Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s there was one sports franchise that seemed to always get everyone talking: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. A once beloved series, the Tony Hawk franchise fell on hard times before hitting rock bottom with the dreadful Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 back in 2015. Fast forward five years later and there’s been a rebirth of the skateboard gaming genre and that means that Tony Hawk is back, but it’s not with a brand new game, per say.
Meet Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2, a remake of the original two games with elements from various eras of the franchise.
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Now, you’d think that remaking a game that happens to be viewed as one of the greatest games, let alone sports games, of all time may be asking for disappointment. But as developer Vicarious Visions shows, it’s possible to make the old feel new again.
So Here I Am, Doing Everything I Can
There’s something that’s always bothered me when people say playing a game makes you “feel like insert character here”. I try to avoid it whenever possible, but, in this case, I just can’t. Playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 literally feels like I’m playing a beastier version of the originals.
Everything from the physics to the looks of the move to the responsiveness of the controls feels like I’m back playing the classic games. It’s not a buggy, glitch-filled mess that the last couple attempts in the series were. It’s much, much better than that.
Learning how to do tricks is as simple as looking at a move list and practicing. And while some are quick to pick up, you will need that practice if you want to get the timing down of some of the more advanced tricks in a skater’s arsenal. That said, this game continues the tradition of accessibility set by past installments, making it easy for those who’ve never played a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game to feel comfortable on the sticks.
Everything you unlock, you have to earn yourself…
Vicarious Visions even did something that I don’t think many expected, and that’s allowing you to set the movesets to match exactly what was in either Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 or 2. By default, however, it’s a blend from all of the games in the series which I think provides a less restricted experience.
As you play, your skill level will be showcased by the combos you’re able to pull off. Can you pull off multiple grinds into a wall ride before hopping into a half-pipe? What about air walking over a troublesome gap? The game can become chaotic at times, and it’ll be your ability on the sticks to get things under control and hit the high scores you want.
One thing that always made the old Tony Hawk games so fun was the ability to add cheat codes. There were things like moon gravity and perfect balance that allowed you to string together some of the most incredible combos the world has ever seen. Though modern development engines don’t really allow for much in the form of cheat codes any more, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 does keep that spirit alive with what they call “mods”. Things like perfect balance, no bails, and always special are available to utilize with a simple switch in the game’s settings. And they’re just as easy to disable if wanted.
There are over 700 challenges to complete thanks to the game’s roster of 24 skaters and the one’s designated to your Create-A-Skater slots. Completing said challenges unlocks new skaters, gear, and more to keep the game feeling fresh. What’s even better is that the game doesn’t feature any sort of microtransactions. Everything you unlock, you have to earn yourself which is a breath of fresh air in 2020.
To unlock those items, you’ll spend your time on tour with the main single player mode. In this mode you go through the levels from both Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. You’ll have a lot of the same challenges as the old games like collect the secret video tape, destroy boxes or directory signs, grind tables, and more. As you complete the challenges, there will be a large amount of on-screen pop ups in the early going, but, as you progress, they become few and far between.
Each game’s run of levels is separate, allowing you to bounce between the levels of both one and two at will. Should you not want to follow the linear path of the tour, you can jump into a free skate session where each level is available to skate.
Create-A-Park is fun and allows you to keep the action going once you’ve (eventually) mastered all of the prebuilt levels in the game. It’s as robust of a designer as you’d expect, and is the sandbox builder every skateboard fan dreams of.
Where I’m actually disappointed is with the game’s multiplayer offering. The previously mentioned Create-A-Park allows you to share and play custom parks from players across the world. For game modes, you can play with random players or friends in a number of quick modes like Trick Attack, Combo Mambo, and Graffiti. It’s fun to jump into every now and then, but there’s not a lot of substance there to keep you wanting to go back to it. The plus side is that performance was impeccable. No frame drops; no lag spikes. Nothing!
Soundtrack of a Generation
Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 looks great. Gone are the old, blocky looks of everything. In its place are 60 frames-per-second visuals that keeps the game looking smooth even during the most hectic sections.
There will be issues with clipping through objects every now and then, but that only happens when you bail and doesn’t change how the game plays. As you bail, the music scratches from the abrupt stop while whenever you fill up your Special meter, the music gets louder and more intense.
Speaking of music, what’s a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater without a great soundtrack? Thankfully, this game’s soundtrack is just as great as ever with most of the songs from the original games returning along with the addition of some new tracks. It’s a great blend of genres and artists ranging from Papa Roach to A Tribe Called Quest and everything in between. It’s something that most sports games seem to forget about, but Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2’s soundtrack adds to the enjoyment of each session you skate.
Sometimes when something from the past gets brought and presented to the present, there’s that feeling of maybe it would’ve been better off staying in the past. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 isn’t one of those instances..
No matter which way you spin in, this is an excellent remake from top to bottom. The levels look great, the soundtrack is nostalgic yet modern, and the gameplay brings you back to sitting on your living room floor late at night playing with friends.
When it comes to future remakes of any games, developers need to take one look at how this was done and use it as the template on how to handle remakes moving forward.
No matter which way you spin in, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 is an excellent remake from top to bottom. The levels look great, the soundtrack is nostalgic yet modern, and the gameplay brings you back to sitting on your living room floor late at night playing with friends.