Few games had the same cultural moment as the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. While the series arguably grew stronger with the PS2 iterations before subsequently slipping ever further from what made them great in the late 2000s, those first entries resonate for so many reasons.
Whether it's the first or second games, their respective soundtracks, knowing every level inside out or that flow state of nailing combos by linking all of the tricks in your metaphorical book, we're pleased to report that the Birdman is back to his virtual best.
The Best Kind Of Backwards
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 comes from Vicarious Visions, and if you played the Crash Bandicoot N'Sane Trilogy you'll know exactly what to expect in terms of the visual uplift.
Playing on PC (GTX 2070 Super), the amount of small detail and high-res textures make the game feel just as modern as anything else you'll play this year. While the first game was given the HD remaster treatment back in 2015, this new package is so much nicer to look at that you could be forgiven for thinking they were working off of different templates.
As was the case back in the nineties and early 2000s, there's a good variety to each level. While the Warehouse and Hangar offer half pipes in more industrial settings, Venice Beach offers a vibrant sunset along with a wealth of ramps to work into skate lines for big combos. And yes, the golf kart still speeds around the School level.
Each level has a specific list of tasks to complete, and ticking off a certain number will unlock the next level. That means that you can focus on simpler "collect the letters" tasks, or the score-focused ones first, and then return as and when you like. It doesn't take a great deal of time to unlock every level, but learning the intricacies of each will keep new players invested for weeks and returning players checking their memory banks for some sneakily hidden collectables.
While THPS 2 originally offered much longer to-do lists, the first game's have been extended with fresh challenges, meaning even veterans will have something to hunt for.
Not 100% Faithful
That's not the only tweak on the existing base of the first two games, with the game's physics and basic control scheme closer to the third and fourth mainline entries (Underground fans will be sad to know you can't hop off the board, here).
That means that alongside the standard flips, grabs, and grinds of the original and the manual of the sequel, players can use the revert to eke out a small window to continue a killer combo chain, as well as wall plants and spine transfers. While purists may want to _revert_ (sorry) to the original setups of either game, having these tools in your skating toolkit helps THPS 1+2 feel like the purest form of extreme sports game.
Compared to the more technical appeal of EA's Skate franchise, THPS feels refreshingly uncomplicated. Within minutes of starting the game, muscle-memory took over and I was kick-flipping, grinding rails, and pulling off flashy special tricks.
All of your tricks and conquests feed into a skill points system that allows players to tweak their skater to suit their playstyle, while each of the game's playable pros has their own sets of challenges. Each offers rewards, and while trying to pull off Tony Hawk's iconic "900" is a pretty obvious one, there are dozens for each. Between those, the challenges in the levels themselves, and the opportunity to just enjoy free skate, there's plenty to do.
Then there's the progression system, which is unified across both games. While each campaign is siloed off, appearing as a series of levels just as they did back in the day, levelling your skater in one will then carry that progress across to the other. It's a smart way of preventing you from starting from scratch again and is just another way in which these remakes feel modern.
Songs To Skate To And Songs To Create To
Of course, one of the most enduring aspects of the Tony Hawk titles has long been its soundtrack, with the first games introducing many to the charms of pop-punk, metal, and ska that would become a staple of our musical diets.
Just as with the rest of the game, not only is the soundtrack just as strong as you remember it, but it also adds plenty of new tracks from artists like Machine Gun Kelly, Sublime, and Reel Big Fish. None of the new additions feels out of place, and considering the original's musical impact on many nineties kids, it'll be interesting to see if this remake can achieve the same in 2020. There are a handful of omissions, but for the most part, everything is present.
Then there's the "Build A Park" mode that allows players to build a monstrous skate park from scratch or even some kind of bizarre obstacle course. It's much-expanded from earlier games in the franchise and offers the chance to share your creation online.
Speaking of online, THPS offers not only multiplayer with other skaters from around the world but the opportunity to play split-screen multiplayer - something absent in a lot of titles this generation.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 is exactly the game that fans needed in 2020. After the dismal THPS 5 and lacklustre HD remake, it feels great to be able to say that the OG skating title is back.
Just as it was in 1999, it feels like the purest form of gaming; high score chasing, secrets to uncover, and a great soundtrack to accompany the action. It's tight, responsive, and well worth your time.
Now, if you'll excuse us, we're trying to nail some new high scores.
Reviewed on PC
Review code provided by Activision