Let’s assume for a moment that you’ve been living in some sort of perpetual darkness your entire life with no access to the Internet, game consoles or even a toilet. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is a skateboarding game that’s all about arcadey thrills and spills as you link together tricks into increasingly absurd combos. For millions of people, myself firmly included, the Tony Hawk series was a childhood staple that helped drive interest in skateboarding and introduced kids to some of the greatest music to ever grace a video game. To this day Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is one of the highest rated games ever, a classic among classics. Sadly the Tony Hawk game empire crumbled eventually, with Robomodo taking over from Neversoft and doing a bloody awful job it, culminating in the crappy Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 and a naff attempt to remaster the first game. But now Vicarious Visions are taking a stab at bringing both of the first two Hawk games back to life in this remake, and I’m happy to report Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is both a nostalgia filled trip down memory lane and a bloody awesome game for anybody looking to jump into Pro Skater for the first time.
By far the most important factor in the early Tony Hawk titles was the indescribably brilliant way they felt to play. It’s something Robomodo failed to properly understand in their attempts after taking over from Neversoft. Vicarious Visions have made no such mistake, basing their physics off of some of the original Tony Hawk coding. It is perhaps just the teensiest bit heavier in terms of momentum, but otherwise Tony Hawk 1+2 instantly feel familiar, letting you tap into those hundreds of hours of built-up muscle memory. Ollies, flips, grabs, grinds and gaps feel perfect. And Vicarious Visions didn’t stop there, importing in mechanics from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 and 4 to augment the gameplay. Reverts, transfers, wallplants and lip-tricks are all included, sitting Tony Hawk 1+2 right at the pinnacle of Tony Hawk gameplay without become bloated like some of the later games did. I’m also happy to say that the bloody irritating big drop mechanic from Pro Skater 2 has been tossed out of the window.
If you’re an absolute purist though, and can’t handle the idea of being to revert in the Warehouse’s half-pipe then fear not because there are options to reduce the controls to either of the first two game’s more limited moveset.
I can’t even begin to describe just how good it feels to rack up massive combos. and how devastating it is when you push things a little too far and lose it all. The core gameplay loop is incredibly addictive, and kept me coming back time after time after time. And the fact that it’s all running at a rock-steady 60FPS makes it all the better. Watching videos of the original games, it’s hard to believe we used to skate around with such a dodge framerate. And the way the level design still holds up and encourages flowing combos is simply excellent.
Pro Skater and Pro Skater 2 are divided into two tours on the main menu, but all your progress carries back and forth, so stat points you earn in Pro Skater, for example, will still apply throughout all of the Pro Skater 2 levels. When you jump into a level you get 2:00-minutes on the clock and a list of objectives to complete, like collecting letters to form the word SKATE, achieving high scores, pulling of specific tricks and finding the special hidden tape. This is the classic Hawk formula, and while I suppose some people might hate only having a few minutes on the clock, for me that little timer is essential to the action. It pushes you to squeeze in as many flips, grabs, grinds, manuals, reverts and liptricks as possible, pushing every combo to the absolute maximum. Complete enough objectives and you’ll unlock the next location. Simple.
At first, is one of the few areas where Vicarious Visions missed a trick; once you had cleared a level’s objectives, that was it. There was no way to reset the objectives, robbing the game of some potential extra replay value. However, I’m happy to say that since launching a new Solo Tour mode was added. When you select this, each skater on the roster can go through the entire tour with all the objectives reset, perfect for those that like to go back and do it all again. Or you can play normally, with progress in tours carrying over from skater to skater.
If you want a break from the clock counting down toward your inevitable demise then there’s a couple of options worth checking out. Speed Run tasks you with completing every single objective in a level as quickly as you possibly can, the clock only stopping as soon as you wrap up the final objective. It’s a cool idea and I enjoyed going back and seeing if I could create seamless lines to grab every collectible while racking up enough points. There are leaderboards for this too, but sadly they are tracked separately from career mode, so if you accidently wind up executing a stunning running in a tour it doesn’t count for anything. That’s a shame, because most of the time when I did something amazing it wasn’t planned.
With both of the first two games in the package that means you get a total of 19 levels. The basic layouts for each one doesn’t seem to have been touched at all, so all the original combo lines and point scoring opportunities are there and ready to be abused. However, graphically they’ve been completely overhauled, a true far cry from their original short draw distances and blocky visuals that we thought looked so amazing back in the day. The Mall is a prime example of the new style, now a dilapidated, abandoned building full of grime, trash and a billion little details. As you skate through the food court, hit a nosegrind on the coffee rail and take a leap of faith off the balcony it looks like 20-years have actually passed, the entire mall slowly being ground down by the passing of time until it resembles something from a Zombie movie or The Last of Us. The new lighting really helps bring the levels to life as well, especially in the Venice level where the setting sun really helps set the mood. Shame that level still sucks, though. And yes, you can fight me on that one. As for Hangar, it now feels like a shrine to the original developers at Neversoft, which feels fitting.
