Systems: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC | Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions | Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Tony Hawk always seemed destined for big things in the skateboarding community. Going pro at only 14 years of age, he would go on to become the NSA’s World Champion for over a decade & would regularly compete in skateboarding competitions throughout the 80s & 90s. His success & popularity would only grow thanks to an extreme sports event known as the X Games. Representing the USA at its inaugural event in 1995, Tony would go on to win gold in its first ever Vert singles competition. At its 1999 event in San Francisco, he became the first-ever skateboarder to successfully execute a 900-degree rotational aerial spin; becoming a key highlight in Tony’s career and in the sport.
Skateboarding had been growing in popularity since the late 80s & with another surge occurring in the 90s, spurred by the likes of Hawk, several companies acknowledged this trend; including Sega, EA & Activision. Whilst the former two got a head-start, Activision would team up with studio Neversoft to create a skateboarding title that was both fun & offered a sense of realism. To help, Activision would contact Hawk to request his help on a consultation basis. Impressed by what he saw, he agreed to offer his input & the lending of his name.
In late 1999, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was officially released on the PlayStation & proved to be a successful hit. The series would continue this trend; releasing a number of successful sequels, including its 2nd entry being ranked #2 in Metacritic’s list of Best Video Games of All-Time. The series began to take a slight shift in the mid-00’s with a number of gameplay changes & choices, which garnered mixed opinions. This would only be further compounded when the licence was handed over to studio Robomodo in 2008.
Their initial idea of creating a skateboard controller alongside its games proved to be unpopular, as the series further broke away from its roots. Robomodo would present & implement remaking the first two Pro Skater games in the HD era, but the game suffered from some mechanical issues, questionable visuals and lacked certain features. The final straw came with the release of THPS 5, which featured several game-breaking bugs & required an 8GB Day One patch just to make it somewhat playable.
After abandoning the series for several years, Activision would give studio Vicarious Visions an opportunity to reboot the franchise. With their work on previous ports for Hawk’s games & their recent success with the Crash Bandicoot reboot, it showed promise & today, we’ll find out if this was the right call. Today, I give you my review of the 3rd attempt to remaster of the first two original Tony Hawk games; known as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Let’s break it down!
As soon as you power on the game & greeted with its montage of featured skateboarders, backtracked by Rage Against The Machine, you’ll be instantly thrown back to the turn of the century. The game plays exactly like its former titles; offering a Skate Tour for you to explore levels from each game’s back catalogue, containing various objectives for you to complete. Most of these levels are free-to-roam sessions with a 2 minute time limit, whilst others play out as competitions. Completing a select number of goals helps you advance through each level.
There are 19 levels to unlock; set in various locations across North America and Europe; from cities to schools & warehouses. All of them are featured in the original games & have been been given a drastic makeover to fit in the high definition era. Graphically, each level offers a near-perfect rendition of the original levels with some very minor additions thrown in, which showcase their detail & vibrancy with great effect. Even environmental effects such as lighting, shadows and textures are all rendered beautifully & never feel plastered on. One notable change is that the number of objectives for THPS1 levels has been expanded from 5 to 10; to fit in line with the format of its sequels.
The roster features an assortment of skaters; old and new. We see the return of familiar faces (such as Bob Burnquist, Jamie Thomas, Rodney Mullen, Buck Lasek & Chad Muska), whilst bringing in the new generation of pro-skaters including Nyjah Huston, Leo Baker, Tyshawn Jones, Aori Nishimura & Riley Hawk; some of which have featured previously in the series. All have been rendered effectively into the game; both in terms of their appearance and movements in-game, further complementing its sense of visual realism.
There are also a couple of secret characters to unlock, for those who are dedicated enough to the task. This includes the return of a particular police officer who, on this time around, looks an awful lot like a particular actor/rock musician (hmmmm...). The slight downside is that the game modes do not offer any unique gameplay changes for playing under different characters, however this does fit in with the format of the original games & there are character-specific challenges that can be completed.
One of the big positives noted by fans of the franchise was its soundtrack. It would introduce players to a range of tracks from the genres of ska, punk, rock and rap. Once again, this game delivers a fantastic arrangement of the fresh & familiar. Old school fans can enjoy most of the game’s original songs which include the likes of Bad Religion, Dead Kennedys, Anthrax, Lagwagon, The Vandals, Goldfinger & more. We also see new tracks provided by Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, MxPx, Zebrahead, Machine Gun Kelly & Skepta amongst others.
The playlist is stacked with songs that fit perfectly with the game's fast-paced arcade experienced. If you prefer a particular genre or selection of tracks, the game’s playlist feature allows you to disable songs at whim. The game’s sound effects are also given noted attention; featuring a number of reactive expressions from our skaters & a number of familiar sound bites from past games, to further spur the nostalgia factor.
