It's becoming increasingly difficult to get excited about Tony Hawk. Every year we get the same game with crazy new goals and some gimmicky new ability that's supposed to make everything feel different. Usually it doesn't and Tony Hawk's Obligatory Release ends up getting tossed away until the next one comes. It's this continuous cycle that makes Downhill Jam actually stand out from the mainline series.
The open worlds of previous games are gone. No more roaming about Los Angeles or abandoned schoolyards looking for skating goals to complete - instead, it's all about speed, reaching the goal first and still managing to bust out enough tricks to keep the point lead. Trying to nail a series of mid-air tricks as you ramp off the ridiculous San Francisco hills is a huge rush, supercharged even more by the knowledge that there are three skaters on your tail at all times, each taking a different path down the course.
Taking the series' explorative gameplay away might seem like a backwards step, but the focus on racing let the developers create a fresh product that still has the Tony feel. Flip tricks, grinds, grabs, verts, they're all here to help charge a boost meter that’s activated by shaking the remote. Tricks are easy enough to perform, but getting used to the motion controls takes some time. You have to tilt the remote to spin in the air, something that flies in the face of everything you've learned as a gamer. The temptation to use the D-pad for midair rotation is a nasty habit you'll fight for a good while.