America - Front
America - Back
By Stephen LaGioia 03rd Oct 2020 | 3,125 views
There have certainly been some success stories when it comes to the rising trend of remakes and remasters in gaming. Still, it was tough not to be a bit wary about yet another iteration bearing the 'Tony Hawk' moniker. This is particularly the case given the track record of some more recent entries in the series, like the lukewarm Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD and the disaster that was THPS5. And, of course, it’s no easy feat to measure up to the rather high bar of quality set by THPS1 and 2 - which is exactly what Vicarious Visions set out to do with its spruced-up remake. Thankfully, the doubts of both old-school Tony Hawk fans and newcomers alike can pretty much be put to rest.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 truly does the series proud, living up to and even partly surpassing the quality established by those classics. Vicarious Visions does a terrific job of invoking plenty of warm and fuzzy Tony Hawk nostalgia with this revamp, largely embracing the aspects that work from older entries. At the same time, it's succeeded in updating and fleshing out the experience to fit modern gaming sensibilities without going too far in reinventing the wheel.
In a sense, this remaster plays it relatively safe, rarely straying too far from the mechanics, content, and overall formula of THPS1 & 2. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this, considering it's a reworking of arguably the two best games in the series, with controls and moves more akin to the similarly-great THPS3 & 4. If it ain't broke, don’t fix it, right? (looking at you, Downhill Jam/Proving Ground/Shred).
Just like previous entries, players can coast around while performing ollies, rail grinds, manuals, and reverts with simple joystick navigation and pecking the face buttons. You'll also be flying off ramps in exhilarating fashion while doing rotations, grabs, kickflips, and tougher button-combo Specials which are loaded with coveted points. It all feels particularly smooth and satisfying here, and because the mechanics remain largely unchanged from past games, it wasn't long before I was getting into the swing of things again. Despite these familiar mechanics though, this is far from some bare-bones retreading of THPS1 & 2.
Included in this package are some notably sleeker visuals, complete with aesthetically enhanced versions of each classic stage from Tony Hawk 1 and 2. For the most part, these include the same recognizable objectives such as nabbing letters to spell “SKATE” and finding Secret Tapes. Each of these memorable settings contains largely the same layout/design, with revamped assets, crisp 4k resolution, and more detail filled in to give a more realistic look. The game runs at a fluid 60 FPS on consoles (with a higher cap on PC), and offers more dynamic lighting in addition to vaster draw-distances. These improvements allow players to get around and plot out their plan of attack more easily.
Aside from some occasionally-rough load times, the game nails it when it comes to presentation and performance. These enhancements - along with some smoother, more organic animations - help provide a feel that’s more immersive and generally more exhilarating. As a fan of the first two TH games, it was truly delightful basking in nostalgia as I explored the renovated, visually-refined versions of the classic Hanger, Mall, and School.
Along with the slew of stage-specific goals - including new ones for THPS1 - the game offers a seemingly endless palette of new objectives, with overarching challenges, skill points, and tons of unlockable cosmetics/boards for each skater. The abundance of these goodies would seem to open the door for countless microtransactions. But, at least for now, this isn't the case, and everything can thankfully be earned in-game; another aspect that’s delightfully retro. Challenges include goals such as performing certain tricks x number of times or executing a specific combo. The game incorporates a unified system that allows players to use their decked-out skaters universally across both games.
Speaking of the skaters - the line-up consists of the recognizable vets, along with younger prospects such as Aori Nishimura, Tyshawn Jones, and even Tony Hawk’s son Riley. There’s also a pretty in-depth “create a skater” feature, which can be fun to tinker with. Simply factoring in the two-campaigns-in-one, the expansive lineup of skaters and extra challenges alone means there tons of content that seasoned THPS vets and newcomers alike can enjoy.
But on top of this, there's the free-flowing Ranked & Free Skate mode, as well as some addictive local and online multiplayer. There can be countless hours of fun to be had just fighting for high scores online or playing some Horse. Online leaderboards also incentivize you to keep grinding away (literally) for a solid score. There’s even a fairly-accessible yet dynamic “Create a Park” feature that allows you to show off your level design skills to friends - and potentially troll them with tricky designs.
In addition to these new features and added perks, many tricks from the more recent TH entries are also incorporated. This adds both to the depth and overall rewarding nature of the game, as players can more easily string together satisfying combos and wrack up hefty point totals. The game draws from later installments with moves like lip tricks, reverts, and wall plants. At the same time, the gameplay remains fairly accessible and fun by keeping things pretty familiar and simple to grasp. As mentioned, the controls tend to be most similar to THPS 3 & 4’s system, but diehard fans of the first two games can switch to a simpler classic setup if they so choose. This strips away some of the more complex tricks and transitions like reverts.
Along with some thrilling fast-paced gameplay and solid mechanics, the early Tony Hawk were particularly known for their appealing soundtracks. There was just something about those awesome punk rock, ska, and rap jams that jacked you up and added to the adrenaline-pumping experience. Longtime fans will be happy to know that just about all of the classic songs from THPS 1 & 2 are back, coupled with a whopping 37 new, more modern tracks. Not only this, but the entire playlist compiled spans both games. There will be plenty of nostalgia invoked with old-time staples like Goldfinger’s Superman and Anthrax/Public Enemy’s killer “Bring the Noise” collab.
At the same time, the game will have you rocking out to some catchy - and usually contextually relevant - new tunes from artists like Zebrahead and CHAII. With all these new songs, there’s a greater range in styles than ever before - almost to a fault. Indeed, it tonally can be a bit jarring to suddenly shift from the old-school ska of Reel Big Fish to the bumping pop-rap of the more modern “Let’s do it” from All Talk. Still, it’s nice to have such a large and diverse playlist this time around.
The ability to skip and filter through tracks with relative ease is a welcomed feature, as is the absence of the archaic system of ceasing a song after brief two-minute stage runs. The tracks keep rolling until you decide to switch them or until the end - even in the menus. It's minor, but this is an aspect I appreciated. Additionally, there’s a subtle inclusion related to the sound design that triggers a sound-dimming/muffling audio effect following each wipeout from the player. This may be a tad irritating to some - especially to those prone to frequent spills like me. But I found it to be a nice little touch and stylistic spin on the more straightforward formula of the originals, subtle as it may be.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 contains both a modern-day sleekness and grandiosity while feeling charmingly retro. It maintains the authentic, arcade-style feel of the originals while sprinkling in some more complex tricks of future renditions - with a few modern-day bells and whistles. Overall, the familiar mechanics are at least as rock-solid and satisfying as they were back then, and the enjoyable stages look prettier than ever while maintaining their original charm. I found myself oddly struggling a bit and taking spills a good deal more than I remember in my younger years, but I mostly attribute this to shaking off over a decade of TH rust.
Once I got into the swing of things again I was enjoying just about every minute of this exhilarating nostalgic trip. The only real nitpicks are that it plays things a little too safe at times, occasionally hits you with some rough load times, and some of the new songs seem just a touch out of place. But by and large, this is an excellent remaster and a delightful celebration of the Tony Hawk series during its glory days.