What is it? Remade, modern versions of the first two Tony Hawk games from 1999 and 2000.
Reviewed on: Windows 10 64-bit Home, Intel Core i7 10th Gen, 16GB RAM, NVidia GeForce RTX 2070.
Release date: Out now
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Multiplayer: Split screen, online score attack and leaderboards
Link: Official site
After the disastrous Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5, trepidation over these remakes is understandable. After all, the latter of the two games offered in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is one of the greatest games of all time. It starts so teasingly, with the right font, the right music and the right menu style. And then the final barrier between hoping and believing is literally smashed down as you careen through that first wall and into the iconic warehouse level. It looks great and it plays so well.
THPS1 has been improved so much in terms of fluidity, visuals and its trick system, it’s more like an expansion pack for THPS3. Best of all, actual modernity is shunned entirely as you snap onto grind rails regardless of your approach angle and perform tricks with digital button combos instead of analogue stick waggling. The movement is rudimentary—some might say antiquated—but it still provides some of the finest risk vs reward play ever seen as you chain trick combos and grapple with balance meters at risk of losing everything with one mistake. Crucially, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 feels like the series did in its heyday, even if the games aren't exactly the same as the originals.
Revert to save
The main change is the introduction of THPS2’s manual and THPS3’s revert flatland tricks into the package—the latter at the request of Tony Hawk himself. These make for a much more enjoyable and flowing game, with far higher scoring potential. Naturally, the goals have been elevated to fit, but this control uniformity does remove the little variety between the two games, so they don’t really feel that different any more. Now they both feel great. There’s an optional tutorial at the start of the game, and it’s worth playing even if you’re a Tony Hawk’s veteran, just so you’re aware of the systems used here that are borrowed from later games. Vicarious Visions has wisely stopped short of introducing the dismount and climbing features from Tony Hawk’s Underground. This feels pure and right.
The game mostly plays out in timed, two-minute chunks. This structure means you can always enjoy a quick session, but, cleverly, the game keeps running even after the clock expires so long as you’re performing a trick or combo. If you’re good, you can theoretically keep skating for another minute or more after the buzzer. Even so, once you've done the treasure hunt style challenges like wall-ride 5 fire alarms or collect the letters S-K-A-T-E, you’ll find you rarely play the entire 2 minutes, due to instinctively reaching for the pause/restart sequence of button presses to try for a better run. If any criticism could be levelled at this aspect of the game, it would be that the slight delay of the transition screen should really have been removed, as the faster you can restart, the less break there is in the fun. It’s still fast, sure, but it should arguably be instantaneous.
There are plenty of levels to explore and enjoy, but even if you’ve forgotten where all the collectible icons and secret tapes are, there really aren’t that many hours of career mode before veterans will start running out of things to do. A day, perhaps, maybe two. It's all expertly designed, and the constant drip of unlocks and checkmarks still makes for a very satisfying campaign while it lasts. (Speaking of which, unlocking the ‘mods’ like perfect rail balance basically breaks the finely-tuned skating, so best avoid those.)
For those who want to squeeze every last drop from the package, there are loads of challenges to tick off. These come up on the right hand side whenever you go back to the main menu, and beating them unlocks new apparel, decks and videos to watch. It’s weird that ‘finding the secret tape’ doesn’t actually unlock any of the secret tapes, but hey ho. (No, stop that—don’t say ‘let’s go’—that was THPS3. Which also sadly means no Motorhead. But if this does well, perhaps we’ll get a remaster of THPS3 too. We can but hope.)
Then there’s the multitude of gaps to jump, special tricks to learn and stats to upgrade. The game is simple enough that anyone can have fun on their first go (because even bailing spectacularly down the school steps is fun), yet has sufficient depth to keep you playing for weeks. There’s frequent joy in discovery as you open a hidden area, fun set pieces to watch and even occasionally some ‘judged’ sessions, where score can be affected by bailing, so it isn’t always just about the mega combos.
Besides career, there’s the skate park builder mode complete with several levels designed by Vicarious Visions themselves, plus online leaderboards in a separate pillar of career mode. Sadly, some of these entries appear to have been hacked already, but it’s still obvious which times are real, so it still counts for something to do well.
Then there’s online play with a round robin of event types, as you watch other boarders around you, thankfully with collisions switched off. Expect to be royally trounced by master players, but I didn’t experience any technical hiccups while I played it.
You're a horse
Local multiplayer is exemplary too, with a smooth-running split screen mode and a wealth of game types including the riotous H-O-R-S-E, where you’re given a letter each time you lose to your buddy in a one-shot combo test. You can still change the word to whatever you like, so you either get called a horse, or much worse. It’s one of the best local multiplayer modes of all time, and it turns out ‘trick greed’ is a great leveller.
Graphically, nothing here is phenomenal but it's a strong remaster of the old levels' basic geometry. Vehicles and skaters have far more detail, there's no obvious pop-in, and the lighting and texture work have many standout moments. My Nvidia RTX 2070 ran the game at 1080p on automatic max settings just fine for the most part, though did stutter a little on the longer, downhill-style levels, so some tweaking will likely be required if you want it to be perfectly smooth. Another technical hitch comes when the server connection drops, as the game freezes a few times in succession as it attempts to reconnect, which can completely destroy any combo you’ve got going on. Everything else is exactly as you’d hope. The soundtrack is censored (as usual) but it’s still great to hear Rage Against The Machine's Guerrilla Radio as you cannon around. Turn that ___ up.
The fantastic score system, impeccable level design, improved visuals, exemplary online mode and local multiplayer means there’s very little to complain about here. Even veterans who blaze through it in a day will likely keep playing competitively. This is everything it needed to be, and feels surprisingly fresh. Lovely stuff.