Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, gaming saw an influx of extreme sports games, with the first and most notable one being Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. After seemingly coming out of nowhere, the incredibly addictive and insanely replayable skateboarding title took the world by storm, and the result was a massively popular series that continued into this generation. That was, until a bug ridden and incredibly flawed Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 seemingly hammered another nail into its already partially sealed coffin. A resting place that had previously been crafted by the failures that were Tony Hawk: Ride, Tony Hawk’s Shred, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD. The latter was most disappointing, and is something that I regretfully feel I overrated out of the excitement that came from simply having the series back.
As someone who grew up during the 90s and loved sports games, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was the perfect mix of fun, challenge and replayability for me. I’ll never forget going to a local independent video store and seeing the N64 version on their shelf prior to its actual release date. That led to me snapping it up, renting it for two weeks and losing myself to the game for that period. It wasn’t long after that I ended up getting my own copy, which was well used before being traded in along with my N64 in a dumb attempt to buy a PS2. I eventually got another used N64, though, and a copy of the blue Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater cartridge, which I continued to beat off and on for several years. It wasn’t that long ago that I went for my last spin.
The series was fantastic from the onset, and although many consider Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 to be the best one, I’m partial to the original and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. I never actually owned Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, at least not on PlayStation or N64. I had the original on Nintendo’s console, and bought the second one for the Game Boy Advance as soon as it released. While that version was good, it wasn’t comparable to its older brother, which I only got to play at a friend’s, or during the rare occasions where I rented or borrowed a PlayStation. Who knows why I never bought it for N64.
After being rumoured and hoped for, Activision brought joy to many of us older gamers several months ago, when it revealed that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 were being remade for modern consoles. To say that that was an exciting day would be an understatement. Although I’ve become a bit burned out, and haven’t been super excited for many games as of late, that gave me something to really look forward to. Something I honestly could not wait to get my hands on.
Fast-forward to now, and we’ve been able to go hands on, complete and thoroughly enjoy the package that is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2. We weren’t sure of which version to go with, but ended up being supplied with a PlayStation 4 review code, which was probably for the best. After all, Sony’s controller has the best directional pad of the two, and this particular reviewer grew up spending hundreds if not thousands of hours with the PlayStation 2 versions of both Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 and 4.
Unlike Robomodo’s disappointing attempt at bringing this series back to fruition, Beenox and Vicarious Visions’ feels like a true remake and return to form. It’s evident that a lot of love, sweat, care and elbow grease went into the development of this thing, because it plays like a fan made homage to yesteryear. It’s fun and addicting in all the right ways, and is just as infinitely replayable as its best predecessors.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 isn’t an exact remake. In fact, it’s a little bit different from what we played back in the late 90s and early 2000s. The development team made the decision to slightly modernize (for lack of a better term) it, by adding THPS 2‘s manuals, THPS 3‘s reverts and THPS 4‘s wallplants. If you’re sitting there thinking that it’d make sense to include manuals in a remake of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, you’re correct. After all, they were an integral part of that game. That said, they weren’t part of the first one until now.
Although purists may be disappointed by these changes, they shouldn’t be. These moves feel organic, and as if they were always a part of these games. Those who dislike them can also opt to use the original control and trick schemes, which can be toggled on in the menu.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 presents exactly what the title suggests, in terms of content. You can choose between two separate tours, those being the campaigns from each of the series’ first two games. A third is present, but it includes things like free skate and single session play. Online play is also included, and offers modes like graffiti, tag, H-O-R-S-E, free skate, score challenge, combo challenge, trick attack and ‘Combo Mambo.’
Online is a fun additional option, which complements the two great games well. Players can partake in Jams, where the top four players win, or Competitive, where only the top player wins. It’s a different take on the typical ranked or casual options. Either way, it’s fun to get together and skate with friends, even if some players’ skill can hurt one’s pride.