Gameplay & controls feel both familiar & smooth, allowing fans of the originals to jump in like no time has passed. All your favourite move types are back; including grab, kick & lip tricks, grind moves, manuals, change of stance, reverts and transfers. Even special trick combinations from the classics are even retained here, making for satisfying moments; notably when I remembered The 900 button combination & saw it play out before my eyes. You can also assign special moves to your character, offering customisation to your preferred choice of combinations.
The default controls resemble those of THPS 4, which I believe is the right choice given that certain gameplay features (such as manuals & multiple kick tricks) were not included in the original games. For those craving the feel of the classic controls, there is a choice in the Settings that allows you to player with either THPS 1 or THPS 2 controls, if desired. Whilst certain past features in the series such as walking & the Nail-a-Move option are not present, their absence didn’t derail my experience. There were also no notable bugs during my playthrough (this was after applying the version 1.04 update).
The game also includes a multitude of optional challenges, which sees you completing various trick combinations & minor objectives with some for certain modes or characters. These can be easily pinned to help you achieve these goals & builds up your experience; allowing you to unlock various items. Although they were never my primary focus, they were a nice added touch that offer further replay value after completing the game’s core mode. There are also some fun game mods to unlock; including various assist features, stat alterations & the option to change your skater’s size.
“Look! A giant hawk!” “...No, not the bird, the giant man!”
Although certain items can be unlocked, there are a large number that need to purchased. Luckily, this is all maintained through in-game currency that does not involve any micro-transactions. Successful skating runs & completion of challenges will earn you dollars that you can use to purchase items in its in-game store; ranging from clothing items to boards, logos & assets for its Create-a-Park mode. Except for the latter, all items can be used to customise your custom characters & feature a number of brands popular in the skateboarding community.
We also see the return of a number of fan-favourite modes. Local co-op allows you to play in 2-player split screen with classic modes such as Graffiti, Tag & Horse returning to the fold. Create-A-Park also makes a return, giving you the opportunity to create your own skate parks in one of 5 environments with the option to publish your park online, for others to experience & for you to explore other people’s creations. Most importantly, Create-a-Skater is back with a sufficient number of options to give your skater a unique look; including the choice & customisation of their appearance, clothing & boards.
Finally, there is an online multiplayer mode that offers two experiences; Jams and Competitive. These allow you play against up to 7 additional players in casual environments or in competitive situations to be the top ranked. Objectives include reaching high scores, combo scores and various other objectives.
There are however a few minor things I picked up on. First, the experience was rather short; only taking me 5-6 hours to finish both campaigns & max out my playable character’s stats. Also, most of the challenges felt rather easy to complete but as someone who has played numerous Hawk games in this past, this maybe due to my experience. There was also no option to reset the Skate Tour mode to replay the level challenges again. However, this can be disregarded as there is a Speed Run mode that allows you to try and complete all of a level’s objectives with no time limit; just a challenge to see if you can complete them all in the quickest time.
The only visual thing that I noted was the water effects. For example in the Downhill Jam level, I was hoping to see the water treacle down its structures or at least get the skaters wet. I know it sounds incredibly minuscule and whilst the nature of its objectives is arcade-based, it would’ve been nice to see this extra level of detail but again, it wasn’t a detractor. I did notice that puddles did react when running through them, but it appeared only to be focused in this instance.
Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience & felt compelled to complete all of the level goals that were set out. Whilst most challenges were simple & with items pretty much in their identical locations to the originals, some still challenged my memory, exploration and optic skills that I found to be very pleasurable.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 honours the games that help build the foundation of this series over 2 decades ago. By combining nostalgic gameplay with the beauty of its recreated levels, it effectively brings these games into the modern era. Whilst it doesn’t provide much innovation in the franchise, it acts as a much-needed reset button that sticks to its core elements, ultimately work positively in its favour.
Gameplay is slick, its presentation brings life to these classic levels & its soundtrack perfectly compliments you along the way, introducing me to news artists & those I’ve not heard in some time. Although its core mode is quick to complete, its easy to start up & enjoy a session; whether it be for a quick 5 minutes or 5 hours. Plus its ample side challenges can preoccupy you with an sufficient excuse to keep playing; notably for those secret characters!
The game does come at the end of this console generation life-cycle but luckily with backwards compatibility confirmed for both major consoles, it ensures people can still enjoy these games if they make the switch. This of course does not apply to PC gamers, who continue worry-free.
Vicarious Visions have breathed life back into this beloved franchise & provide a throwback experience to fans, whilst simultaneously opening the series to new gamers. Whilst it's still early days if this is the start of a full reboot of the series, it's certainly a promising start. Due to its already noted success in the UK, I can realistically see a 2nd game being made that focuses on remaking THPS 3 & 4. If this is the case, I would happily invest in the game based on this experience alone.
If you have stored your virtual skateboard away, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a perfect opportunity to go grab it, dust off the cobwebs & hit the ramp.