Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 Review – I’m A Superman

It’s wild to think that long before there was a new Call of Duty game every year, Activision’s big annual franchise was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. It’s a series in which you only have to worry about tying off each ludicrously long combo before you bail and lose hundreds of thousands of points. With the sounds of bands like Goldfinger and Rage Against the Machine burned into your head, you scour each dense park in search of S-K-A-T-E and that elusive secret tape. And as soon as you finally find them, it’s time to restart the two-minute timer and jump back in for one last go–which you already told yourself was three sessions prior. The stimulating trick system keeps you clawing for larger numbers, while the cleverly crafted levels lead you to new gaps, lines, and secrets to add to your combo’s path. It’s a special series that is infinitely playable, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 captures that nearly perfectly.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 revamps the levels and skaters of the first two games, though it borrows many aspects from later titles as well. While the trick system’s foundation stuck through the entire series’ history, various trick types were added with each new release. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 features many of the best ones, including reverts and spine transfers, and thankfully, it doesn’t stray further than Underground’s wallplants and grind/manual transitions. This makes 1 + 2’s trick system feel complete, neglecting the less crucial mechanics–like Freak Out from Underground 2–and focusing on the best aspects of the series’ tricks. One very nice touch, however, lets you switch between the revamped trick system and the first and second game’s trick systems, offering a more authentic experience akin to the originals.

No matter which trick system you go with, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 plays fantastically. While you still control it the exact same way you would the originals, it feels a lot less stiff. Tricks are as exciting to pull off as they’ve ever been, but the speed of the game moves faster and the skaters’ animations are a lot more fluid. Transitioning from grab tricks and spins into a string of manuals and then finishing with a set of grind transitions feels incredible–it evokes the series’ early days of nailing unrealistic and goofy combos, while also remaining engaging and exciting when you’re checking off goals in 2020.

Levels have received makeovers, and each one looks absolutely stunning. Whether you’re skating on Venice Beach or bombing it through the dilapidated Mall, it’s quite shocking to see these classic stages with much more detail–and with much less fog than on the original PlayStation. The sunset on Venice Beach hits with vibrant oranges and reds that give a whole new mood to the oceanside level, while the Mall is overgrown with plants and plywood-barricaded stores; it almost looks post-apocalyptic. I never saw the Mall as abandoned or even run-down, but this new take–along with many other new looks–afforded by an increase in details makes it feel like you’re experiencing a brand-new level, even if the layout is the same.

Some stages feature subtle new touches such as drones filming you in Downhill Jam or a stray cat running in the background of Warehouse. These small details breathe life into levels that felt lonely and lifeless in their original releases. It’s really quite charming. However, loading into some of the parks can take a considerable amount of time–starting up Streets, San Francisco, for the first time made me think the game had crashed. Restarting your run (something you’ll likely do a lot of) can also take up to five seconds in some instances. The original games were quite snappy, and you were able to restart your run quickly if you weren’t happy with how your session was going. Five seconds isn’t a big deal and didn’t impede my enjoyment too much, but when the rest of the game nails the THPS experience, it’s hard not to notice the smallest of divergences.

Pro Skater 1 + 2 also sees the addition of collectible stat points. These were introduced in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. Prior to that game, you would collect cash hidden throughout each level and spend it on upgrading your skater. Original developer Neversoft did a great job hiding this cash throughout each level, encouraging you to explore every nook and perform tricks on every cranny. Pro Skater 1 + 2’s stat points miss the mark since you don’t have to explore an entire level to collect everything. Because the levels are so well designed, it’s disappointing to see that covering the entire map isn’t required to complete every goal.

