So here I am, doing everything I can, holding on to what I am, pretending I’m a skater, man. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 has transported me back to a very specific phase of my childhood when I used to wear a vest like Chad Muska and skate a terrible line involving a plastic ramp on my patio in the North-East of England.
The fact skateboarding played a huge part in my most formative years and yet still influences the bleeding edge of popular culture speaks to its incredible impact, but I would have no frame of reference if it weren’t for the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, which played an important role in spreading the goofy gospel to kids outside of America.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater inspired me to build a board and seek out gaps in my hometown, and 20 years later Vicarious Visions has delivered a love letter to a forgotten genre that is bound to inspire a whole new generation of skaters. There have been multiple attempts to revitalise the franchise over the past decade, but after playing the latest remaster, I realised what was missing all the while: authenticity and passion.
From the jump, it feels like Vicarious Visions has approached this remaster as zealous fans as well as developers. You can tell that the developers were keen to elevate and iterate upon the original game’s formula, but also show love to its endearing quirks and restore its fan forum secrets in order to provide an experience that can live up to the expectations of THPS’s fervent fan base.
The control scheme is a careful blend of nostalgia and modern nuance. The rumble you feel during a lengthy manual is exquisite, and the character physics are finely tuned. When the muscle memory comes back and you start to string together impossible lines throughout the game’s exotic, remastered environments, you really feel like a skateboarding superhero.
Gorgeous lighting technology and meticulous clothing assets provide a semi-grounded art style that gives the classic game a fresh lick of paint without straying too far from the original art direction. It knows when to lean into the supernatural in the secret areas and also when to pull back and deliver thoughtful recreations of famous skate spots. The character models are all really well-made, and complement the diverse roster full of skaters new and old, though I will admit that the ’80s/’90s skins for Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen and Steve Caballero are definitely going to haunt my dreams for the next week.
Each pro offers a robust set of challenges to complete and skins to unlock as you push through the game’s non-intrusive progression system. By earning experience and cash, you can spend on cosmetics for your Create-A-Skater and assets for the Create-A-Park mode. The park builder is surprisingly in-depth, and the developers flaunted the potential for user-generated-content with some stellar custom maps, including one that acted as an on-rails rollercoaster. This gives me great hope for this game’s longevity beyond launch when players manage to smash through all of the goals and wonder what’s next.
I played the game through in one shamefully long sitting, but don’t expect to be finished with the game once the credits roll. The tough but fair difficulty is still there, and if you’re determined to find all of the objectives without Google, you’re going to be exploring the maps for some time. But what a treat they are to explore!
It’s well worth watching a YouTube retrospective to see what they used to look like at the dawn of the millennium just so you can appreciate all of the finer details and homages that Vicarious Visions have added in the remake, many of which I won’t dare spoil. Let’s just say there are super-secret objectives beyond the goals in each mission, and it’s well worth replicating easter eggs from the classic games – you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise!
Once you’ve wrapped the campaign for both games you can enjoy the fleshed out local multiplayer systems, hop online, dig into the Ranked mode and fight other skaters for leaderboard positions or compete in speed runs to nab all of the objectives in a particular level. There is an incentive to play through the game as each pro skater to get their stats up and unlock new items, but beyond that, there are also a remarkable amount of challenges with some brutal requirements that should keep the average player busy for weeks on end.
One feature I hope the developers add post-launch is the ability to reset the campaign to play through the goals again. You can access the objectives in Speed Run mode but there’s no better feeling than powering through it all in consecutive fashion, and the maps feel somewhat empty when they’re not populated by the highlighted assets.
As expected, the soundtrack is fantastic and is once again threatening to get me into ska. Beyond the classic tunes, the new songs from Machine Gun Kelly, Skepta, Billy Talent and more really fit the bill, though I would have liked a few deeper cuts and more contemporary rap songs that attest to the current state of skate culture. The music swells and wanes as you gain special and bail, which is a nice touch that leads to some intense moments of adrenaline. I found myself lurching forward in my seat when trying to nail tough gaps to grab an item, another testament to the awesome immersion.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a magnificent remaster with a laser focus on all the right areas. It’s a game oozing with passion and care for a franchise that really deserves it after so many years of hurt, and I couldn’t be happier for the veteran fans who will find comfort in its carefully crafted systems and ever-exciting gameplay.
Yet thanks to all of its serpentine secrets, clever replayability features and slick graphical style, it’s a no-brainer pickup for newbies too. I pray that the success of this remake will lead Vicarious Visions to keep going and give the rest of the series a careful coat of polish. While we wait, I’ll be outside practising my kickflips in-between speed runs.
- A much-needed booster shot for a deserving franchise that still offers killer gameplay
- Lush lighting and meticulous models make for a refreshing, tasteful art style
- Heaps of replayability features to keep players busy beyond the core campaign
- Vicarious Visions has yet to announce remakes for the rest of the franchise…