Long before they laid their hands on a Guitar Hero property, Neversoft Entertainment worked on another popular brand for Activision.  In 1999, the company worked on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, a game that took the concept of skateboarding and turned it around, focusing less on the speed aspect (like ESPN Extreme Games had focused on) and more on the strategic trick chaining.  In the game, you could easily grind, flip, spin, grab and perform a number of other tricks, multiplying your score into the millions.  The game did admirably well for both Activision and Neversoft, leading to multiple platform releases, as well as sequels.

Somewhere along the way, Activision chose to take Tony Hawk in a new direction, one that strayed away from the classic style of play that many gamers had enjoyed and instead opting for a motion control experience with a facsimile skateboard.  While Tony Hawk Ride and Shred did okay for casual audiences, many hardcore players felt alienated by the new approach.  Sales eventually tanked and Activision put the series on the backburner…

At least until late last year, when the Spike Video Game Awards played host to an announcement from Hawk himself that the classic style of play that gamers grew up with was making a return.  Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD was announced as a new title for Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, one that assured the return of the “old-school” with various classic levels, skaters and other goods – but in a digital format with all sorts of touch-ups.

The game will feature seven classic courses taken from the original games, including such favorites as the School II, Mall, Hangar, Warehouse, and Marseille, along with a new Downhill Jam mode.  Here you’ll grind your way through stages, performing tricks of derring-do as you try to build the highest score imaginable within the allotted time limit.

Scoring is just the beginning of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD’s challenges.  In addition to trying to get a million-plus points, you’ll also need to contend with secondary tasks such as reaching a Pro Score, collecting letters scattered throughout each stage (usually spelled S-K-A-T-E), and other bonus tasks.  Completing this opens up other levels of the game as well as additional challenges you can take on with your friends.

Competitiveness is one of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD’s biggest assets.  Not only can you compete with friends through online leaderboards, posting the best times possible and challenging others to meet your total, but you can also take them on through online multiplayer modes through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.   The only confirmed online mode is H-O-R-S-E, where you try to match a previous player’s trick pattern before chaining your own, but others will be revealed over the course of the game’s development.

Various faces will make a return led by none other than the Birdman himself!  Don’t be surprised if you see a few familiar faces return as bonus unlockable characters, too.  With Activision putting the finishing touches on its The Amazing Spiderman game for a July release, he could very easily appear in the series as he did with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 years ago.

Though Neversoft isn’t working on this particular title (they’re busy with an unnamed project -- possibly the revival of Guitar Hero), Robomodo is staying true to its code, keeping all the original levels intact while adding a number of high-resolution visual touch-ups to make it look better than ever.  Expect plenty of cool effects, like jumping through windows or grinding on lights, as well as great replay angle possibilities and lots of other touches that make the skaters look even more life-like than before.  

The game will also feature a solid soundtrack.  Though it hasn’t been confirmed whether any of the classic Pro Skater tracks will be included (like Rage Against the Machine’s “Guerrilla Radio”), you can expect Robomodo and Hawk to pack the game with plenty of skate-infused musical goodness.  And if that doesn’t suit you, you can always grind around to your own soundtrack.

With a robust amount of online features, savvy looking visuals and the classic gameplay that we remember growing up with, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD looks to be a magnificent return to form – and one that’ll only run you $15 to boot.  We’ll let you know how Hawk runs his course when the game releases this summer.