You don’t need me to tell you that the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater games are some of the best video games ever made. Hailing from an era that was yet to get EXTREME in all walks of life, Neversoft’s take on gleaming the cube is a work of standard definition art that still holds up to this day. Times have changed, Neversoft is no more and just about everyone would like to forget about a Tony Hawk video game era that killed the franchise off with gimmicky peripherals and last-minute cash grabs in the hands of an underprepared and overworked studio.
And yet here we are again. There’s an empty warehouse beneath us, the sky’s the limit and there’s a slick coat of paint applied to the entire product while Rage against the Machine makes me want to shred a gnarly pipe while sticking it to late-stage capitalism. Does the legacy of Tony Hawk still hold up after two decades?
Two virtually shredded knees, countless broken digital bones and a high score that looks like Pi calculated to an impossible number, I’d say the answer is hell yes.
If Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 were a person, his name would be Muhammad Ollie because the game is just that damn good. No one was complaining when Activision announced the remaster and remake combo, thanks in part to the bar for Tony Hawk games having been set so low in the years since the franchise rose to glory. Reaching the apex of its ramp tricks with the Underground series of games, the THPS brand kept losing momentum over the years.
Just having the original two games restored and playing exactly as you remember them would have been enough, but developer Vicarious Visions (with an assist from former Spider-Man studio Beenox) applied some extra spit and polish to this project. But not too much of it, at the same time. Straight from the first return to the infamous warehouse, THPS 1+2 plays like you remember it: Slapping phsyics in the face, giving you just enough air to bust out impossible tricks, and pushing you to use those skills to achieve the wildest of objectives.
If you’ve got any muscle memory in your thumbs, they’re going to be groaning thanks to all the haptic acid build-up that they’re going to be feeling the morning after. There’s a sense of familiarity in the game that has been retained, developed from the original source code DNA and amplified. At the same time, there’s also an paradoxical freshness to the experience, as THPS 1+2 takes advantage of its spruced up visuals to deliver a slightly faster and smoother ride across its multiple levels.
There’s a subtle layer of precision at play here, more refined gameplay that takes the best of the games that came in the wake of the original duo and adds it to the pot. You can play with these added wall grinds, spine transfers, and verts disabled if you so wish, as THPS 1+2 does allow for control schemes to switch between classic and modern setups in case you’re feeling that nostalgic. If there’s anything to complain about, it’s that the in-game camera can be a tad bit annoying when it fails to keep up with you, but it’s still smooth sailing when you look beyond that.
The key takeaway from all these changes or stubborn refusal to change anything out from the original control scheme, is that THPS 1+2 just feels right. It’s a hard quality to quantify, but it simply is. You don’t have to look far for evidence of this intangible feature, as Robomodo’s decade-old original remaster and the crapshow that was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, fee like clumsy toddlers on supermarket skateboards in comparison.
If THPS 1+2 feels like the original game given a shot in the arm, then it looks like a brand new game in action. All the familiar haunts are there for you to bust some sick scores in and hunt down the SKATE letters, but those visuals have been amplified and enhanced to a level that borders on next-gen visuals. On a base PS4, THPS 1+2 is consistently smooth and confident in action.
Each stage has lovingly been recreated, the smaller and more high-resolution details make them pop gorgeously, and you can still find hard to reach items by consulting ye olde issues of GamePro that have been gathering dust up in your cupboard. Some stages benefit tremendously from the renovations provided by Vicarious Visions, such as THPS2’s infamous hangar level which now functions as a shrine to all things Neversoft.
There’s also a fair amount of modern flourishes that have been added to THPS 1+2, that brings the rebellious upstart kicking and screaming into a more contemporary era. While you’re able to tackle the games at your leisure and unlock stages based on achieving several objectives, you can also tackle more than 700 objectives spread across all of the current roster, earn cash to buy some sweet apparel with and kick some sick flips with a new generation of skateboarders.
Heck the Create-A-Park suite is even back, and I’ve been experiencing some rad creations within it. Who would have thought that a manic gauntlet of cut-off rails that creates a grinding rollercoaster could be so much fun? And before you ask, yes the soundtrack still slaps like a bull on parade. All the old favourites are here, as well as some new beats to tap your foot to. This Machine Gun Kelly fella ain’t too shabby.
And that right there, is where THPS 1+2 truly succeeds. The original games were amazing meditations of cathartic grinds, contained within two minute bursts of kinetic energy and a soundtrack that would define any road trip when you popped a disc of tunes put together in Nero CD burning software into your car radio.
That game is still there, preserved in all its glory and given the most handsome of face lifts. At the same time, there’s something new under the surface. Just enough of a fresh jolt to the system, strengthened by catchy new tracks, faces, and ideas. THPS 1+2 is both nostalgic and exciting in its freshly-minted presentation.
There’s a fine line between a remake and a remaster and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 doesn’t just expertly balance on it, It pops a 50-50 nose grind, rides that line with a devil may care attitude and lands the trick perfectly. The biggest name in skateboarding is back, and better than ever.
Last Updated: September 8, 2020