“So here I am, growing older all the time, looking older all the time, feeling younger in my mind.”
I wouldn’t consider myself old by any means, but I was the prime audience when the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was released. Its mere existence introduced a sense of cool that was sorely lacking in my only-child existence. Pulling trick after trick to the supposed counter-cultural tunes of yesteryear completely opened a new world soaked with Redbull and Ska. The series was so popular in the early 2000s that it not only formed our idea of a skateboarding game but also morphed the very sport itself.
Growing up in a time where kickflips were currency, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series holds a special place in my embittered, shriveled gamer heart. A recent addition to the series in 2015 pretty much buried hopes of a full series renewal, but after Vicarious Visions breathed new life into the Crash Bandicoot series, there was a glimmer of hope. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (2020) remake is rekindling the skating genre as well as the desire (and inability) of 30-something-year-old men to gap the rails in front of their local Home Depot.
At first glance, the gameplay feels in line with the previous iterations in the series. Grinding feels just right, and flip and grab tricks seem to click in at the right moment. Honestly, it’s impressive how they translated and adapted the feel of the series to 2020 standards. Coming back to the originals feels a lot slower and less precise, and doesn’t quite meet the speed and fluidity of current gen gaming. The more sped up elements, including the bail animation, have translated my romanticized history of the series gameplay into a fleshed out and functional remake.
Thankfully for purists and newcomers alike, there are options to tune the game to whatever level of Tony Hawk “purity” you desire. Vicarious Visions recognized that vets have a certain level of comfort with series additions such as the manual, wall plant, revert, and even movesets, and the game allows you to customize them as you see fit. Being able to switch from the default THPS3/4 controls to those from the first two games is surprisingly easy and allows you to reclaim the true early-series gameplay feel. Modifications for grinding and manual balance can also be enabled to help the younger/newer audience slide their way in. These small touches show the legwork that Vicarious Visions has taken to make sure that old and new fans can find themselves in this remake.
The real divergence from the original games is the Challenge and XP systems. Adding onto the arcadey goals of the original (collect SKATE, achieve the Pro Score) are cumulative accomplishments that build up over multiple sessions across multiple characters. These new challenges include: pulling off specific tricks on a map, grinding a specific amount, manualling for a certain amount of time, etc. This modern system deals with one of the biggest potential roadblocks for new and returning players alike: the two-minute session time limit. While some will feel weird about having a strict time limit, the progressive nature of the challenge system will make you feel like you’re always inching towards accomplishing something, regardless of your single-session success.
Speaking of sessions, the illustrious soundtrack helps support those short, frantic two-minute sessions more than ever. Having classics such as Anthrax & Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” and “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver” from Primus mixed in with newer selections like Reel Big Fish’s “She’s Famous Now” feels like a continuation of the playlist rather than an addition. On offer is a wide range of songs that not only support the rapid gameplay but also bring you back to the late ’90s with a consistent tone and feeling. Also, I genuinely appreciate the ability to skip through the playlist to get that prime high score while mouthing the words to Rage Against the Machine’s “Guerilla Radio.”
Admittedly, online play is only passably okay. I’d be remiss if I said it’s an absolute game-breaker for me. The online mode is what it is, and I’m okay with it. There are two main tiers (Jam and competitive) that split casual gamers from the diehard competitive crowd in modes such as Trick Attack, Combo Challenge, etc. There’s nothing particularly grand to write about here as hardcore fans will find their niche and casual players will get a decent, but short-lived experience. Online play is nothing to write home about, but it is a decent add-on to a series of games that weren’t originally built with that in mind.
Create a Skater and Create a Park is also included, and while neither of them meets the complexity and scope of the previous releases, they’re decent enough. By no means is this the bread and butter of the game, but its a nice addition for those looking for the customizable elements that the series was known for. THUG pro (a mod community for Tony Hawk’s Underground 2) and some dedicated players should be able to pull some magic out of these features.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is a great homage to the original skate series and its signature arcade-style gameplay, and it’s a good introduction to the series for a generation of gamers that missed its peak. Its signature soundtrack, quality-of-life improvements, and thoughtful recreation of classic levels is a solid adaptation that largely recreates the feel of the original without being confined by it. While the game will appeal to the Dorito-scrapped pallets of the original audience, its dated (no fault of its own) arcade structure might be a harder sell for audiences familiar with the later installments in the series or those coming in completely green. Regardless of where Activision sees the series going, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 shows the age of this series in the best possible light.
Reviewed on Playstation 4