The real meat and potatoes of this experience, though, comes in the form of those classic campaigns, which have been beautifully and painstakingly remade. The familiar and iconic stages — such as Warehouse, School, School II, Hangar, Skate Park, Mall, Bullring and Venice — are so impressively restored, making it feel like returning to one’s childhood home or hometown. Thanks to increased console abilities and the general advancement of technology, each one has received touch ups and added flourishes, with the Mall being the real standout here. While it was always abandoned and slightly boarded up, it now looks like it’s been sitting and left untouched for quite a while, which pays tribute to the time that has passed since these games originally released. Things have cracked, water has gotten in and large amounts of the stuff continue to drip from broken skylights.
Many of the levels have also received additional goals, which give you more to go after and make the ‘campaigns’ slightly longer. For instance, there are floating hydrant collectibles to pick up in the first Warehouse stage, whereas Mall presents several hidden robots and School has some surprisingly hard to find bells to grind. All of the more traditional (non-competition) stages also feature combo goals, and what I believe are reworked score goals, due to the games’ added combo mechanics. By that, I mean how much easier it is to string a combo together with manuals, reverts and wallplants at your disposal from the get-go.
What’s really disappointing about all of this, though, is the fact that one cannot start a new tour or campaign with a different skater. In previous years it was fun to max out one skater, before choosing another one and doing it all over again. Achieving all of the goals and finding all of the hidden tapes was never not fun, and it provided a sense of accomplishment outside of just busting massive combos. In Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2, your tour progress carries over from one skateboarder to another, and the only thing that changes is their stats. You won’t be able to redo the goals without deleting your save file or using a different profile on your console, but you will be able to replay those levels and search out their hidden stat points to upgrade the new avatar. That’s a really disappointing decision, and something that saddens me.
Granted, each of the many parks has additional collectibles to suss out. This includes alien plushies (which will unlock an alien skater avatar), Vicarious Visions logos and more. They’re not enough to make up for the previously mentioned oversight, though, and the same is true of the skater-specific challenges. While they’re fun to complete, and offer rewards (like XP and profile level increases), I’d rather the ability to restart each tour with a new skater. Here’s hoping this will be addressed by a patch in the near future.
Replay value is further added to this already insanely replayable package through create-a-skater and create-a-park modes. These will surely keep folks playing long after they feel they’ve exhausted the games’ base locales, and will allow us to see how creative the community can be. I, for one, am not creative at all. As such, I normally don’t bother with creation modes, except to quickly test them out for review purposes. It’s simply not enjoyable, in my opinion, and that’s probably why I’ve never been able to get into games like Minecraft. I will, however, be playing a lot of the user-created parks.
What you will notice, though, is that with improved performance comes a much better framerate than ever before. This is obviously a good thing, but has likely also contributed to the games feeling just a slight hair different in terms of timing. It’s hard to describe, but they feel a bit faster and take a bit of time to get used to. At least that was the case with me; someone who’s been playing these games for twenty years and continually so. I found that I was bailing quite a bit when I first started playing the Warehouse demo, and needed a bit of time to get used to the speed and timing of this version. Don’t get me wrong, though: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 aren’t much different than they were before, and this is a very true to source remake. The spin timing and landing just takes a bit of time to get used to again, because of the enhanced framerate and whatnot.
One thing that I must admit to not being a big fan of is the menus. They’re too busy and colourful for my liking, with each skater having his or her colour scheme and his or her challenges listed at the side. It would’ve been better if Activision and Beenox had left the menus simple and clean, as opposed to cluttering them with an almost everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach at times. There are also several sub-menus, where one can customize skaters’ move sets, unlock new specials (which comes from levelling up), redeem completed challenges and customize their profile. The latter involves picking an icon for your profile — which appears, alongside your username, current level and experience bar, on the top right-hand corner of the screen — and things like that. You unlock new ones as you progress, through the successful completion of challenges, modes and goals.
The Create-a-Skater mode is also surprisingly limited, and pales in comparison to ones that we saw in games decades ago. Since I’m not a creative person, this didn’t bother me too much, but I’m seeing complaints about it online and understand why. There aren’t a ton of facial options, and the same is true of body types. The female models also tend to look kind of poor in comparison to the male ones for whatever reason, although this isn’t the case when it comes to the many new and returning pro skaters, like Leticia Bufoni. In fact, the developers took the extra care and effort to scan and digitize each of the returning skaters as they look now, twenty years later. It’s a neat touch and feels fitting, although it would’ve been nice if updated versions of their younger/original models had been made available. I couldn’t find any at least.
