June 22, 2024
A shinier update to the already impressive looking remake from last year, is this worth the graphical (and monetary) leap? The Finger Guns review:

I thought I was done with the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. The Jackass-inclusive ones weren’t funny, American Wasteland didn’t do anything special. Project 8 had its awesome “Nail the Trick” feature, right before RIDE buried the series. That’s no exaggeration, either.

Then EA, in a rare twist of 2000’s goodness, brought out Skate. It didn’t besmirch the THPS legacy but reinvigorated it with its realistic(ish) take on skateboarding. That had sealed the Birdman’s fate, what with being damn good and fans still clamouring for a [probably never happening] fourth game. I thought I was out.

But of course, when you’ve invested so much of your teenage years into something so iconic, you’re never really out. The skills are still there, the muscle memory, the humming to Goldfinger’s ‘Superman’. You don’t lose it, and thanks to this shiny remaster of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, you never will again. Grab your deck and we’ll find out why.

The Hawk Flies Again

In the surprising event that the last twenty two years of gaming have passed you by (the first game coming out in 1999), allow me to bring you up to speed. Tony Hawk, the man who first landed a 900­° spin on television, became the figurehead for a skateboarding game developed by Neversoft and Activision. There wasn’t a massive demand for it, but that didn’t matter. Long story short, this changed everything. Skateboarding was cool again.

It took the gaming world by storm. With its crazy, arcade take on the extreme sport offering insane tricks, increasing challenges and iconic soundtracks, it sold millions. The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series bore many sequels, crossovers and deviations but to many, the first three are the best. It suffered with its plastic peripheral nonsense that was RIDE, whilst an attempt at continuation in THPS5 resulted in an absolute mess. Drawing boards were revisited, and this is the result.

A compilation of the first two games with some newer tweaks, most of the original songs and skaters, as well as some new additions of both aspects to modernise it. It did come out on the last generation consoles, so this is a shinier port of those (which we’ll look at the pros and cons of later). But for now, let’s revisit what made them great all those years ago, and why it still holds up today.

Holding On To What I Am…

To summarise what made a THPS game fun is pretty simple: you had two minutes at a time to score as many points as you can, collect/destroy/skate over level-specific items and spell out the letters of S-K-A-T-E. These were just some of a level’s objectives, as well as others geared to the environment you were in.

These locales ranged from old warehouses and malls, schools and downtown areas to bullrings, hydroelectric dams and even Roswell (of alien-denying fame). They were literal playgrounds for you to ollie, wallride and grind your way around, finding secrets and high score spots within the time limit. Half the fun was getting all you can out of a level, the other was challenging your mates to beat your scores.

This, I can quite happily say, has been faithfully replicated in this double pack. Seeing that warehouse level in new-fangled graphics invokes the childhood glee from all those years ago. Ollie-ing over the magic bum, getting run over by Officer Dick, even ascending to Skate Heaven, it’s all there. Hunting that last objective whilst Powerman 5000’s “When World’s Collide” blares out of your TV is pure turn-of-the-century nostalgia.

Nothing about the core game has been spoiled, which is always the make-or-break in a remake. Much like 2018’s Shadow of the Colossus, or Bluepoint’s Demon’s Souls effort, it’s all still there. It’s just like it used to be, but better.

Old Dogs, All The Tricks

The other aspect of what made a THPS great were the skaters. The Birdman is joined again by the original crew, all rendered with up to date (read: older) representations of themselves. Freestyle king Rodney Mullen, backpack-sporting Chad Muska, vert god Bob Burnquist and the rest are back, but this time some newer concessions have been made.

Joining them are current pros Nyjah Huston, Hawk’s son Riley (a pro in his own right) and Lizzie Armanto, to name a few. It’s not a cynical move to grab current fans, but more a means of respect. Both to the old pros that carved the way, and the new ones carrying the sport now. Officer Dick returns, voiced by Jack Black at his Jack Black-est. There’s a couple of secret skaters too, but I won’t spoil whom. Sadly, it’s not Darth Maul anymore.

Each skater has their strengths and weakness, as well as skill points to boost their talents. You can create your own skater too, decked out in whatever fashion and skate style you see fit. Don’t go in expecting insane levels of character creation, mind. It’s more focused on the gear they wear than the pockmarks on their faces. Considering you see the back of them most of the time, it’s no big issue.

But the real question, this far in, is how does it play compared to the original…?

Feelin’ Special

Gameplay is exactly as you would remember it. Holding X to charge your ollie, letting go and hitting a few directional kickflips before landing on a rail is the same. I bet you could even map out that sequence on an imaginary controller in your hands. Hawk’s 900° is still right, down and circle, by the way.

Now for me, I struggled. I abandoned the SS THPS when Skate came out, putting hours into its dual button and thumbstick system. I still dabble with Skate 3 from time to time, so going back to this was jarring. Those that sank with this proverbial Titanic will be right at home with it, however. It is literally the same as it was.

