The Tony Hawk series has returned to its former glory. Many people, like myself, have a lot of nostalgia for the Pro Skater games. The franchise fell out of the public consciousness after subsequent games added unneeded features that didn’t add to the core gameplay in any way. There’s no story in Pro Skater 1 + 2, no controller gimmicks, just pure skateboarding fun – and that’s the way I like it.
THPS1+2 is a remake/combination of the first two games in the series, released in 1999 and 2000 respectively. The years have been surprisingly kind to the locations you’ll visit, thanks to Vicarious Visions, as you’ll collect secret tapes, jump sick gaps, and perform gnarly tricks, bruh. If you’ve played any game in the franchise, you’ll feel right at home here. I was actually very surprised how much muscle memory came back to me considering it’s been over a decade since I’ve played one of these, and that’s thanks to the excellent controls.
Whatever Pro you choose to play as or choose to create your own skater, the game feels mostly responsive and easy to control. It feels just a bit better than the warehouse demo even. The “mostly” there is very infrequent, but I would find my skater doing some tricks or releasing an ollie when I didn’t want them to. I mostly used the D-Pad on my old DS4 controller, so that may be at fault, but it’s worth mentioning regardless. Controls are standardized and customizable across all levels of both games as well, turns out you can teach old dogs new tricks, so you can do all the reverts, spine transfers, and 900s you want on any stage.
As for what you’ll be doing in those stages, you’ve got a checklist in each level to complete. Some tasks persist across levels, like getting a high enough score or combo and collecting SKATE and secret tapes. Others are unique to the stage like wallriding alarm bells or ollieing over a homeless man 5 times (which just feels cruel). To unlock the next stage, you have to complete a certain amount of objectives across all previous levels, which incentivizes returning to older stages and mastering them. As you play, you’ll also gain experience and level up, which grants you the ability to purchase new clothes for your created skaters, board designs, and strangely, parts to use when creating your own levels. As of writing, there are no microtransactions present in this system, but I’d be surprised if Activision doesn’t force them in at some point. The game also presents you with several challenges to complete for even more experience and fake cash, like getting a combo of a certain length. The closest comparison I can think of are Nook Miles in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, in that they serve as small rewards just for playing the game.
In addition to clothing and boards, you can customize just about every move a particular skater can do. You can change the button combinations of any basic tricks as well as assign up to 8 special tricks, with four unlocked from the start. Once I found a setup I liked, I didn’t mess with it much. I also stuck with my created character for the majority of my playtime, but there are a lot of Pros to play as like Tony Hawk, Chad Muska, Leticia Bufoni, and Aori Nishimura with more unlockable during play. They all have game logos to find in each level, which will earn more points to allocate into their stats like speed or manual balance.
Running on Unreal Engine, the game looks gorgeous with tons of new details added to make each location feel more alive, and the nostalgia factor also helps here just a tad. While the game looks and feels great while playing, I ran into several issues in menus, especially the shop, where the game would take a few seconds to fully load a texture or the framerate dropping dramatically as you scroll through customization options. Of course these won’t ruin the experience of actually playing the game, if there were any frame drops while playing I certainly didn’t notice them, but it certainly made me go into the shop less to not have to deal with all the waiting.
THPS1+2 also sports local and online multiplayer, the latter of which we were able to try out thanks to some kind volunteers at Activision and Vicarious Visions. You and other skaters around the world will compete in various challenges like getting a high score, getting the longest combo, or a mode called Grafiti. In Graffiti, you’ll do tricks off of surfaces and ramps and claim them in your color. If another player performs a higher scoring series of tricks off of the same surface, they’ll claim it instead. Multiplayer is fun enough, but all the modes don’t really have you interacting with other players. You can see them as you play, but you just pass right through them. While this is appropriate for the modes on offer, I would have liked to see the game take the more wacky approach from later games with modes like a king of the hill match or racing through stages like Downhill Jam. Despite my less than great internet connection, I encountered absolutely no issues in multiplayer, aside from just barely losing to several people who are inhumanly good at these games.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2
Pro Skater 1 + 2 not only perfectly recreates the pure joy of the originals, it improves on them greatly. The visuals have obviously been improved, but so have the responsive controls. If you have liked a Tony Hawk game in the past, you’ll feel right at home here.