You can earn money through progression, and that money allows for the purchase of new gear for your created skaters. There are numerous shirts, hoodies, jackets, pants, hats, boards, trucks, wheels and the like to purchase; so many so that no one skater will look the same. Some of these things need to be unlocked, though, so it may take some time before you’re really able to outfit your avatar as you dream. Things generally aren’t too expensive, and there are (thankfully) zero microtransactions at this point in time.
The pro skaters come with a few different outfits and several different boards, but even that feels kind of lacking. I was hoping for a bit more in that respect, but it doesn’t matter all that much to a person like me. I spend very little time with customization, but must admit that I was a tad disappointed that my chosen skater (Leticia Bufoni) didn’t have more outfit options. I wanted to use someone new, who I’d never used before, and liked her starting stats in comparison to the others. In years gone by, I almost exclusively used Andrew Reynolds, but didn’t like his stats this time around.
When it comes to presentation, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 is a pretty impressive package, especially considering it’s sold as a budget title (which is something that makes it even more impressive). It looks quite nice, has a lot of nice added details (like the aged skaters, destroyed mall and other visual touches), and looks really good overall. The only real downside is that certain textures (like the logo on the halfpipe in Bullride, or on purchasable t-shirts and boards) can take an extra second to load in. Otherwise, things looked and played really well.
I must admit that I also really appreciated the nods to modern times. There’s a big video screen in the School stage, which thanks kids for their patience during at home and online learning, tells them that they can do a drive by thank you for teachers, and has other interesting nods to COVID-19. There are other such Easter eggs in different stages, including stuff to do with masks. It’s neat. So, too, is the strange digital recreation effect that occurs when you bail, although it takes some time to get used to. I’m not sure why they went with it, but I don’t mind it now that I’ve seen it a lot.
As with the first go arounds, sound and music play a big role in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2. The sound effects are quite loud and boisterous; so much so that I turned them down a bit so that I could hear the music better. The soundtrack features many familiar songs, such as Goldfinger’s now iconic ‘Superman,’ Papa Roach’s ‘Blood Brothers,’ ‘Police Truck’ by the Dead Kennedys, ‘Jerry Was a Race Car Driver’ by Primus, ‘When Worlds Collide’ by Powerman 5000 and Suicidal Tendencies’ ‘Cyco Vision.’ They’re joined by numerous other songs from the rap, rock and punk genres, few of which did a lot for me personally. This includes artists like Billy Talent, MXPX, Chick Norris, Sublime, The Ataris, A Tribe Called Quest, Less Than Jake, Machine Gun Kelly and Merkules.
The music isn’t as loud or boisterous as I had hoped, but turning the sound effects down helped. Part of this is because the music changes depending on how you’re doing. If you bail, it will get quiet and cut out a bit. Meanwhile, if you get your special and pull one off, it’ll get louder. I do wish the overall music quality was better, and that these things didn’t happen, but it’s not too big a deal. Just turn the volume up and enjoy.
Being able to select which tracks to enable, and which to turn off, was also appreciated. That way, if I only want to listen to Superman (which is what I used to do quite often, before becoming a big fan of the band, seeing them live seven times and meeting them on a couple of those occasions), I can do so. It’s basically the game’s theme song anyhow.
With all that having been said, I doubt I need to say how happy I am to have these games back. Although Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 isn’t a perfect or flawless return, it’s almost at that level and leaves little else to be desired outside of remakes of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, 4 and Underground. Not Underground 2, because it got too silly with its gimmicks and special skaters, one of whom I believe used a motorcycle. That kickstarted the decline of this once great series.
If you’ve been on the fence at all regarding purchasing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2, you needn’t be. This is an incredible remake, and one that is infinitely replayable. There’s lots of content to be found for a shockingly great price, and the nostalgia adds incentive. Beenox did a really good job with this one.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided by Activision. We reviewed it using our PS4 Pro.
- Feels as good as the originals, and is true to source for the most part
- Tons of content for a budget price
- Infinitely replayable
- You cannot start a new campaign, or tour, as a new skater
- The menus are very cluttered
- Create-a-Skater is lacking