Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam - hands-on

Ourfirst exposureto Downhill Jam's hilly raceways left us confused and concerned. The open environments were gone, replaced by all-downhill tracks that focused more on speed than busting out tricks. Upgradeable skaters had also disappeared, removing the satisfaction of slowly customizing your own character throughout the game. But perhaps worst of all, simply pulling off the signature Tony flips, grabs and grinds was a pain, thanks to only three buttons on the Wii controller - one of which was the trigger, a button that couldn't possibly be in a more awkward position when holding the remote sideways. Keeping tabs on the motion-controlled racing while speeding through San Francisco's busiest streets was more frustrating than fun.

Luckily, our latest hands-on time with the racer fared much better. The trigger button is totally optional and no longer mapped to perform grab tricks, more details about the races have been revealed and even the graphics look a bit sharper than the E3 version from a few months ago. And most importantly, more quality time with the remote made it much easier to re-learn this long-lived franchise.

Like you'd expect, tilting the remote left or right steers the skater. Hitting button 2 ollies, and once in the air you can press 2 again for grab tricks or hit button 1 for flip tricks. The d-pad, which rests under your thumb, modifies each flip or grab, just like the standard Tony games - up and 1 does one trick, left and 1 does another and so on. All the moves are open from the start, however, so if you liked acquiring skills over time, no such luck here.