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Xbox One, PS4, PC
September 4, 2020
Vicarious Visions, Neversoft
Strap on your elbow and knee pads, the Birdman is back with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Vicarious Visions flashes back to the late 90s/early 2000s to rejuvenate the first two beloved games in skateboarding series. With all the familiar faces and places making an appearance, new tricks, modes, customisation, and revamped physics warp this remake into the modern realm. Following the absolute tragedy of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, does THPS1+2 finally do everything it can or is it just pretending to be a Superman?
First thing you see is the older spinning Activision logo and, what may be the cherry on top, an intro skate video. Literally ten seconds into starting the game you are flooded with a nostalgic warmth and you know they’ve done the series justice. From here, players can jump straight into a tutorial narrated by Tony Hawk himself, drop right into the single-player sessions, create a skater or park, or tally up seven-figure trick scores in online multiplayer. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll sit down with a friend and laugh over some couch co-op HORSE. Players can instantly play whatever they want with no limitations besides progression unlocks.
That’s the first thing that this remake does right. Vicarious Visions go above and beyond in refining the Tony Hawk experience for the current-gen. From bursting through the wooden doors of the Warehouse, every sweet memory comes rushing back like 2015 never happened. For fans, you’ll notice small easter eggs like the dates on the collectable tapes or the cheats and secret levels/skaters. Some remakes have an outdated design that sneaks into the latest version; THPS1+2 is a nostalgia bomb without the flak.
It’s a classic experience without the disappointingly dated gameplay or mechanics. The game features tricks from later Tony Hawk games, keeping it fresh and adding another layer to combos. Spine transfers and reverts return to help put together amazing lines. The wall plant stands out, allowing skaters to easily chain together huge combos and quickly build unimaginable scores. The gameplay is silky smooth and chaotically fast with a rebuilt physics system that once again echoes the treasured memories of playing this series for the first time.
In the single-player campaign, you’ll skate through each stage completing classic objectives, like achieving ridiculous scores, collecting the SKATE letters and secret tape, and nailing certain gaps or tricks. Once completing enough of each stage’s checklist, the next one will unlock. Playing through the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 and 2 levels like this showcases the intricacies of each. You drop in each level as a grommet and after a while master the lines best to rack up a high score on the leaderboards.
Admittedly, some stages are a little more dated than others. Mall, for example, is a tedious linear stage that resets to the top once you get to the end. These are the ones that didn’t hold up back in 1999 and 2000, and still don’t now. It’s a shame more attention wasn’t given to these levels for the better but there is plenty of work put into other parts of THPS1+2.
“It’s honestly outstanding to see an arcade skateboarding game make such a large step forward while other AAA releases still struggle.”
The new Create-a-Skater and Create-a-Park features allow players to customise their skater and stages to make their mark. Skaters are upgraded by collecting Stat Points in sessions and customised by unlocking new apparel at the Skate Shop. I know what you’re thinking – but don’t stress, there are zero microtransactions. All clothing, boards, and objects for parks are unlocked through levelling up and completing challenges and bought with in-game cash. The old-school way.
While the Create-a-Skater is quite basic at its core, it does something incredibly progressive that should be standard across all games. There are no sex or gender options when making your character. Instead, you choose a preset face and change your looks, clothes, and voice. Removing sex and gender options means players can build whoever they want without feeling alienated. This reflects THPS1+2’s inclusion of Leo Baker, one of the new playable professional skaters and history’s first-ever non-binary athlete in a video game. It’s honestly outstanding to see an arcade skateboarding game make such a large step forward while other AAA releases still struggle.
From score attacks to free skate modes, skating online with friends is about as close as we’ll get to the real thing right now. It’s fun and works well, with occasional rubber-banding skateboarders and frame rate drops on a base PS4. However, it is very barebones in its current state. With just a few game modes and limited social features, there’s not much to it besides bragging rights. Most leaderboards are already riddled by exploited glitches. Luckily, playing offline on a couch with your friends next to you is the same adored experience from yesteryear. There’s something magical about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and local multiplayer that can’t be beaten. It’s the local multiplayer game of the year.
It wouldn’t be an old-school skating game without a stellar soundtrack, and THPS1+2 delivers. Inviting the ol’ ska-punk and hip-hop favourites back for another go alongside many great new tracks make for a rad playlist. It includes Rage against the Machine and Dead Kennedys with a surprising number of Australian acts like DZ Deathrays and A. Swayze and the Ghosts. Not only is it great to see some local bands get global recognition but this playlist is the best of both modern and past skating anthems.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is a remake the series truly deserved. While it isn’t a completely brand-new experience and relies a lot on nostalgia, it does introduce terrific modern additions. Unmistakably, this an arcade game through and through. If you don’t enjoy replaying the same levels purely to chase the dopamine rush of setting high scores, then this isn’t the game for you. For everyone else, new tricks, restored stages, a multiplayer as fun as you remember, a killer soundtrack, and fluid skating easily make THPS1+2 a must-buy for fans. Throw in that this Tony Hawk game actually works and this game is already miles ahead than the series’ last entry and easily one of the best remakes in recent memory.