Once upon a time, a small-time developer called Neversoft got the chance to work with skateboarding legend Tony Hawk to bring the thrill of skateboarding to the homes of PlayStation, Dreamcast, and Nintendo 64 owners all around the world. What they put out was something that was simulation mixed with arcade action that took the world by storm. A year later, Neversoft took what they had learned from THPS and turned the follow up into one of the all-time highest-rated video games, with only Zelda: Ocarina of Time being considered the better game. After shitting the bed with Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 and leaving the franchise to gaming limbo for 5 years, the franchise returns with a remaster of the first two games to bring a whole new generation into the skating lifestyle.
Name: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2
Platform(s): Xbox One, PC, & PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Game Type: Extreme sports
Mode(s): Single-Player, Multiplayer Local, Multiplayer Online
Release Date: September 4, 2020
What’s The Haps Bruh? (General information)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or were born before the great skating resurgence in the late 1990s/early 2000s, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (or THPS for short) was the king of arcade-style skateboarding games. Long before everyone wanted to make everything “authentic” and “simulation” style in games, we would start up a game of THPS and compete for high scores using insane looking combinations of flips and grabs to make huge scores to brag about to our friends and in gaming magazines. The controls were simple, using directions and a single button to do what we need to do in order to get those scores. Back then we didn’t care about how accurate the moves were (though they were captured really well and looked correct) and if the physics were realistic, we wanted to get higher than humanly possible doing 1080 degree twisting Jesus Christ air-grabs before dropping into a 50-50 grind into a heelflip combo. Sure it made no sense, but it was fun. Sports games have forgotten that in the quest to be real and authentic.
Luckily THPS1+2 doesn’t forget what made the games great in the past, keeping most of the original games intact and just adding an updated graphical look to the game and that’s really it. But that’s not to say that this is just a straight-up remastered port of the best two skateboarding games in history, there have been some changes made here and there. Since this is a sort-of update to the game, some of the old generations are gone, with some newer generation pro-skaters taking the places of those who did not survive the license transition, those who did transfer over like Chad Muska, Kareem Campbell & Elissa Steamer have all been given updated character models, making them much like they do today than they did back in the day; and considering that the full THPS1 & THPS2 roster (Only unlockable characters like Private Carrera & Spider-Man haven’t carried over. Officer Dick got a makeover thanks to the inclusion as Jack Black as the character) have moved into the newly remastered version, it’s a bit sad to see their older selves represented alongside the newer generation who stand out as in their prime.
Game mode wise you still have all the same things from the original THPS1 & THPS2 games. You run a single 2-minute session at each level, doing your best to do everything from high scores to collecting the letters that spell SKATE, secret hidden tapes, to other objectives specific to each level. Once you’re done with that 2-minute session, you’ll instantly want to load back into the level and try it once again. Outside of that, you can do two-player sessions where you face off against a friend via split-screen mode to see who can get the better score, to do trick combos in the Horse mode, or if you’re really wanting a challenge, you can jump online and try it against people from all around the world.
Finally, if you’re feeling creative, you can design your own skate park for other people to try. If you’re really creative you’ll build something that will rival some of the developers, but more than likely you’ll find that many people will use this mode to create troll courses made to frustrate you over and over again. After all, it’s the internet. On the other side of things you will still be able to upgrade and make custom skaters, but a word of caution, this shit is gated to hell. If you want to make the custom skater of your dreams, you’re going to have to make sure you hit all those challenges and get every stat point that you can find in order to unlock what you desire. Not to mention that everything from boards to clothing will also require a money aspect in order to unlock them, but luckily this money can be earned in-game only, so no microtransaction bullshit here.
Tricks Look Sick! (Graphics)
The main selling point of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is the updated graphics for the old games. As I mentioned above, the skaters have been given a graphical upgrade alongside their modern make-over. These new character models look good, but not too good. The upside is that each character is faithfully represented here, looking more like real humans than a blocky mess of polygons with low-resolution logos pasted on their shirts. However, the flip side to that is that with the returning characters from the original era, you can see that these guys and girls have changed (aka gotten older) and that makes them really stand out against the younger generation of newer skaters that have been included on the roster.
Of course, the main drawcard here is the remastered levels. All of the original levels from Warehouse, School, Hanger, Area-51, and more are all recreated here with a majority of their original level designs intact. So far the only levels to get any changes has been the Mall, but it’s more of a reflection of those types of malls today and the layout of the course is pretty much the same, and the Hanger has been given a small makeover with banners featuring all the different Tony Hawk video games from Neversoft and beyond all represented in sort-of a shrine to the original games that have led to this remaster. Otherwise, the levels look like modern versions of the locations they are based upon, right down to decades of graffiti layered up in the California-style beach level, complete with Ollie the Magic Bum returning too (and even he has had a graphical upgrade).
These levels look amazing with their upgrade, the graphical resolution and depth have been taken to a level that you would never have thought of when it comes to remastering video games. THPS1+2 stands right up there with other spectacular remasters like Bioshock when it comes to the upgrades it has received, but still far from the quality that a complete remake like Resident Evil 2 was given, but enough to make it stand out. Even the beginning video, which starts with a VHS fuzzy look leading into an HD widescreen recreation of the same footage with modern shots of the same locations. It’s this graphical upgrade, with its small touches, that makes THPS1+2 special in a way that it feels familiar, but at the same time feels new. However in some areas, you do notice a short-fall with the backgrounds being a bit too sparse of detail as the originals had fog to hide those limitations, now they are obvious and do need something more added to fill in some huge bare areas. (See the San Francisco bridge in the skyline of the screenshot below)
How Does She Handle? (Gameplay)
THPS1+2 is one of those games that use an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality when it comes to the gameplay. Sure, the main style is more taken from later entries like THPS3 and THPS:U (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater: Underground) in the use of the more complex and mixed nature of moves like lip grabs, wall grinds, wall hopping, and other mechanics, but it mixes them in so well that it keeps everything in the simple control scheme that people used back in the day. Also, for the purists out there, you can change the control style back to the original THPS and THPS2 styles if you want to, though they are limited in what you can do with each style. Honestly, using the default control style was easy enough to use that I didn’t want to use any other style. One thing I will say about all the control styles is that you will want to use the control pad for directions and tricks rather than the very sensitive thumb pads, which have a habit of not going in the right direction when you need them to at times.
