New screenshots of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 recently emerged showing a different art style featuring cell-shaded visuals. With it’s upcoming release in September on Xbox One and PS4, this seemed awfully sudden for drastic changes to be made. The sudden change in it’s visual style is speculated to be in part from the negative reaction to it’s original graphical art design.
“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.”
Such a large change close to release is quite uncommon, but not unheard of; not long before it’s release, Borderlands famously changed from it’s realistic visuals to a more playful cartoon look that each game throughout the series has used. In the case with Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5, Tsui says this isn’t a case of changing styles– which means it isn’t because fans were unhappy with the original look.
“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 someone may describe it, Pro Skater 5 looks entirely different from the classic Tony Hawk Pro Skater games. Tsui doesn’t necessarily disagree, though he does bring up the fact that those classic games come from a different era in video games, having being released over ten years ago.
“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.”
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 will be released on PS4 and Xbox One on September 29, with releases on PS3 and Xbox 360 coming at a later date on November 10. The new generation console owners will be the only one’s to experience the “seamless” online multiplayer mode that allows up to 20 players to interact with each other at the same time.