The Tony Hawk’s series of video games were enormous in the late nineties and early to mid noughties, with the Pro Skater and Underground games being largely revered the world over. Pro Skater seems to be the franchise that the masses have always wanted to come back, so much so that Activision have decided that a HD remaster is in order to bring attention back to the dormant franchise. But don’t be fooled, this is actually Activision’s third attempt to make Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater relevant again. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD released in 2012 and made an admirable attempt at replicating classic pro skater levels but lacked the overall feel of control from the original. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was much worse, with baffling control decisions and horrid performance hiccups essentially muddying the legacy of the series as opposed to amplifying it. Thankfully for those clamouring for a return to the glory days of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a case of third time lucky, with supremely addictive gameplay, plenty of content, and a quality soundtrack bringing the beloved franchise back in style.
Upon booting the game you are greeted with an intro video that comprises footage of the playable skaters from now and back then, carving up the streets and smashing vert ramps with tricks we all wish we could emulate in reality. Alongside memorable names from prior games such as Bob Burnquist, Rodney Mullen, Kareem Campbell and obviously Tony Hawk, there are a bunch of new skaters from the modern era including Japanese professional Aori Nishimura and even Tony’s son Riley Hawk. Better yet, the original roster are presented in their current day likeness, meaning that you’ll be pulling off 900s as a 52-year-old Tony Hawk. Having that original roster all be represented as 40 and 50 year olds is an exceedingly charming touch, as the cast have clearly aged alongside the game. Special characters such as Spider-Man aren’t available as to be expected due to what are surely headache-inducing licensing issues, but the fact that all the main cast are present alongside some new skaters is truly impressive.
The opening video is so damn good
While the roster may have brought back the whole gang in its entirety, the same can’t be said for the soundtrack, but it is pretty damn close to containing all the tracks from the original games. Only five tracks fail to return, and their omission for some may sting, but it’s a decent effort considering the world of tricky music licensing we live in. Big hits like Superman by Goldfinger and Rage Against the Machine’s Guerilla Radio make a triumphant return in what is a kickass soundtrack that will immediately transport you back to the past. The soundtrack has also been padded out with additional tracks such as Can I Kick It? by a Tribe Called Quest and Bloody Valentine by Machine Gun Kelly (which slaps surprisingly hard). The newly added tracks are songs both new and old, and yet despite this, the soundtrack doesn’t feel jumbled, leading to one of the most replayable soundtracks I can recall.
In terms of gameplay, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 absolutely crushes it. It’s fast, frantic and arguably has one of the most addictive gameplay loops I’ve played in recent memory. While my experience with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater isn’t to the level of those that played the games as they released decades ago, the game elicits a sense of nostalgia for a simpler time in video games that feels inherently comfortable and familiar. The arcadey loop of skating around levels and performing as many tricks in a combo as possible and seeing your score climb to heights you thought were impossible is what makes this game so special. It isn’t easy to immediately carve up levels and achieve crazy high scores, but once you get a handle on chaining combos by utilising the manual on flat surfaces and the revert when coming down from a vert ramp, you quickly realise just how capable you are of posting insane scores. The fact that your skater is almost constantly moving can lead to some minor frustrating moments where it is a tad hard to nab a collectible, but other than that I don’t have any qualms with the controls. It sounds cliché, but Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is easy to learn, yet really difficult to master, and if you encounter other skaters online or watch videos on YouTube, you’ll quickly learn how high the ceiling is.
Gameplay is fast, fun, and a joy to control
You are free to tackle the career modes of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 in any order you like in the Skate Tours mode. Each career mode consists of numerous goal-based and competition parks. Goal-based parks are the bread and butter of this game, tasking you with completing certain challenges, such as collecting S-K-A-T-E letters, doing tricks to achieve a certain score, and landing particular tricks in a specific section of a level. All of these levels have numerous goals to complete, and while some are easy and can be completed in a short period of time, the score challenges in particular may challenge initially as you get your bearings (skate pun!). These parks may not take forever to complete, but each provides so much fun in their two minute duration that you will surely replay them plenty of times. Completing goals unlocks more parks for you to play around with, as well as money that can be spent to buy merch at the skate shop and experience points that level your profile up and grant you access to more purchasable items.
