Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 Review — Landing The Near Perfect Kickflip
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 is one of the finest remakes to have come out of 2020 in keeping its original roots intact but to modern standards.
It is, without a doubt, remarkable how much influence on the skateboarding scene that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had when it launched in 1999. The game not only influenced future skateboarding hits such as Skate, Skater XL, and Session, but it influenced nearly every skateboarder that I either know personally or know of. Everyone from the ’90s has some vivid memories of the classic arcade skateboarding title. In fact, people who haven’t skated in years have been picking up boards again and getting back into it. While I’m sad it’s not a brand new iteration in the series, I’m incredibly stoked to have been able to relive my childhood.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 —perhaps one of the most annoying ways of titling a game— is a complete remake of the original two games, keeping every part of its arcade-themed gameplay veterans will remember intact, while also introducing new elements to cater the experience to a modern audience. But you can absolutely expect to see the original levels in all-new detail and the original soundtrack alongside brand-new tracks from modern artists.
My time with the Tony Hawk games started to dwindle sometime after the release of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2. After jumping back into the first two games through this remake, I found myself quickly rummaging through my muscle memory and within minutes was chaining combos like I used to back in the day. Everything feels familiar, and it just looks better.
Levels are laid out exactly as I remember them: small and compact with level design that ensures you’re always no more than a kickflip and a manual away from the next object to continue your combo chain. And with updated graphics, levels now look a lot more complex with glass doors revealing interiors, puddles reflecting the environment, lights glimmering off of objects, and more clutter scattered about.
The high-quality textures and post-processing are certainly something that impresses, but there’s no official photo mode function, which is something that feels baffling. Skateboard culture is heavy on getting photos and video clips of tricks and sessions, and in a time where photo modes are becoming more popular in modern video games, this feels like a huge missed opportunity to capitalize on the social media sharing culture. Most of the images in this review were captured using a mixture of a third-party application plus Nvidia Ansel.
Gameplay-wise, Vicarious Visions has ensured that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 keeps its arcade roots heavily intact. You’re still faced against a 2-minute timer, you can still ollie off a kicker ramp over a lamppost, and you can still chain tricks in unbelievably quick succession. It keeps that fast-paced button-combo fun at the forefront.
Levels are locked to progression, with each unlocked level requiring a certain number of goals to be completed. This, while frustrating if you are really struggling with some of the goals, keeps the skateboarding focus on perseverance present. It’s a smart way for the game to encourage you to keep trying and eventually, you’ll succeed. Despite that, it would have been nice to have some form of a guidance system in place, or at least make some goals such as “Grind the bells” more noticeable. Sure, it might be part of the challenge, but there’s no consideration for those that might struggle to visually locate them.
In saying that, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 does allow you to flick on some assists for those who struggle with the mechanics. Assists such as making all rail and manual tricks perfect balance and another making it impossible to bail can help players enjoy the game at their comfort level. These assists don’t work in certain game modes, and if enabled, your score isn’t recorded on the leaderboard. If you want to avoid all of the goals though, you can enter “Ranked and Free Skate” that lets you either play free skate, speed run, or a single ranked session. All levels are already unlocked in this area across both of the games.
While the majority of the game is primarily single-player, there are multiplayer elements. Split-screen multiplayer for example keeps the nostalgic feel, while the online mode puts yourself and 6 other players into numerous levels to compete in different game modes. There’s a “Jams” mode that lets you just enjoy skating with others through the act of challenges, and there’s a competitive mode in which things get more serious. I do think there should be a mode to just chill with other skaters, preferably friends, with no worries of time and competition; just skating for the sake of skating. On PC this–coupled with third-party voice chat–would be incredibly welcome during these weird pandemic times.
There’s also a lot more customization options available to really make your skaters and parks catered to you. You can kit out a total of 4 custom skaters with different types of apparel, decks, wheels, skin tones, skating style, stats, etc. You can even choose different presets for the pro skaters with the ability to unlock more that are tied to challenges and level-ups.
There is a store that has items to purchase through the use of in-game earned currency that you get by competing in competitions and completing challenges. What I found odd is that you’re also capable of purchasing props for use in the Create-a-Park mode. While it’s a good incentive to encourage players to play more, to earn more, or buy more, I’d have preferred to have had full access to the props to instantly open up my creative skate park side. I think my fears here lie more in line with the fact that it has already been detailed that the game won’t have microtransactions at launch, but they could be implemented at a later date. Seeing the in-game earned currency eating away at different props and apparel certainly leaves me seeing an opportunity to having exclusive items and cosmetics.
Despite that, the size of the parks you can create is quite expansive and offer room and flexibility for some pretty well-crafted parks. However, it can feel limiting when you realize you can’t only rotate objects at sharp 90-degree angles with no freedom of rotation. There’s an online section allowing you to explore community-created content as well as official Vicarious Visions creations.
If you do manage to blitz through the first two games like the veteran you are, you’ve got a rolling list of challenges to keep you busy, earning more, and unlocking more. These challenges are present for every mode available, meaning no matter which is your preferred mode, you’ve got something extra to achieve.
All of these menu elements for skater customization, the store, stats, and others are laid out like most modern games. Sub-menus are tucked away at the main menu, which you can access through the bumpers and triggers. It feels confusing, but understandable, but also somewhat exhausting. Eventually, it winds up looking like Main Menu Hub > Skater > Look > Tricks > Trick Select > Button Input for Trick Select. It’s not a huge issue, but I just feel tired of these types of menus and wish it was a bit more streamlined.
For you hardened Tony Hawk veterans, there’s the option to use either the default control scheme, or switch to how the control scheme is in either of the original two games. Personally, I felt more comfortable with the default controls using an Xbox gamepad, but even then it felt wrong not using a classic PS1 controller. I found my modern self automatically reaching for the thumbstick, but my nostalgic memory always made my thumb dance to the d-pad — where it’s meant to be.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 feels like the perfect way to pay homage to these classics. This is largely down to the game allowing me to revisit my youth in modern capabilities, but also because it feels like the game grew up with me. The pro skater selection has a diverse range of skaters, some new and the others I remember from the original games in the franchise, but they’re represented at their real age to this date. It’s as if I’ve been reunited with an old friend, and while we’ve grown up and have new friends in tow, the memories we went through are vivid.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 isn’t a simulation, unlike most modern skateboarding games we’re seeing today, but instead, it’s something fun, enjoyable in short bursts or long sessions. It’s a throwback to the past in a way that hasn’t erased its charm and legacy; it instead expands on that and becomes one of the finest remakes to come out of 2020 while keeping its original roots intact, but to modern standards.