed runs are all about getting through the course in the fastest time possible, and there are always a number of different paths to choose from. You can also collect bubbles, which will shave a few seconds off your time. As these aren't always on the most direct path, you need to decide if it's worth veering off course to collect them. On the casual difficulty setting, you don't have to worry about constantly tilting the board to stay on track, but tilting when the course splits off will decide which branch you take.

While most of our time was spent in the LA River, Venice Beach, and Frankfurt Airport stages, we got to take a sneaky look at the Central Park stage in New York, and we also spotted a stage based on the downtown Chicago Loop area. Central Park is set in an interesting kid's playground area, and the course had us skating through a pool, playground equipment, paved areas, and even a giant concrete octopus with branching paths within its innards.

In addition to Tony Hawk, there are other pro skaters, including Daewon Song and Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins. We got a chance to play as fellow pro Paul Rodriguez on the Venice Beach halfpipe. The focus on the halfpipe is not on achieving specific times or challenges; rather, it's all about racking up the highest score, and it's almost impossible to crash. Every time you pull off a trick, you charge part of your "style" meter, and activating it will give you a multiplier bonus, which will increase several times while you successfully complete tricks. The style meter also executes a cool visual style on screen, where your character will be followed by a funky silhouette.

 Fans of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3's Airport level will get a kick out of Frankfurt Airport.
Fans of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3's Airport level will get a kick out of Frankfurt Airport.

Ride's new visual style matches its arcade gameplay, and the environment and characters are bright and colourful. Also complementing the vibrant visuals is an equally punchy soundtrack--we heard Wolfmother's "Joker & the Thief" playing in the background on a few stages. We're also excited that artists such as MGMT, Green Day, and Queens of the Stone Age will be featured in the final version.

Tony Hawk Ride will be rolling into stores on December 4 in Europe and on November 17 in the US. For more on the game, check out our previous coverage and stay tuned for our full review.

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