Competition parks are interspersed between the career modes, serving as tournaments where you perform in front of a panel of judges. The crazier combos you land and the less bailing the higher your score will be, and after three heats you may earn a bronze, silver, or gold medal if you manage to score higher than other skaters. This mode is where the combo-loving players shine, encouraging you to focus solely on racking up the highest score possible within the allotted time. You also have to bring your A game, as the competitions in these parks aren’t anything to scoff at. Aiding you in your attempts to become the greatest pro skater are Skill Points, which are collectibles found in both level types. They allow you to upgrade your skater’s stats, such as their ollie height and overall speed. They aren’t essential for progression, but they certainly help in ensuring that you get a little bit more of an advantage.
The goal-based parks are my personal favourite
Also in the Skate Tours mode is the Ranked and Free Skate option that grants you access to all levels from both games without having to unlock them as you do in their career modes. From here you can play Free Skate mode and play through levels without the burden of a time limit and challenges, or play the Single Session mode that challenges you with posting the highest score you can in the given time. There’s even a speed run mode where you must complete all the goals in a park in as quick a time as possible. Each mode provides plenty of fun, and while the goal-based and competition modes of the careers take the cake over the Ranked and Free Skate modes, they are all fun modes to play.
Speaking of fun, there is plenty to be had in multiplayer, which can be played both online and locally. Local multiplayer allows you and a friend to play together on the couch, with access to numerous game modes. Free Skate has no winners and grants you the freedom to relax and cruise around parks with a pal, but all other game modes require you to compete against one another. Score Challenge for example tasks you to reach a predetermined score first, while Trick Attack awards victory to the player with the highest overall score at the end of the time limit. Each mode has a different challenge to them and there honestly isn’t a game mode I found myself disliking. All local game modes except H-O-R-S-E are playable in online multiplayer, where you can test your skills against up to seven other skaters. There are two different playlists available online that cater to players of varying skill levels. Jams is the casual mode where the top four skaters can win, whereas Competitive is the higher level playlist that sees only the best skaters win. Both playlists feature the same modes, but jumping between the two immediately highlights the difference in skill between novice and pro players. Much like everything else in this package, multiplayer in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 exudes quality, with extremely solid modes and a surprisingly lag-free online experience.
Online multiplayer is truly a blast
Further additional modes to tinker with in Tony Hawk’s 1 + 2 are the Create-A-Park and Create-A-Skater modes. Create-A-Park is a park creation tool that allows you to craft your own skateparks and share them online if you wish to do so. It’s a reliable tool that allows for the community to continue to breathe life into the game, and despite the fact I’d rather skate the parks instead of making them, it is quite enjoyable and satisfying to litter a level with all the obstacles and objects you like to skate on such as quarter pipes or rails. Create-A-Skater as the name suggests, allows you to make your own custom skaters. You can deck them and their boards out in name-brand merch if you’ve got the money to spend, and you can play as them in all game modes. Vicarious Visions opted for preset character faces instead of implementing sliders which is a shame as you are limited in the customisation of your skater. Regardless of the aforementioned shortcoming, Create-A-Skater still allows you to make your own skater and kit them in merch from reputable skate brands such as Lakai, Vans and Element, and for that I still enjoy it immensely.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 takes the cherished skating games from a bygone era, polishing them to near perfection in what is by far one of the best games released this year. It succeeds in bringing back the frenetic and heavily addictive gameplay that made the franchise a hit in first place, while also looking extremely gorgeous at the same time with its highly detailed new aesthetic. It also graces the ears of Pro Skater rookies and veterans with almost the entire original soundtrack, with a few newer tracks that all somehow feel right at home amongst the old tracks. With so many challenges to complete in the single-player and infinite fun to be had playing the multiplayer modes both online and with friends on the couch, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 presents itself as a mandatory acquisition.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro // Review code supplied by publisher