Title: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Genre: Extreme Sports
Available On: PS4, Xbox, PC
Version Tested: PS4
Release Date: September 4, 2020
Skateboarding has always been a difficult genre for developers to truly capture, but one that’s seeing improvement. While basic in the early gaming era, these attempts at replicating the pros were quickly becoming realized. People like Tony Hawk, who was well on his way to becoming one of the most recognizable names in skating, trailblazed against the competition, making the spectacle of the sport much more engrossing. Developers were also proving to match more modern skating with titles like 2Xtreme and Street Sk8ter that took advantage of improving 3D graphic capabilities of the late 90s consoles. This culminated when Activision created a new skateboarding game surrounded by the fastest growing name in sports, Tony Hawk. The now infamous Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was released for the PlayStation in 1999 to critical acclaim.
Spawning such an expansive series and countless titles, THPS was a tremendous influence on the gaming industry and changed the way players thought about sports games. Now over 21 years later, developer Vicarious Visions has returned to the series. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 reintroduces the series to its former glory with a modern face-lift. It was clear the series was in excellent hands to propel itself into the modern era of classic arcade skating. Joining the development in the 2000s as a port developer for handheld consoles primarily, Vicarious Visions has quite the history with THPS. Now with a bigger and better library of releases, they’ve taken that expertise into transforming the older release into something much more than just an HD reboot.
A Souped Up Shredding Experience in THPS
With a series as decadent and decorated as the Tony Hawk franchise, returning to the originals is a surefire way to bring that nostalgic bliss alongside classic skating. While other remakes in the past have tried to replicate that classic Tony Hawk feeling, Vicarious Visions nails that skating, grinding goodness that made the original so addicting. Where THPS HD and THPS 5 made the gameplay more sterile in favor of ease of play, THPS 1+2 returns that fast-paced combo potential the originals just didn’t have. While you still have to get your balance and adjust to modern controls, the gameplay shares much with the fluidity of the originals. The expanded move set skaters have makes the original levels a breeze to play through again. It makes areas like Downtown San Francisco and The Big Apple New York much larger, thus offering more trick variety. This, coupled with a variety of legendary skaters across history, is great versatility and respect paid to the sport.
While other skating titles have innovated on skating’s realism. there’s no denying how fun it is to effortlessly dole out tricks on the street. One of the simple joys in games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is the need to be a combo king. Stringing together a million point combo across the map after learning its ins and outs is a joy. It only adds to the complete experience when you unlock challenges and achievements by landing crazy tricks, not to mention how it further levels your character to unlock cosmetics. It’s such an intuitive gameplay loop that improves upon the addictiveness of the game itself. It truly innovates on the original time trial aspect in a way that makes players more invested in leveling up and customizing their skater. With so many customization options, the character creation tool is well built to create a character that’s unique to you.
You can expect that classic leaderboard action too. Proving your superiority over your friends by crushing an easy half a million combo never gets old. The series has been known for several modes like the fireball chucking firefight mode in THPS Underground that is so iconic of that local multi-player feeling. While you can play alongside someone on the same screen, its appeal hasn’t aged well. It’s a fun inclusion to skate with friends, but that lack of an online environment hinders the experience.
If you want to shake up the experience for single-player, the title reintroduces the game mods for no bails and perfect balancing. There are even unlockable mods for giant and tiny skater modes that are, quite frankly, hilarious. In an era where cheat codes and secret mods to games are a bygone era, it’s an excellent show of faith to see that feature perfectly replicated and remastered. While the original titles had so much re-playability put into them, the remastered versions turned them into absolute gems. These refinements and incentives to keep coming back are some of the best parts of the series.
Re-textured and Remixed to Brilliance
Often, remakes are seen as an easy way of re-using nostalgia to sell a shameless port. Previous ports have shown that the assumption is well earned. Titles like Pro Skater HD in 2012 were on the right track with rebooting the franchise until it ultimately stumbled again in 2015 with THPS 5’s shoddy reception. Yet, there’s no questioning the status of THPS 1+2 as a true rebuild of the original’s inception. Everything looks and feels crisp, with great attention to environmental detail. There’s clear effort shown in remaking the characters and locations as proper graphical tuneups to go nicely with the new Unreal Engine.
Compared to the original remake, improvements are clear and noticeable even from the warehouse demos. It reflects the care in preserving the original art style by enhancing previous work rather than reselling assets. One of my all-time favorite levels is the Mall and its atmosphere has been translated perfectly from the full parking garage, dilapidated coffee spots, and even the overgrowth creeping through the floor paneling. It captures the original THPS mood so well and with such accuracy that it never ceases to impress.
Even the original soundtrack is preserved, with most of the classic songs fans have come to love. Booting the game up and listening to Goldfinger’s Superman is so nostalgic and symbolic of the series’ history. Despite the lyrics being censored, mostly, all the musical vibes and rhythms transfer so well. Perfectly built around the era it existed in, the musical tracks have aged perfectly with the gameplay. Riding alongside Dead Kennedys Police Truck is a joy to hear and play again two decades later. There’s also a decent collection of newer music from the 90s onward to freshen up the experience. I would’ve liked to see a wider selection of newer songs, but the original soundtrack being preserved overshadowed this fact.
Verdict: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is a great remaster of two timeless classics, revived and rebuilt to perfection. With great progression to encourage and improve, replayability makes the shredding much more worth the bragging rights. Aside from only including the best from the original games, it leaves players wanting remakes of the THPS archive more.
- Addicting gameplay
- Preserved content
- Low cost for the value
- Weak online experience
- Censored music
- No photo mode