As the latest console generation draws to a close, it is easy to look back and see it as the generation of the ‘remake’. After Vicarious Visions’ generally well-received remake of the first three Crash Bandicoot games in 2017, there has been something of a re-release boom ever since. Now they have returned with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, remaking the original 1999 Pro Skater and 2000’s Pro Skater 2, and the results are nothing short of fantastic. In fact, this may well be the best remake of the generation, perfectly capping off this somewhat controversial industry trend with a true sense of purpose.
The Tony Hawk franchise never really recovered after 2007, when EA released the first in the massively popular Skate series. Publisher Activision switched Tony Hawk’s development from series stalwart Neversoft (whose 9 games we have ranked) to then-newcomer Robomodo, but the latter’s attempts to reinvigorate the series (a plastic skateboard peripheral, a wonky HD remake, and a rushed Pro Skater 5) only saw the franchise hit the ground harder. With time healing the wounds and gamers now itching for more skateboarding action, Vicarious Visions’ Pro Skater 1+2 makes the bold and long-awaited statement that the genre is back.
STORY – KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 returns the series to its roots, having no narrative like the later games did but instead a mode called ‘Skate Tours’. Just like in the original entries, this mode gives you two minutes to skate through a map and complete its objectives. When enough are completed you will unlock the next map, as well as earning cash that can be spent in the ‘Skate Shop’ on cosmetics like clothes and skateboard decks, or items for the extensive ‘Create-A-Park’ mode. There are 19 maps in total (including two secret parks) that are divided between the two Pro Skater games, with the mode also providing a ‘Free Skate’ option where players can practice across all maps without having to unlock them.
Owners of the game’s ‘Digital Deluxe Edition’ will have access to 22 skaters in total, with the standard edition having 21. Though this divide between editions is frustrating, it’s still a great roster, comprised of returning (and appropriately aged-up) pros such as Tony himself, Rodney Mullen, Steve Caballero and Kareem Campbell, to name a few. They are joined by newcomers like Leo Baker, Aori Nishimura and Riley Hawk, who are all great additions and keep the game feeling fresh for returning fans.
Players can also create their own character with the ‘Create-A-Skater’ mode, though this is perhaps one of the game’s most glaring weak points. Gone are the days of Underground 2, where we could create a warped, multi-coloured monstrosity, as Pro Skater 1+2 has only a handful of pre-made faces, hairstyles and skin colours, with no options for body morphing. It’s a disappointment, but with loads of clothing and deck options that can be earned and unlocked, it should keep most players interested.
GAMEPLAY – LIKE A FINE WINE
This is where the Tony Hawk series shines the most, and VV has done a phenomenal job in bringing the classic formula to 2020. If you are new to the series, the gameplay is quick to pick up and play, but addictively tough to master, and the sheer kinetic rush of chaining together a successful line of tricks will draw in even the least interested in skating. What worked so well in 1999 works just as brilliantly here, and those who have been with the series since then will find their muscle memory put to immediate use. All the basics are well accounted for, making flip tricks, grabs, grinds, manuals and special moves a blast to chain together as you rack up points, collect ‘S-K-A-T-E’ letters or find the secret tapes.
There are some changes, though. VV has made the wise decision to incorporate tricks from the later games into this remake, most notably the pivotal ‘Revert’ and ‘Wallplant’ manoeuvres that allow players to chain together insane combos and keep their score multiplier going for as long as they can hold it. Spine transfers, acid drops and manual variations from the later games also feature here, their seamless integration adding even greater variety to the player’s combo toolkit. It is worth noting as well that, for old fans of the series, VV has added five new objectives into each of the first Pro Skater’s maps, thus bringing it in line with its successor. This, as well as the gameplay, makes the experience of Pro Skater 1+2 superbly cohesive.
Further uniting the two games are 700+ challenges which are divided into categories: skater, combo, multiplayer, Skate Park and Create-A-Park, which encourages players to get the most out of the game and makes for fantastic replay value. This remake also sports local split-screen multiplayer, something of a dying breed amongst most modern titles, which brought on a nostalgic smile. Alongside it is a basic but fun online multiplayer mode, though the lack of any private lobbies and some (so far) sketchy matchmaking made it one of the lesser aspects of the game.
AUDIO AND GRAPHICS – THE PERFECT UPDATE
Booting the game up, players are greeted with one of the series’ iconic skate montages. Set to Rage Against the Machine’s classic ‘Guerrilla Radio’, this intro starts out with a VHS-like fuzz before kicking into HD and showing the game’s new skaters in action. It is the perfect introduction, made even more so by how the video ends: smashing to a start screen playing Goldfinger’s ‘Superman’.
The Tony Hawk games are well known for having some of gaming’s best soundtracks, and though not all of the old tracks have returned due to licensing constraints, the new songs that VV has selected blend perfectly. Even when they don’t quite mesh (I never thought I’d hear Skepta in an OST with Reel Big Fish), they retain that eclectic charm that I adore the series’ soundtracks for, sending it straight onto my Spotify. Skating sound effects are all fantastic too, from the rolling of wheels on the pavement to the satisfying snap of a successful flip trick. The way the game’s ‘Special’ meter is implemented into the sound mix also became one of my favourite things: whenever you pull off a strong combo line, it sends the soundtrack into a fist-pumping, stadium-like echo. A brilliant touch.
With VV rebuilding every element of the game from the ground up, it’s no surprise that it is as dazzling visually as it is audibly. The game’s environments are gorgeously varied, looking more so now than ever thanks to stunning 4K HDR integration and buttery smooth framerate of 60 FPS. With great character models and fantastic lighting, it is a genuine dream come true for fans, making this easily the best-looking skateboarding game to date.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 was reviewed on Xbox One.