So if you remember how to get the hidden tape, spell out S-K-A-T-E, ollie the benches and hit the high score in School II, you’re sorted. I nailed six objectives in one run on Warehouse when my muscle memory kicked back in. It won’t be long before you’re making your way through the levels, smashing objectives and getting golds in competitions to progress.

If, for some reason, you haven’t played these before, there’s a comprehensive tutorial (voiced by Hawk himself) to help you get to grips. It doesn’t bog you down with technical jargon, it teaches you how to play the game. It’s accommodating, not patronising, which is what you want if you’re going in blind.

Gleaming Every Inch Of The 4K Cube

Of course, everything I’ve mentioned above could easily apply to the PS4 or Xbox One versions of the game. If you’ve got or played that version, you’ll find nothing new in regards to gameplay or content here. What the shiny new console owners want to know is what’s new in this upgraded version.

Well, that all important 4K resolution and 60 frames per second (FPS), for one. What that means is better, crisper visuals and whatnot, all running at a smoother framerate. Added texture details, improved light sources and reflections (not ray tracing, though) and an all-round sense of shininess has been added. If you prefer framerate over fidelity, you can drop the resolution down to 1080p and boost the framerate to 120fps. I’ve had a dabble with both on my PS5 and honestly, I couldn’t see much of a difference. But don’t take that as me being dismissive, I’m just not very technically minded. I’d imagine it looks great to those who can tell.

I did play a fair bit of the PS4 version (before selling my copy), and honestly, I can tell there’s a marked difference in the two. If you haven’t played the last-gen version and are going in fresh, then you are going to love what they’ve done. Seeing your old favourites, both skaters and levels, in 4K and smooth framerates is going to blow your inner teen’s mind. We may not have flying cars yet, but we have a damn good looking remake of two games we wasted our youth on.

The Bird Is Flipping Us Off

Whilst it all sounds so far, so good, there’s some cracks in the deck. Oh yes, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 isn’t completely without inherent vice. It didn’t used to be, no. But this was before Activision turned into EA’s Sith-like apprentice. Never mind the broader ramifications of that statement, how is it applicable here?

Crafty upgrade costs, of course! If you didn’t have the foresight or the depth of pocket to plump for the Digital Deluxe Edition, you’re going to have to pay. To the tune of about a tenner (well, it’s $10 across the pond) to get those extra visual tricks. So whilst you can run your PS4 version on your PS5 with no issue, you’ve got to fork out if you want the extra razzle-dazzle. Which, frankly, is a bullshit practice that I’ve ranted about many a time on the podcast.

The only pain in the deck in the whole cross-save/transfer business. Now, if you’re an Xbox player, this is simple enough. It’s all automatic and easy. It’s the PlayStation owners that are going to have to McTwist through hoops. To transfer your saves, you can’t just have them in the cloud. You have to boot up the PS4 version (on either console), upload your saves, close the game and then open the PS5 version. Why companies have this aversion to cloud save transfer to upgrade, I don’t know. Probably a technical thing.

Again, not a problem if you’re going in blind. I didn’t transfer my PS4 save over before wiping it, more fool me. The thing is, I probably would have just started again anyway, rather than download both versions to transfer my progression. There’s a certain pleasure in unlocking stuff again, not a chore.

It’s Still Cool As Truck Though

Corporate insipidness aside though, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is classic THPS with some modern tweaks to it. There’s a level system which doesn’t really interfere with much bar unlockable gear. An overarching challenge system runs throughout, but unlike Trials Rising, you’re not locked out of progression. It’s still that old fashioned, “unlock by practice and repetition” gameplay we all know and loved. In fact, everything you loved about the old games is here, just made better with time.

There is a multiplayer, if you fancy, but it’s like Skate’s: unless you know what lines to exploit, you’ll get smashed. Thankfully, for the nostalgic crowd, there’s local multiplayer too. Personally, I prefer the age-old tradition of turn-taking, trying to better each other. Smashed out a 500k point run, eh? Watch me beat that with my one hundred move combo… maybe.

The games you loved all those years ago are still here. The insanity, the freeskate modes, the exploration and everything in between is faithfully recreated. Not all of the old songs are there, but there’s a gamut of new tracks that the kids are down with (or whatever) to cover their bases. That competition at Marseilles, that I remember from the THPS2 demo, looks better than ever. As far as gameplay goes, I can’t fault it.

The caveat comes at whether you want to plump for that extra spit and polish for your new console. If you haven’t played the last gen version, then I’d say skip that and go for this one. If you have, however, then it’s on you if you want to kowtow to shitty upgrade costs. It’s crap but hey, that’s Activision.

The classics are here, all gleamed up for the current gen of consoles. If you’re dropping in now, you’re in for a treat. But if you bought last gen’s standard version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, be mindful of that crafty upgrade cost.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is available now on PS4, PS5 (reviewed on), Xbox One and Series, as well as PC. A Nintendo Switch version is planned for some time in 2021.

Developer: Neversoft, Vicarious Visions (remake)
Publisher: Activision

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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