There’s much to be said about a skateboarding franchise remake that still holds up nearly two decades after its release. If I was ever told that they would remaster and modernize the top two Tony Hawk Pro Skater games for current gen consoles, this is exactly what I would have expected! The remake’s developer Vicarious Visions, has dug deep into original instances of the same games and have breathed new life into this new version that seamlessly condenses both Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 and 2 into a single game! Sporting fresh modernized graphics, an expanded soundtrack and perfected controls, they have definitely brought it up to speed for today’s gamers.
Incredibly enough, this remake takes the bar set by the amazing originals and pushes it further. This is justified immediately as the game loads and serves up one of the most epic intro videos I’ve ever seen in a long time. As soon as the intro track, “Guerilla Radio” (Rage Against the Machine) starts to play and is intercut with visuals of the all-star roster from the original games along with short bursts of the new skaters joining the team, I was hooked. This instantly set the pace of what I would be expecting in the game.
There was definitely a strategy involved in architecting this remake. Vicarious Visions did not simply set out to polish up the graphics with this venture. (See 2012’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD.) Rather, they also sought to keep coveted elements from the original games sacred, and truly push the boundaries of what made them fun and exciting in the first place.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 welcomes back all 13 skaters from the original, but for added realism, developers had them return in their current likeness. Many of the original skaters will be hitting the parks and the myriad of other maps as they look today, in 2020 in their 40s and 50s. This pays homage to the fact that their fan base has also grown up alongside them and can appreciate the passage of time. This interesting twist on the remake creates a more realistic feel and engages the audience in a more meaningful way.
Much like the personalities, all scenery, parks and maps in the game have also been given eye opening makeovers. Keeping nostalgia at the forefront, they have upped the artwork ante on every level. For example, The Mall has been cleverly redesigned as an abandoned ghost town forgotten in time. After all, who skates around a mall anymore, right? Furthermore, Venice Beach has been rejuvenated with vibrant colour and almost every surface has been sprayed over with generations of layered graffiti. Again, masterfully hinting at the passage of time! Finally, we need to pay tribute to the Hangar stage. This has always been an excellent level in the game’s predecessor, but this time it’s been turned into a virtual shrine – remembering the original Tony Hawk developer Neversoft’s version of the game. This is truly a nice touch, and an excellent nod to the original. The game still allows you to unlock new maps by achieving different goals while playing through various levels like New York and Miami.
Much like the graphics and artwork, controls and in-game core mechanics in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 have also been modernized to a degree that still keeps the gaming level incredibly immersive and exciting. Gameplay controls are very reminiscent from the older games, but they have been made smoother and tightened up so that nailing tricks and key maneuvers feels just right. Nothing feels tacked on. There is a tight controller / character integration that supports active feedback in the game as well. New animations give characters’ bodies a slight bounce when they land a trick. You can inherently tell the difference between a sloppy move and pulling off a perfect one. Your character offers detailed nuances based on how well, or erroneous your tricks land. This is exhibited in their body movements and in their convincing facial expressions during and after the trick. In terms of controller feedback, I really like the gentle vibration ping and slight camera shake when you come down from the air on a vertical ramp jump. This pairs nicely with the visual feedback from your character’s body movements, and really helps to keep the game feel like an immersive next generation title.
Unlike the former versions of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, in-game money isn’t lying around the map in plain sight anymore. Instead, you are tasked to complete specific goals in exchange for in-game credits that you can then spend on accessories, cosmetics and clothes for your character. As a welcomed bonus, there are no microtransactions (that we know of yet) and everything in the game can be unlocked via gameplay!
One place where the remake does go beyond the original is that brand new challenges have been added to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater part one. This brings the current instalment up to par with the challenges available in part two. While this spruces things up, the biggest enhancement overall comes from the exhaustive list of overarching universal challenges that can be completed across any of the maps at any time during gameplay. Completing these challenges across any of the two games (part one and / or part two) earns you credits that ties into a new, overall leveling system that allows you to customize your skater further. This is another welcomed enhancement as the game seamlessly allows you to earn bonuses as though you were playing one game!
An undeniably integral component of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise has, and always will be the soundtrack. Much of the nostalgia that gamers new and old will draw from this remake is rooted in the perfectly curated playlist that this game had to offer nearly two decades ago. The bands that once held the fort down as your musical accompaniment while you ollied and kick flipped your way to skate stardom all return in this awesome remaster. Not only that, but 37 new bands have also joined that list to round out its modernized evolution. While playing, I was not surprised when I suddenly found myself humming along to the (still) infectious tracks from the classic 90’s rock bands that I adored as a teen. Legacy bands such as: Rage Against The Machine, Papa Roach, Goldfinger, Primus and Naughty By Nature are now joined by an encore of sizzling bands like: Billy Talent, A Tribe Called Quest, MxPx, Machine Gun Kelly, The Ataris and Zebrahead to make this game’s soundtrack (literally) rock just as hard as it did when it was initially released.
With an ever enduring soundtrack, updated pro-skater character models, moves, maps and an evolved leveling system Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 remake strikes a seriously wicked balance between new and old gameplay action! Every element of the original games that earned them their legions of fans is back with a 2020 makeover that still keeps it the same genre leading game that it once was in the past. This version allows both old and new fans alike to experience these masterpieces through a modern lens while remaining entirely respectful to Neversoft’s original.