Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: 09/04/2020
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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was a huge part of my childhood. It made me want to go out and skate which I actually did. Between the ages of 9-13, I skated almost daily. I wanted to become a professional skateboarder, and well, that never happened, but the countless hours sitting in front of my Nintendo 64 or PlayStation (depending on what time period we’re talking about) was memorable. I still remember how to complete every level in the first two games like it was yesterday. The countless lines I’d find, replays I’d save, and learning every real-life trick all thanks to THPS. It was a huge part of my generation’s childhood and was influential and rang loud throughout the gaming industry. Activision had a juggernaut on its hands, and while the series’ last great entry was Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, I wanted the series to come back. It took 20 years, but we finally got some reprieve and the series is back better than ever.
Let’s talk about the core of the game’s menus as they are used in both games. The entire main menu has been redesigned, but is still familiar. You can pick your skater, either a real-world one with all returning skaters plus new ones, or create your own. Creating a skater has quite a bit of an option, but I felt the amount inside each option was limited. This really could have been expanded upon, but there’s a good amount of gear as you can customize your board, wheels, trucks, grip tape, deck, and all of your clothes to your heart’s content. Everything is of course skateboarding branded, so no Disney or video game-related stuff here. Once you pick your skater you can head off to either of the two games, but there’s a bit more here than you think. There are new challenges that unlock cash that can be used in the Skate Shop which is nice as there’s some incentive to complete each level 100%.
Once inside THPS1 I didn’t need a single tutorial. I literally landed a 100,000-point combo without breaking a sweat thanks to the perfect controls that I remember to this day. It’s like riding a bike, to be honest. Newcomers will be treated to one of the best control schemes ever created that countless action sports games ripped off for years. Grind, grab, and flip are all assigned to a button as well as an ollie. You can press a direction with a button to do a trick and the skill is all up to you. THPS is 100% skill-based. If you don’t master the controls and get quick with your fingers you won’t have fun. My fingers flew across the controller going from a grind to a manual to a flip trick just before hitting a rail, back to a manual, hitting a pipe, manualing out, and so on until my stamina ran out. It’s a blast and the game feels just as good as it did 20 years ago.
Nearly every skating trick in the book is here, but what makes THPS fun are the special moves. Do some tricks without falling and you will get your meter up almost all the time. Each skater has an assigned special that is pulled off with a button combo and then a special sound plays and your trick is in yellow in your trick combo text. This racks up massive points and looks really cool. Each level is incredibly iconic and shows some of the best level designs of the era, but somehow doesn’t feel dated or stale. The new updated visuals breathe new life into these levels and add details as I could never imagine. The game looks amazing with great lighting, detailed textures, and current-generation flair.
There are four levels that are objective-based and three competition levels. The objective-based levels get tougher as you go on with some requiring precise movement and accurate tricking to nail. These later levels can be very frustrating even for seasoned players like myself. The rooftop gaps in the Downtown level? Forget it. While I eventually did it, it took an entire night to actually complete this level. It was the bane of my existence when I was a kid and I finally completed this entire game 100% in just a few days. Once you do land these insanely hard stunts it feels so satisfying. I stood up and shook my fist at the screen and felt relief. It’s a style of game that you just don’t get anymore these days. It’s just you, the controller, the levels and objectives, and you just need to focus on completing them and honing your skill. No hand-holding at all here.
I honestly can’t find many flaws with the first game. The levels are varied, they look and feel amazing, and veterans will feel right at home. I like the newly added V logos which add an extra challenge. Collect them all to unlock special gear. I also love the sound design which is also iconic. The sound effects like the camera flash when you complete a gap, the sound for the special move, the grinds, flips, crashes, and the record scratches, it’s all here and updated with current technology. Even the majority of the original licensed soundtrack made it back with some great new additions. THPS had one of the greatest licensed soundtracks of all time. It was iconic, and many other games just couldn’t stop it. From hip-hop to rock to punk there are so many great songs on here that I could listen to all day. While I wish there were more songs at least, we get most of the classics.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 offers more of the same as the first game just with new levels. While back in the day it was more tricks, skaters, better controls, etc. with the remake they took the best of both worlds so each game is essentially level packs. Once you complete both games 100% there’s nothing left to do outside of Create-a-Park mode which was a big deal back in the day and was introduced in the second game. It’s a ton of fun and this is where most people will spend their time after finishing the main games. I wish there was a way to share parks as skating people’s creations would add tons of hours of longevity to the game, but what’s here is fine.
Overall, THPS 1+2 is a fantastic remake for fans of old and for newcomers. This game defined sports games and helped push skateboarding to kids. While it may not do that these days, what we get is an amazing package of memorable levels, fun goals to accomplish, and a good amount of news to spice things up. While the main games are rather short, and nothing new was added to them, they are beautifully remastered and are a blast to play through. The create-a-skater and park modes are rather robust and the new challenges will keep you going back for more long after 100% completion. The visuals are not groundbreaking but true to the originals and there’s lots of love and detail everywhere.