All of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 levels have had new objectives added to them, bringing them more inline with the sequel. They’ve also had objectives tweaked because otherwise getting that Sick score while being able to revert and transfer would be insultingly easy. There’s also Platinum scores to aim for if you fancy a challenge, too.
Some things have been altered, removed and tweaked. Take the stat points used to improve your skaters; now they’re collectibles strewn around the levels, giving you even more reason to replay locations. Money is no longer found in the levels and instead gets earned by completing challenges, although with wads of cash no longer acting like breadcrumbs to tempt players there are certain gaps which have become harder to find. And blood has been removed entirely, taking away the brutal feel of bailing, presumably to help make Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 more kid friendly.
The extensive list of challenges are where a lot of dedicated players will look too because you can blitz through all the levels in just a few hours. By completing challenges you earn cash and experience, as well as some wicked new boards to ride. Some of these challenges are pretty damn difficult, too. What I like is that insane number of challenges and all the unlockable gear for your custom skater are all entirely optional. They don’t effect the experience of the original two games at all, so purists can still jump in and just enjoy the classic Tony Hawk feel with the wealth of challenges and customization stuff existing for those that want to spend more time with the game while still also having specific things to skate toward.
The entire original roster of skaters have been brought back with brand new character models for each of them, too. On top of that, there’s 8 entirely new skaters added into the mix, and both them and the original cast get specific challenges to complete. But if you don’t like the goons and goonettes on offer you can always jump into Create-A-Skater and build something that resembles yourself. There’s a extensive array of clothes and boards to wear, but the vast majority of it requires cash to buy and a high enough level to unlock, which could be frustrating if you want to start playing straight away with a custom skater. All in all, creating a custom skater is…fine. This is one of the few things Vicarious Visions feel like they skimped on. There’s no accessory options, for example, so you can’t stick on some fancy shades and a posh watch. And because they’ve gone with real-life clothing brands there’s absolutely no crazy apparel options, unlike other Tony Hawk titles where you could get some pretty elaborate stuff to wear.
Create-A-Park is a different story. There are some missteps like a lack of unique items or useful premade things such as buildings and cars – and for some reason you can’t make gaps in your levels or create objectives – but otherwise the toolset on offer is easy to use yet flexible enough to create some wicked custom parks. If you’re willing to sink in enough time you can even cobble together your own buildings and stuff for set dressing, even if they do end up looking a bit weird. Having had a few months to experiment, plan and craft the community has come out with some amazing places to skate. Hell, some dedicated fans have even recreated levels from other Tony Hawk games in the editor, spending countless hours building classic spots for us to enjoy.
If there was one other thing that was as important to the Tony Hawk game as the way they play then it was the banging soundtrack that introduced my naive ass to a bunch of classics like Killing in the Name of from Rage Against the Machine. Impressively, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 has managed to bring back the all but three of the songs for our listening pleasure. Vicarious Visions have also added a bunch of new songs into the mix, nearly doubling the size of the original list of tunes. Not all of them are winners in my very subjective opinion but they all fit nicely into the feel of the original soundtrack, and just like back in the day I’ve found myself learning about a couple of new bands.
All of the original multplayer modes are back and you can still play them locally with friends, so that’s awesome. Equally awesome though, is the fact that you can also play online, too, and Vicarious Visions have fleshed out the multplayer suite a fair bit since launch. There’s now a Free Skate option, for example, so you can just kick back with other people and have a good time, or you can compete in skate jams for the highest points, or combo competitions and more. It’s not the most fleshed out multiplayer suite but it’s still a lot of fun to head online and discover that all the Hawk skills you thought you had are nothing more than farts in the wind compared to the legion of folk playing online who appear to have never stopped playing the games ever day since the 90’s.
If there’s one final thing to criticise, it’s the lack of a replay mode or photo mode. Even the very first Tony Hawk game had a basic but functional replay mode so that you could admire your many cock-ups, so it’s a shame that Vicarious Visions didn’t keep that in, Hell, they could have even updated to bring it inline with later Pro Skater iterations which gave players basic video editing tools so that you could create skate movies.
It might have taken several attempts over the years to get right, but we finally have a truly worthy remake of the first two Tony Hawk games that can stand as both a testament to how awesome and influential the originals were, and stand as a bloody awesome game in its own right in 2020. This is as close to a perfect remake as I can imagine, balancing the need to stay true to source material while also not being afraid to make some changes for the better. The end result is a joy to play, a real pleasure from start to finish. It’s astounding how well the gameplay and level design holds up, how fun it is to control. Going forward, I’m excited about potentially seeing Pro Skater 3 + 4, or a proper sequel if Vicarious Visions feel like they’re able to nail the level design so that we can all finally put Pro Skater 5 out of our minds.
Faithfully recreates the amazing controls and feel of the originals.
Fantastic graphical update.
Addictive to play.
Create-A-Skater is a bit limited.
Bailing during an epic combo.