There are two other things that will affect gameplay, the more obvious one comes from the old mechanic of stat increasing through the collection of stat tokens in each level alongside paying for the upgrades using the in-game currency that you collect. Increasing these stats will take your chosen skater from professional to god-like where you’ll be perfect at everything, making going through the game a lot easier. However, if you do not want to grind to get those stats increased, you can choose from a small selection of “mods” like no-bailing, perfect balance, always have special, and other mods to make the game easier in general for every skater, but be warned that when you choose to use a mod, everything is recorded on a special “mods used” leaderboard with reduced scores involved. THPS1+2 is a game where you have to be quick on the triggers and know your skills that are honed to perfection.
That Soundtrack! (Sound)
If there was one thing that really helped THPS & THPS2 stand out from every other sports game on the planet was the soundtrack, a soundtrack featuring both popular and up and coming artists from all different genres like rock, pop, jazz, and more. Most of these games have gone on to become smash hits worldwide, or at least constant rotation in-car CD players, for decades to come. Thankfully a majority of this soundtrack has returned (with the exception of 3 songs which you’ll never miss anyway) with a selection of new tracks added to flesh out the soundtrack to new insane levels of play. If you just want to relive the old days, you can do that by going through and sorting them by game and then disabling the new tracks from the list. However, with the inclusion of new tracks to the playlist I feel that there is a lost opportunity to have added other soundtracks from other THPS games in the series… I want my “Ace of Spades” damn it!
Sound effect wise, everything sounds pretty stock standard. Mostly you’ll hear a faint scrape of the wheels against the concrete as you move around the levels, with the sudden increase in tone and volume when you stop suddenly with a slide. The other thing that happens is that you will hear a record scratch when you bail on a trick, which is new to the series and makes it evident that you have done something to mess with your groove. However, this does get really damn annoying after a few sessions if you end up bailing often. So get those skills up and try not to bail so much!
Shred Again? (replay)
THPS1+2 is the game to get remasters right. Nothing was changed up to make the game fall in line with more modern iterations of the series, only the look of each level was made to look more realistic. This is how remasters should work, not messing with the core of what made the game fun, or trying to find some way to make extra money out of it with microtransactions or packs or some other bullshit scheme. This is THPS in its pure form and I’m thankful to be able to play these games once again. Every time I fire the game up I feel like a kid again, playing the game in my teenage years and wishing I could just stand on a skateboard, let alone do the tricks I was doing on screen. Sure there are some small flaws here and there, but those aren’t experience ruining at all, but more small nit-picks where I wish there was microscopic attention paid to the remaster process… Plus no Spider-Man?, even for the PS4 version? Come on Sony, let us get our grind on with our favorite wall-crawler! But if not, then having Jack Black as Officer Dick is good enough of a replacement.
As I write this review, I still have that grin on my face that comes from playing something really special. Though there is a lot of grind in this game, the game itself is still as addicting as it was back in the 1999/2000 era of gaming. Every 2-minute session is not enough, making you go back to the same level over and over again, looking for the last item or grind in order to get that last challenge done in the time limit before moving onto the next level in order to do it all over again. THPS1+2 makes sure you’re getting better with your skills with each session and making you feel proud of every moment you achieve, and none of it is “pay to win”. Once you get THPS1+2 into your console, you’ll have a hard time leaving it alone… And that’s long before you jump into the create-a-park feature where you can create anything your heart desires and then upload it to the internet to challenge the world.
From the moment I heard the familiar opening tune from Gorilla Radio begin alongside a grainy VHS era version of video footage featuring Tony Hawk flying on his board once again, I was hooked in by a wave of nostalgia that I haven’t had in years. A smile slowly spread across my face as I loaded up the Warehouse level from THPS1 and began skating around it like I was playing the original on my PlayStation once again. Sure, THPS3:HD was a thing, but this is completely different. From the gameplay being familiar but new to the looks being upgraded but the same, and the music rocking in my head, everything came together in a magical recreation of one of my favorite sports games from the PlayStation era. Sure there are some small things I did not like, but those are so small that it didn’t stop me from playing this over and over again, only stopping to write this review before returning to tackle more challenges and levels.
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Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 is the remaster that gets just about everything right. The graphics are amazing, the skaters are here from both games alongside some newer skaters from the modern era, the gameplay is lifted from the best games in the series with the option to customize things to your liking, and the music brings that good wave of nostalgia that the series is famous for. Though there are some missteps here and there, the remaster is right up there in the realm of the best remasters available for any video game. Working nostalgia into a very satisfying recreation of two of the best games in the genre is something that will have you smiling from game to game.
- The levels are given a graphics only upgrade
- Controls take the best from the series into one title
- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
- Create-A-Park is upgraded but easy to use
- Could have used less new tracks and more THPS tracks in the soundtrack
- Older skaters look old, too old at times
- Skylines look bare at times
- Long grinds for cosmetic items and unlocking levels