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It's '99 again: I can't stop playing the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater demo

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2
(Image credit: Activision, Neversoft)

Everyone had that friend who happened to own every game growing up. Mine was my neighbour who quite literally had every PlayStation game stacked in the corner of their bedroom. After school I'd often ditch my uniform and head round to play whatever was new. While I was too young to fully grasp the mechanics, I had a lot of fun pressing buttons in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series. I spent hours rolling around the Warehouse in the first game, trying to soar high enough to smash into the secret area. Even pulling off the least impressive tricks was enough to keep me occupied, despite the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.

Learning these inputs felt similar to picking up a fighting game.

Fast forward to 2020 and I've learnt that there's far more that you can accomplish in Tony Hawk games. I now understand that maintaining long combos, taking advantage of my Special meter, and performing a variety of tricks maximises my score. So I was excited to revisit the Warehouse in the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 demo currently available on the Epic Games Store. Returning to the graffitied ramps and grindable rails filled me with a mixture of nostalgia and a little embarrassment. My hazy memory recognised the environment—which looks incredible now—but having stagnated in my skating skills, I wasn’t sure where to start.

The first thing I learnt was how to perform a Boneless to maximise my airtime. Then it was onto Kickflips to begin building a combo. Having been bitten by the Street Fighter V bug hard last year, learning these inputs felt similar to picking up a fighting game, and I was surprised by how quickly I managed to pick them up. Before long I could pull off a Boneless + Kickflip + Revert to keep my combo going, grinding on rails and throwing a few Manuals in to extend it even further. 

I quickly learnt that grabs are far more challenging to incorporate into a combo as you have to take hangtime into account. Launching high into the air to attempt a Melon only to smash back onto the ramp knees first was an animation that I’m now very familiar with, but I'm slowly understanding which moves I can squeeze into my airtime before a clean landing.

One of the most rewarding things in the demo is how the music reacts to chains of successful moves. I was already really proud of myself when I managed to nail a five-trick combo, but hearing the soundtrack swell as I maxed out my Special bar further reinforced the sense of achievement. Not only did this encourage me to keep going, I was also eager to learn some of the Special moves to make the most of my meter.

Special moves introduce a challenge in themselves as they require different inputs that are slightly more complicated. Failing these inputs spectacularly drops your entire combo and then you're back to square one. Thankfully, all is not lost if you do make a mistake because your session results highlight specific achievements like 'longest grind' and 'longest manual', as well as your total score for that run. Every time I restarted the demo I had a score to beat, or a more complex combo to try to perfect. It's already become an addictive process.

The Warehouse demo is just two minutes long, but I've already invested around two hours learning and improving. While I can see that I've only scratched the surface, I already feel as though I've learnt so much about the game's mechanics. The best part is that I can continue to master all of these skills ahead of the game's release on September 4. 

Taking to the ramps after so long feels somewhat comforting and familiar, but the demo doesn't feel like I'm returning to an 'old game' either. The surroundings of the Warehouse are undoubtedly pretty to look at, especially when playing on a 120Hz ultrawide monitor. But more importantly, care has been taken to create a fresh and fluid experience for those that have invested a lot of time in the series. It hits the sweet spot of fan-favourite mechanics and vibes, while living up to the standards of a game you'd want to play in 2020. 

The Warehouse level may not be particularly large, but it's the perfect spot for me to graze my knees and pick myself up again. I'm quite happy zooming around it until I can take on the real challenges of the full game, and I can only imagine how excited hardcore fans are at this point. I don't think I've ever been sold on a game based on a demo quite as quickly as this one, and I'm looking forward to sinking more hours into it after work.