STAFF REVIEW of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (Xbox One)

Wednesday, September 9, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 Box art There’s a few games that when you look back and reminisce they probably define your childhood or gaming career. I have a few of those games, of which were the first two Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. I can’t even fathom how many hours a friend and I would play the Tony Hawk games all day, every day, whenever we had the chance growing up. When it came time for the weekend, we would load up on chips, snacks and energy drinks just so we could play for as long as possible; it was a simpler time back then and some of my best gaming memories.

Nostalgia is a funny thing, as it can sometimes make you remember things far better than they actually were. With a slew of remake and remastered games coming in recent years, it’s easy to get swept up in nostalgia. Sometimes playing an older game you loved when you’re much older can bring disappointment, as you realize it really wasn’t as great as you remember. Thankfully this isn’t the case with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, as much care went into recreating these two classic games, arguably the best in the series, and is now the defining experience for skateboarding games. Both games were popular back then, and if my friends list is any indication, then it seems many have been clamoring for the return of a great Tony Hawk game.

Rebuilt from the ground up, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 brings its classic gameplay into the modern age with a boost of graphics, updated mechanics and of course, online gameplay for you and all your friends to enjoy skating together. It wasn’t clear what the future of the franchise was going to be after the abysmal Pro Skater 5 back in 2015, as it seemed to have lost that magic touch of what made the series so great, so it’s great to see classic Tony Hawk gameplay make a return, even if it’s the original two games remade.

You begin your skate career by either choosing your skater or creating your own. The options for creating are somewhat limited though, allowing you to create your male or female skater, but many of the options are bland or only give you a couple choices. Much of the clothing and gear will be locked until you reach a certain level or have enough in-game cash to purchase them. If you choose to create your own skater you’ll have low stats and will need to collect the stat point icons across the stages if you want to improve your skater.

You can also choose to skate as the iconic and legendary Tony Hawk of course, but there’s a slew of returning pro skaters, as well as some new ones for this release. Some of the notable returning pros are Chad Muska, Eric Koston, Bob Burnquist, Elissa Steamer, Bucky Lasek and more. It’s been many years since these two games originally released though, and many new and upcoming skaters have been making headlines and are now included in the game as well. Skaters Nyjah Huston, Leo Baker, Leticia Bufoni, Aori Nishimura, Lizzie Armento, Shane O’Neill, Riley Hawk and Tyshawn Jones round out the new class of skaters and is a welcome addition to the series.

Across both games, you have a persistent skater level that ranks up as you complete more challenges, regardless of which skater you’re currently using. Leveling up will earn you access to new clothing, skate gear and trick slots for specials. The cosmetic store is quite expansive and it will take a lot of gameplay if you want to purchase everything that is offered. With an absolute ton of challenges to attempt to complete as well, you’ll have plenty to focus on even after you’ve unlocked every level.

If you’re new to the Tony Hawk series, the gameplay is simple enough to play but takes time and effort to master. You’re given two minute runs to get the highest score possible or complete certain objectives like finding the letters S-K-A-T-E, hidden video tapes, grinding a certain amount of tables and much more. This 2 minute piece-meal approach is an old mechanic, but still works and suits the gameplay quite well. The games were known for not only pulling off crazy tricks, but combo-ing them all together in a completely unrealistic way, like performing Tony’s iconic 900 spin off a building to grind a bus and pulling off a manual with a dozen tricks in-between. This arcade take on skateboarding is what made it so fun in the first place, and still holds up all these years later.

Skate Tours is where you’ll take on level by level, unlocking new ones as you complete certain amounts of objectives. The levels were just as iconic as the gameplay and soundtrack, so it was fantastic diving right back into familiar territory with levels I could probably recreate and draw from memory I put so much time into them when I was younger. The level designs are largely unchanged, but graphically improved in so many ways that they actually feel like an actual place somewhere in the real world now. The graffiti on the walls for example looks realistic, as does the night time lighting. It's wonderful to see old levels I remember in my head, but now realized in modern day graphics.

Everything simply feels authentic and just as you remember, which is impressive given how much new is included as well. The majority of all the content from the original games are in, save for a few of the songs for licensing reasons I could only assume, but is amped up with a new graphic engine, new models (that look more realistic than ever), HDR lighting and smooth 4K/60FPS that makes it a better experience than ever before. There are some fundamental changes though which took me a while to get used to, such as being able to revert, a move that wasn’t available in these first games (it was introduced in THPS3) but allows for more combo transitions from landing vert moves. While some purists may frown upon adding changes, I believe this one is for the better overall, even if it does change the original flow of the games, though there are options to have classic move-sets only should you really wish.

So you’re now a pro skater and have collected everything the game has to offer and unlocked every stage? Well, this is where Create-A-Park comes in. While not a new feature to the series, now that online gaming is the norm, you’re not only able to create any crazy skate park idea that you can imagine, but also upload it and share it for anyone else to try as well. The tools are quite simple to use and offer a lot more variety and options than ever before as well, so make sure to check online as there are some absolutely crazy park creations out there already.

Online simultaneous multiplayer is now an option as well, so gather your friends and challenge them to a variety of different challenges, like longest combo, highest score and more. There are casual and ranked sessions you can join, and although functional and lag free, having more robust options would be welcome.

Arguably, more iconic than the gameplay for the THPS series is its soundtrack. At the time, not many games used real world licensed soundtrack to this degree, and these games specifically opened me up to a ton of different musical genres. These games were actually the first gaming soundtrack I ever purchased on CD and defined a bunch of my musical tastes that still stands today. With a quick press of the Right Stick, you can instantly skip the song playing, or even completely disable certain songs you don’t like in the options. The developers knew that the soundtrack is a big deal with this remake, so they were able to get the majority of the original soundtrack included for this remaster, which is exciting, but also added 37 completely new tracks, most of which feel as if they blend into the original soundtrack seamlessly. What really matters though is that “Superman” by Goldfinger is still included and great as ever.

For the true Tony Hawk fans, if you can find the Collector’s Edition, it even comes with an actual full sized and completely usable Tony Hawk skateboard that looks sweet as hell, of which I’ve proudly mounted to my wall for display.

Remastering old games that gamers cherish is tricky, because if you put minimal effort into it you might ruin that classic feeling and nostalgia people have for said game, but change too much and you have the same results, so there’s a fine balance needed to preserve but improve at the same time. It’s abundantly clear that a lot of effort, time, thought and care went into this remaster, balancing classic gameplay but improving many aspects and quality of life options simultaneously.

More than a simple coat of paint, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 not only brings back that nostalgia and great memories growing up playing every chance I could, but modernizes many of its fundamentals without completely changing everything about the classics that made it so great in the first place. For fans of the classics like myself, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is a perfect example of how to preserve its original essence as to what made it so great in the first place but adding many improvements at the same time, and for newcomers, there’s no better arcade skate game out there on the market today.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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