Name: Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
Developer: Vicarious Visions
The Tony Hawk video game series kicked off back in 1999 with Neversoft’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. While there were previous attempts at bringing skating into the game industry before, none were as successful as THPS. The game was met with critical acclaim and was a massive success in terms of sales. A sequel was inevitable and came out only a year later, receiving even more praise from critics and audiences than its predecessor. The Tony Hawk games made a significant impact at the time and helped with popularizing skateboarding in the 2000s. I grew up playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, and its endless replayability, fun levels, and classic soundtrack gave me hours of entertainment. That is why when Vicarious Visions announced their upcoming remake of the first two original games, I was both excited and wary. After the recent disappointing entries in the franchise, I was not sure what to expect. But Vicarious Visions’ track record and the fact that they obtained Neversoft’s original code from the original games kept my optimism alive and had me patiently waiting for the release. Did they deliver?
Same structure, new paint
Let us get this off the bat; do not go into this game expecting it to play 100% like the originals. That is not a negative though—quite the opposite. Pro Skater 1+2 feels snappier and more responsive, while also having more physics implemented into the movement. The gravity is much more robust, and falling back on the ground takes less time. The original Pro Skater feels “floatier” in comparison. If I had to compare 1+2 to any other THPS game, I feel like it is very close to Pro Skater 4, both in terms of controls and move-set. Since that was my main skating game back in the day, I felt right at home. You can do spine transfers, reverts, and manuals to extend combos to insane lengths. Trying to do endless lines, discovering new tricks, and pushing yourself is endlessly fun, and the game is very replayable, just like the best Tony Hawk games that came before it.
Recreating the playground
The Tony Hawk games are known for their brilliantly designed levels, and this game is no different. Vicarious Visions recreated all of the original levels very faithfully, with familiar gaps, ramps, and secret areas. School, School II, and Downtown NY were my personal favorites, with loads of variety and fun locations. All of the maps have received visual overhauls, as expected. They are vibrant, with graffiti and neat call-backs to the originals spread throughout the levels. The Hangar, for example, has different cover art hanged on its walls, which was a nice touch. If I had to point out any flaws, some of the levels clash with the game’s updated move-set, since they were created with the original games in mind. This was not a huge issue, but executing long combos did not feel as smooth as in some of the later games because of it. At the same, I honestly don’t see how Vicarious I could have fixed this issue without straying away from the original spirit of the games.
I might as well mention the game’s visuals here. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 was created with the Unreal Engine 4, and I was surprised by how good this game looks. Sure, it is not quite on the level of some recent AAA titles, but it is more than I would from a skating game. The colors pop nicely, and the environments have surprising amounts of detail. The reflections looked very nice as well, particularly in The Hangar and parts of the School levels. Character models are not as detailed, unfortunately, and many of the skaters barely reassemble their real counterparts.
Challenging the player
The game is separated into three parts: THPS campaign, THPS2 campaign, and a Free Skate mode. When playing the campaigns, the player is thrown into a selected level, with a timer of 2 minutes. You are given a variety of challenges to do within that timeframe. They are mostly about exploring the map and finding different items scattered around it. They are collecting the “SKATE” letters, secret tapes, and executing gaps. Some items are connected to the maps themselves, with popcorn buckets in Downtown, valves in Downhill Jam, or hydrants in the Warehouse. The challenges work well at first and do increase the game’s longevity nicely, but they do grow stale after a while. I wish more of the challenges were tied to doing certain tricks or combos. I am guessing we will see those in an eventual remake of THPS3 and THPS4.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 features almost all of the tracks from the original games, with only three missing. In addition, Vicarious Visions added some new songs to the game’s playlist as well, and I am happy to say that they fit right in with the series’ tone. The game lets you customize your playlist and skip songs during gameplay, which is a very nice addition that was missing from the previous games.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 is a return to form for the series, with Vicarious Visions improving the gameplay while maintaining what made those original games special. I had tons of fun playing it, and I will most likely spend dozens of hours playing it even more after writing this review. There are some areas where the design of the original games start to show their age, particularly when it comes to the challenges. This makes me excited for the remakes of later Tony Hawk games if Vicarious Visions decides to make them, although I would not mind a completely new entry in the series.
+ Fluid controls and improved physics; playing Tony Hawk never felt better
+ Faithfulness to the original games
+ Beautifully recreated levels
+ Eye-popping visuals
+ New tracks are a welcome addition
+ Fun factor
– Challenges lack innovation and get stale after a while
– So-so character models
– Some of the levels don’t work with the new move-set as well as others
Final Score: 8.5/10