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May 2021

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: Sept. 4, 2020

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PS4 Review - 'Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2'

by Andreas Salmen on Sept. 25, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

The original birdman Tony Hawk is returning with remastered versions of the first two badass games in the Tony Hawk franchise -- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2.

Buy Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2

It's been over two decades since Tony Hawk made his first video game appearance in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, a universally celebrated title. Its sequel, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, is still considered one of the best video games of all time, but the franchise quickly declined with the introduction of a plethora of new systems and gimmicks until the series was canned altogether. Since then, skating games have been a rarity, especially in Pro Skater 's previous budget price range. Thankfully, Activision has been on a roll recently in reviving and remaking a handful of old IPs; it started with Crash, Spyro, and now the old skating icon. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a full remake of the first two entries of the skating behemoth, and we're happy to report that it's every bit as glorious as fans had hoped.

Developer Vicarious Visions isn't a stranger to the franchise, having been involved in most of THPS' past portable offerings. Just like the N. Sane Trilogy before it, Pro Skater 1 + 2 captures the same feel and level of control that you remember, while wrapping it in beautiful new visuals that feel in line with your memories of the original. It's perplexing in a good way, as the differences are jarring, but without that comparison, your brain could be tricked into thinking that nothing had changed. Fans will welcome this level of authenticity, but newcomers and people who are unfamiliar with the franchise might be overwhelmed by its structure and highly skill-driven gameplay.

If you've played any Pro Skater title before, starting up the tutorial and taking laps around the skate park will likely activate your muscle memory. Controls and combos have largely remained the same, enabling veterans to jump straight in. Both remasters are combined into one experience, so both games have the same controls, tricks and appearance.

THPS didn't include as many collectibles per stage or offer as many ways to string together combos as the sequel, so these changes go a long way to ensure parity and offer a bit of new content — even for those who know the originals by heart. While stages from each title are grouped in their own playlists, they can be played independently, and all characters are available across THPS1+2. The game presentation is also refreshingly simple. Thankfully, Vicarious Visions refrained from adding too much to the experience, so the title feels like it's been trimmed down to the essentials compared to what we'd expect from a modern game. There's no story forced on us, and apart from a string of linear stages that are unlocked as we complete challenges, there's refreshingly little that distracts from the experience at hand.

If you've never played a THPS game, this remaster is a good place to start, since it emulates the feel and vibe of the original games while stepping up the visual fidelity manifold. The series features an addicting mix of sports simulation, competitive arcade high scores, and platformer influences. Each stage consists of challenges, including collectibles, score combo targets, special tricks to perform at specific locations, and the infamous secret tape. There's a two-minute timer that makes matters trickier during your first few attempts, but as you drop into the pipes and execute mind-bending tricks, levels quickly become known quantities that are increasingly easy to navigate.

It also shows that the level design still holds up very well today. You'll find new shortcuts, rooftops, or other areas that become available as you explore. It's a joy to play, and chances are that you will find new favorite maps, such as Roswell from the original Pro Skater or the School levels that both titles share. All of the stages are quite beautiful in the remaster, with a high level of detail.

The best part of this approach is its scalability. It's easy to drop in, do a few tricks, and drop out without much hassle. If you're not familiar with how to string together combos, cruising around and grabbing collectibles can be a calming exercise that is more about timing and exploration than skill on the controller, at least in the early stages. If you embrace its combo system, THPS1+2 has a high skill threshold that demands time and commitment. Don't fret if you can't get the hang of it; accessibility options can make it easier to pull off certain tricks, but I'd recommend sticking with the original control scheme. Accessibility options are a good way to ease newcomers into the experience.

The controls are super snappy, and the tricks are excellent. Paired with smoother and more detailed animations, the tricks and combos feel incredibly satisfying to pull off, especially since both the analog stick and d-pad are supported. The goal is still to string together as many tricks as possible, which usually means transitioning from manuals to jumps and grinds without dropping the ball. For all of its potential depth, pulling off simple maneuvers is relatively easy, since every button has a definitive use that can be modified by directional input and then strung together. The more tricks are performed without wiping out, the higher the skill meter goes, enabling the player to perform signature moves for points and, of course, immense personal satisfaction.

It isn't perfect; if you're not familiar with the controls, there is some clunkiness to get used to. When you need to turn on a dime or navigate narrow areas, it can quickly become frustrating since characters take incredibly long arcs to turn around unless you stop. It also seems like certain inputs, such as trying to leave a half-pipe by jumping out of it, have a narrow timing window that often results in inaction. These are minor gripes that are remedied with experience, but it can make a challenging control scheme unnecessarily cumbersome when you're starting out.

Another staple of the franchise is its roster of characters. Not only does the remake include a good selection of returning characters, but it also has a lot of new meat to grind the skate park. Much more intriguing is the handful of unlockable secret characters, some of whom require some effort to unlock. Without spoiling it, expect over 20 playable characters once you've found everything in the game. I expect no one is going to argue with the number or the character selection. The soundtrack is similarly strong, with the known selection of original songs that are stuck in my head again, and the few new additions don't mingle as well. Thankfully, the settings allow us to disable certain songs in-game, so you can pare down the soundtrack to your favorites.

All in all, THPS1+2 offers the same gameplay, similar content, and a few neat additions across the 19 stages of the first two games (and an unlockable extra level). But wait — there's more! The game offers a variety of general challenges to generate cash and unlock gear at the skater shop. The game has hundreds of gear pieces and board designs to modify our appearance. Some may be character-specific, but others can be used across the board. It's another case of an in-game shop in an Activision game screaming for potential in-game transactions, but thankfully, that isn't the case here. Everything is unlockable and paid for with currency directly earned while playing the title, and although I did not interact with this part of the experience much, I appreciate the addition for those who do. It's also a decent way to reward playing the game well, which should add some offline longevity.

It is a decent way to show off your game progress when playing online. The original games had local multiplayer, but the remake offers local and online play in addition to online leaderboards. It's a humbling experience, since the online competition quickly shows high scores that don't seem attainable. It's a great addition to skate on the same stage against a handful of online strangers and friends, all looking to score the highest points. It's equally great to see that local split-screen made the cut. While I wouldn't call the modes ground-breaking, they work well and add a level of competitiveness that wasn't possible during its original release.

Visually, character models and animations are smooth and detailed, and the stages have good lighting to complete the sunny skater vibe. The title sports a certain quality and polish that elevates the already-great experience: graffiti on the walls, scratched tables, and rundown warehouses. If anything, the stages can feel a bit lifeless, stages like Downtown could've used some more "action" than a few random cars making their rounds. I understand it's an authentic re-creation, but I feel that a few minor changes like this could've been interesting. If Crash 4 is any indication, maybe we aren't too far away from a new entry to the franchise. The game ran perfectly well on my PS4 Pro, with no perceivable dips in performance during my entire playthrough.

There's a lot to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, and it all feels on point: challenges, gear, more characters, and online multiplayer. At the same time, you can probably clear every stage in the game in a single afternoon. It has trimmed most of the fat that's typical of these projects and unapologetically focused on its original core experience, and the results are all the better for it. It runs, looks, and plays great, but it could've taken a few more risks along the way. That's a small gripe to have when everything else works so nicely.

Score: 9.0/10

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