Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 Remastered Review

After a five-year hiatus, the iconic skateboarding series is back with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 Remastered, ushering in what could be a whole new era for the franchise.

The 2010s were not good to Tony Hawk. Reeling off the failure of the Guitar Hero inspired Tony Hawk’s Ride and Shred games, the series saw two attempts to reclaim its former glory. These came in the form of the lesser known Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, and the now infamous Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5.

So unplayable was Pro Skater 5 upon release that it seemed to signal the final nail in the coffin for the once beloved series. Well, this is a new era now, and Vicarious Visions is back at the helm for some course correction, going back to basics with a full-blown remake of the first two Pro Skater entries.

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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2

With all the expectations going into this remaster, I’ll admit that I was sceptical, but it became clear after five minutes of gameplay that Vicarious Visions has done the series proud. Just like riding a bike, all of the old tricks came back to me. The Ollie, the Kickflip, the ‘I could never do that in real life-flip’ – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is back.

Whether it’s grab tricks, rail grinding or diving into a manual, everything feels incredibly responsive and exactly how you remember it. Of course, with this being a remaster, Vicarious Visions has stayed true to the original games where it counts, but there are a few noticeable changes.

For example, even though the move wasn’t added until Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, the ability to pull off manuals in this game opens up a whole new means of conversing these classic levels. The remaster has refrained from adopting the off-the-board exploration introduced in Tony Hawk’s Underground, which is sure to please the purists.

While I’m not against Vicarious Visions wanting to hone in on the core gameplay that made the series so appealing in the first place, the journey back into skill based gameplay is sure to feel somewhat jarring to fans of the later games (myself included). 

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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2

Things are just a tad slower here, and it’s a lot harder to gain speed to make some of the game’s jumps. But if you’re willing to invest the time, you’re going to get a lot out of THPS 1+2 Remastered.

If you’re looking for some combo-building inspiration however, you can always take the action online. There are two modes to choose from: ‘Jams’ and ‘Competitive’. Jams lets you compete in a casual setting against several other players, as you all duke it out in an ever rotating list of challenges. Competitive ups the ante in a one on one setting that’s ranked, giving the pros a chance to show off that ridiculous combo they’ve been perfecting.

Offline, there are several different ways to enjoy the content that’s on offer here. If you want to keep things traditional, you can progress through THPS 1 and 2 separately, enjoying the career mode as you remember it. Alternatively, you can opt for the free skate mode where all levels are open to you, there’s no time limit and you can enjoy said stages at your leisure. Speaking of which, it’s here that you’ll see THPS 1+2’s biggest overhaul.

It’s not surprising given that these games originally debuted on fifth generation hardware, but Tony Hawk, his buddies and all the locales they visit have seen a staggering graphical upgrade. Sure, there’s a slight bit of uncanny valley with character models, but the stages look absolutely gorgeous.

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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2

The streets of San Francisco pop with vibrant colours, while Venice Beach uses some fantastic lighting effects to look like one giant Instagram filter. All of the added detail does come with a downside however, particularly with some of the game’s darker levels, as it becomes slightly more difficult to pinpoint rails and half-pipes. While the original titles sure look dated today, it was definitely a lot easier to understand the geometry of the level design.

As if to tempt me to try and do better, Vicarious Visions has included a fully-fledged level creator in the game. While I can gladly admit that I have absolutely no skill when it comes to game design, it is incredible to see the pre-made levels on offer as an example for what can be done with the feature. In fact, some fantastic user-made levels have already started to climb the ranks, ensuring that THPS 1+2 will offer an absurd amount of longevity going forward.

That value for money can also be found within the single player component. In addition to the campaign, there’s a plethora of challenges to complete, some of which are skater-specific to entice players to mix things up and check out the roster. Completing these challenges affords you experience points and money – both of which let you unlock various skaters, skateboards and more in the game’s shop.

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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2

I know it’s almost unheard of in 2020, but having an in-game store that rewards you for playing the game and not for spending real-world cash feels like a breath of fresh air. At a time when Marvel’s Avengers has come under fire for its inclusion of microtransactions, it’s great to see a title going back to a simpler time when all the content you wanted was already included on the disc.

I’d be remiss if I also didn’t give a nod to the game’s soundtrack. So much of the fandom is tied up in nostalgia for the great soundtracks included over the years, and THPS 1+2 brings it all rushing back. Hearing Goldfinger’s Superman as you boot up the game is a treat, and there’s plenty more ska, grunge and pop rock where that came from.

Still, the folks at Vicarious Visions knew that there would be a whole new generation of fans seeing an entry point with this title, and so there are a few modern bangers to be found. For example, I never expected to hear Skepta in a Tony Hawk’s title, but the harsh London beats of ‘Shutdown’ fit the game perfectly.

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Verdict

After a five-year hiatus, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater seemed like it was gone for good. Resurrecting the series was never going to be an easy task, but Vicarious Visions has hit it out of the park and brought the once-great franchise back to its former glory.

The gameplay is so responsive and rewarding that it’s hard to put down. It might take some time to master, but finally lining up that absurd combo you’ve been practising makes it all worth it. Throw in the in-game progression, unlockables, level creator and online play, and you’re looking at one of the most feature packed games of 2020.

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