Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 Review: as Good as Skating Games Get
My love for the Tony Hawk games is fairly well known. Part of it is the nostalgia for the series, I’ll admit it, but I’ve also argued in the past that they hold up better than most other games from that era. The lack of any iteration on the formula was eventually what killed the skating game genre, but it also turned out to be what preserved it. I’ve replayed Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 and Pro Skater 4 a few times each this year, and they both remain a ton of fun, even after the better part of two decades. This is largely because there has been no improvements on the genre in the intervening years, so it isn’t hard to pick them back up. So, for the remaster of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, all that Vicarious Visions really had to do was give the games a face lift, and then let the praise and good reviews flood in. While that is essentially what they did, there is a lot to appreciate in the remasters that weren’t present in the originals.
“There is a lot to appreciate in the remasters that weren’t present in the original”
Let’s get the surface level stuff out of the way; Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 are both very well done remasters that manage to capture the magic of the originals for an aging audience, while remaining appealing and accessible to new players. The core gameplay is mostly the same as it’s always been (although a few moves from later entries in the series, like manuals and reverts, were added to make the gameplay flow a little better), and it’s been a blast to jump back into the arcade skating fun that the series has always provided.
All the classic levels return and are largely unchanged in a practical sense, but have been given some aesthetic over hauls so that they look less dated. Everyone is talking about the redesign for the Mall level to make it look more dilapidated and abandoned, giving it more character, but the more impressive one to me was for Venice Beach. The lighting looks better than ever (as is often the case with remasters, the lighting effects make up a lot of the graphical improvements), the graffiti on the walls and ramps adds a ton of character, and the setting sun over the beach as a background to the stage gives it a much more charming feel than it had in the originals. However, these changes do nothing to change the layout of the level, so fans of the originals will still be able to guide themselves around based on muscle memory.
Another thing that Vicarious Visions has taken great pains to preserve is the soundtrack, which features nearly all the classic tracks from the old games. There are a few songs on the playlist that don’t return, but they’ve been replaced with new ones that manage to fit the tone of the games well (unlike that awful dubstep in the abysmal Pro Skater 5).
“Everything that made the games great 20 years ago is still very much intact”
So, for fans of the originals who are looking for a faithful remake of their beloved games, the THPS 1+2 Remaster won’t disappoint. Everything that made the games great 20 years ago is still very much intact, and for a lot of people, that would have been enough. However, while there is nothing revolutionary in these releases, there is more to experience here than there was in the originals. As a matter of fact, there is a a deceptively large amount of content in these games.
While neither game features a story mode, both have around 10 levels each, all of which are packed to the breaking point with things to do. The main “campaign” mode has the player running through each map in two minute increments, completing as many goals as possible within the time frame. After a level has been unlocked, you can do time challenges, speed runs, free skates, score challenges, secret hunting, go searching for all the hidden “gaps” in each level, and so much more. Even a classic level like the Warehouse, a fairly small area, had me skating around it for hours, trying to beat my scores and place in the top one thousand on the global leader boards. After around 35 hours of playtime, none of the levels have started feeling boring yet, and that’s more important than the breadth of empty content that other games feature.
There is also an exceptionally well implemented multiplayer mode, which drops you in levels with 7 other players and gives you a variety of objectives to compete for. Some have you simply trying to get the highest score or combo in a 2 minute time frame, while others have you doing tricks off of as many objects as you can to claim them as your own. The drop in is quick and mostly seamless, and the short matches give them that addictive “one more round” quality that suits games like this so well.
Outside of the core skating gameplay, there are the create-a-skater and create-a-park modes that are staples of the series. Neither is particularly complex, but they add some nice depth to the game. These modes are complemented by a large list of challenges, which can reward the player with cash to spend on cosmetics, profile experience, and unique board graphics and clothing items. There are a huge amount of challenges for every skater in the game (including your own player created ones), every level, and every mode. While the leveling system is incredibly arbitrary, and a transparent way of trying to force player investment, I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. I spent a lot of time in the game trying to complete challenges, just to watch the progress bar slowly fill, to unlock outfits that I knew full well I would never use. As one final gripe, the create-a-park mode is not very well optimized for controllers, which is odd given that the skating itself seems to be made specifically for controllers. As I mentioned before, there isn’t a lot of depth to it either, but I’d be a lot more upset about it if the rest of the game wasn’t bursting at the seems with fun content.
At the end of the day, there isn’t a lot to be said about THPS 1+2 Remastered that you couldn’t already assume based off of the name alone. They are the definitive way to play the games, and for my money, they are the best skating games you can get on current gen consoles. If this is a genre, or series, that you’ve ever had any interest in, these will be a must buy for you.
As a final note, they have split screen too. That alone is enough for the recommendation.