Many of the original games’ goals are present, with a few added to beef up the meager THPS1 checklists. Among other things, these goals task you with collecting the letters S-K-A-T-E, performing specific tricks at specific spots, and causing general mayhem–for example, destroying cop cars or draining public fountains. Once you complete a goal, it’s completed for every skater. In the original games, each skater had their own career to play through, giving you the option to complete all of the goals with every playable skater. Once I finished my first playthrough with Rodney Mullen, I started up a playthrough with Leticia Bufoni only to find that all of the goals had already been completed. I can still play through every level to collect her stat points, but it can feel oddly empty without these objectives.

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That said, you’re not left without stuff to do once you’ve finished your first playthrough. THPS 1 + 2 introduces a whole slate of challenges that have you completing specific feats with each skater on each park. These include performing different kinds of combos, doing specific things on specific levels, and various other tasks. While a challenge isn’t your typical Tony Hawk goal, they do add a layer of objectives that are well worth taking on–and there are a lot of them. Some of these challenges are pretty tough, too, which makes it particularly rewarding when you start ticking them off. THPS’s core mechanics are engaging enough to be the sole reason you play, but these challenges give you compelling new goals to chase as you extend combos and try to best your top scores.

Completing challenges also rewards you with new decks, gear, and other items in addition to money and XP, which can unlock even more gear. The real professional skaters featured in the game have specific clothing and decks you can unlock, while all of the purchased and unlocked items can be equipped to your created skaters. There are no signs of real-money microtransactions; instead, you’ll need to rely on completing challenges to accrue more in-game cash. This feels fair, and aside from some visual flair, there is no effect on your points, combos, or anything else. It’s all about making your created skater look cool, which is easy to do with the wide selection of gear, from punk-oriented threads to the most stylish drip (plus a well-crafted character creator that offers a good variety of options).

The soundtrack also boasts music fit for a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game. Many of the original tracks return for 1 + 2, but a lot of new music is also included. These all fit in with the rest of the tracks, and if it wasn’t for their respective release dates, it’s easy to imagine them on the original soundtracks. It’s an eclectic mix of hip hop and punk, with impeccable inclusions like “Can I Kick It?” by A Tribe Called Quest, “She’s Famous Now” by Reel Big Fish, and “Shutdown” by Skepta. The music also reacts to your gameplay, adding a subtle reverb when you fill your special meter and a slight muffle when you bail. It’s a well-used soundtrack that reminds me of why Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is remembered for its music as much as its mechanics.

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 also comes with some multiplayer features, including Create-a-Park and various versus modes. Create-a-Park lets you do exactly as it says, and it’s a pretty extensive and easy-to-use tool for creating your own levels. You have to unlock cosmetic parts for your custom parks through challenges, but you get all of the necessities by default, which is enough to create a playable and entertaining park. Sharing levels with other players is also possible, and there are already a number of custom parks that show off both quality and silliness. Because you can share your maps, it’s a far more enjoyable mode than it ever was in its early days, and I’m really excited to see what a potential community creates.

As for its multiplayer, THPS 1 + 2 offers both local and online versus modes. A lot of the game types take after the original games’ multiplayer, with modes like Graffiti, Trick Attack, and Tag as well as new ones like Combo Mambo and Score Challenge. Horse, one of the all-time best modes, also returns, and while it’s mostly a great time, some infrequent frame dropping can occur. It’s a bit surprising, since you just take turns trying to outdo your friend’s score and it doesn’t feel particularly demanding. Even more surprising is the fact that the split-screen modes don’t come with these performance issues. The online multiplayer, on the other hand, runs very well as it rotates through various modes in a lobby–it’s an exciting way to hang out with friends, skate, and compete for the highest score.

Because it nails so much about that original Tony Hawk experience, it’s really hard to be mad at Pro Skater 1 + 2 for any of its downsides. The load times aren’t enough to keep you away from the plethora of satisfying combos, and the lack of level goals for every skater isn’t enough to keep you from jumping back in with a new character. Playing through the newly remade levels is immensely enjoyable, and that on its own is enough to call Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 a success. However, smart additions and an engaging challenge system make it an experience that’s more than just a brief skate through Tony Hawk’s past.

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