I have no idea how much time I spent with the first two Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games when they first came out. A group of us would get together regularly and spent hours hunting for gaps, figuring out high score runs, and looking for any possible way of linking moves. The first game was good, the second became something of a religion, to the point where out in the real world we’d start working out ludicrous jumps and impossible grinds. The games had a huge influence on us, letting us imagine for a time that we actually knew how to pull off kickflips and land a perfect 5-0 grind, yet managed to keep us grounded with the videos of horrendous injuries the real life skaters suffered with high speed bails. They were genre defining games that kept an essence of realism in an arcade experience that was there to make you feel cool, and went on to spawn countless clones in the extreme sports world. Now they’ve been remastered some 20 years on from the original release, can they bring up the same feeling the originals provoked?
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (an unwieldy title to type and say if there ever was one) is a straight up remaster of the original. Activision know what they’re doing here with the Spyro and Crash Bandicoot work recently. Take the originals, keep the layout and mechanics, update all the visuals, and bundle as much content together as seems right to make it appealing. Surprisingly for a company that’s known for trying to cash in, this approach has been pretty generous and it’s the same with their latest foray. Vicarious Visions have come in to do the overhaul though under the hood it’s still pure Neversoft. There are fancier menus and a few new tunes in the soundtrack, as well some obligatory online options for multiplayer and the Create-a-Park mode, but this is really the original games with a 4K/HDR makeover. Any worries about how it might handle and whether the rose tinted glasses of time might have a cracked lens are dispelled in the first couple of minutes – it’s impressive how well the gameplay still stands up.
If you haven’t ever played one of Neversoft’s original titles they work in general as timed stages with a series of goals to achieve to earn access to the next level. Each stage is a “real” world location that’s been setup to provide as many opportunities for skateboard hijinks as possible by packing in loads of jumps, quarter pipes and rails. The goals are split into score based and objective based so no matter your skill level there’s usually something to do to keep it feeling like you’re making progress. Objectives might be collecting the letters for S-K-A-T-E, performing a specific move in a specific place, or tracking down hidden items; and scores are self-explanatory… get the target high score, pro score, sick score and combo total. These are where the challenge comes in as getting to the targets means mastering routes around the map as well as knowing how to link tricks and keep a combo going. It’s straight forward to rack up massive scores by grinding, flipping and manual-ing, but oh-so easy to bail and lose it all. Using these techniques is essential for getting through the competition rounds that work as stage gates for the mission based levels. Balance and timing is key, as is knowing what type of skater you’re controlling.
With a full roster of the original skaters, most suitably aged too, and a few new faces, there’s a decent blend of street, vert and park styles to pick from. If that’s not your bag you can create a skater from scratch and dial in the attributes to your liking. There are stat points to collect in each location, so it’s never a case of being locked out of a particular move set as you can build someone more rounded over time. In the early stages where some of the objectives feel out of reach, there’s the ability to respec the stats on the fly between each retry and tailor it to whatever is being tackled. It’s the same with the tricks in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 as well. Those that need the SPECIAL meter filling to pull off are open from the start and can be mapped to any combination of direction and face buttons, with the only limit being the amount of trick slots available. More of these open up as the skater ranks up, meaning that there are more options to score with during a run. As with the old games THPS hates repetition, so varying the moves is the only way to score big.
The ranking system is new as is the level of customisation – in these games anyway. Both are linked to open up more decks, trucks and clothing, and specific challenges come into play to earn bonus XP and cash which can be spent in the skate shop. Don’t worry, all of this is in game currency so there are no microtransactions, and the aim here is to show off your style in the online modes as you get schooled in HORSE. Dress up isn’t the only thing for taking to other players, the create-a-park mode let’s you build your own perfect skate heaven’s and share them with the world. Whip past the ones that are about trophy awarding and you’ll find some really creative efforts, especially if you think the core 19 levels aren’t enough. Not that there isn’t enough to do revisiting the main game in freeplay mode, there are hundreds of gaps to seek out, plenty of secrets, and even a few new collectibles the remaster devs have thrown in. It also works as great unpressured practice if there’s something in particular that’s a struggle because it’s amazing how quickly two minutes flies past.
The core game might remain the same, and even feels like it plays exactly the same from the ollies to the balance controls and including the spin timing; but it certainly looks different. This is what the remaster has really gone for – making it as detailed as possible. It’s bright and colourful yet keeps the crisp lines so there’s no ambiguity in the visual referencing. The textures are hugely improved, and heading into the Venice Beach stage really shows off how stunning it can be. It also seems like the same audio is being used with the clacks and chinks of wheels on concrete and metal making previous players feel right at home. Then there’s the instant reload that made these so addictive the first time around. Mess up the first trick and why not start again? Just missed out on the score? Oh well… one more go. It’s as compelling as ever.
Fans of the originals are going to love these updates. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 plays exactly as you’ll remember, including all those frustrating little bits when you don’t feel in control of your own fingers. I’m sure there are some differences but I don’t care, it felt so comfortable heading into the Warehouse for the first time that it was like the last 20 years just evaporated. One thing that definitely stands out though is that playing 1 and 2 back to back like this, you notice how much more streamlined and focused on combos the levels in the second game were. Going from Roswell to Hanger it was like my ability to control the game had doubled in the space of the loading time. It felt great. Are you going to like it if you’ve not got the nostalgia goggles on? The concept might be 20 years old, the gameplay isn’t and it’s a lot of fun to play, especially with others in the same room. Nearly an entire console generation has gone by without a skateboarding game and to have the undisputed king of the decks back is… well… gnarly.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is out now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One for around £35 depending on retailer.