Review: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is the perfect remake

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is everything a remake of two of the most highly-regarded games of all time needed to be. It’s everything that made the originals so great in the first place, faithfully recreated in high definition, but it’s also not a game that feels trapped in the past. That’s a difficult balance to get right, but Vicarious Visions absolutely nailed it.

I haven’t played a Tony Hawk game in at least 10 years, but muscle memory took over within moments of jumping into the game. The controls and feel of THPS‘s arcade-style skating physics are exactly as you remember them, with a little bit of extra polish to make sure everything is as smooth as possible. The original games mostly hold up well to this day, but they occasionally show the limits of the hardware they were running on; Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 manages to replicate the feeling of playing those games when the original PlayStation was a cutting-edge console. 

At the same time, a few mechanics from future games have been incorporated, but in a way that underscores the original games’ identity rather than trying to make them something that they’re not. Things like spine transfers and reverts are welcome additions that open new scoring and combo opportunities, without feeling like too big of a deviation from the classic Tony Hawk experience.

A screenshot from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 showing a comparison between the original game and remake.

Every level from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 has been meticulously recreated, with every ramp, collectible, and secret area exactly where you remember it. But with a modern graphics engine, those perfect replicas of the original levels have all sorts of new visual flair and detail that the original level designers could only have dreamed of. Again, when THPS and THPS2 were new, those levels—sparse as they now look in contrast to the remake—were technically and visually impressive, and this overhaul manages to invoke the same sort of response.

Related: It’s been a big year for remakes! Read our review of Final Fantasy VII Remake, which took a very different approach but managed to make it work wonderfully.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 also manages to get more out of those classic levels with new goals. Each park has a new combo score challenge, where the aim is to get a certain score with a single combo, as well as a few stat point collectibles (which replace the THPS2 system of buying stat upgrades). The THPS1 levels all have a third tier of score challenge to match the “High Score” / “Pro Score” / “SICK Score” setup that THPS2 introduced, as well as new collectibles and gap challenges. 

Outside of the levels themselves, there’s a huge set of new achievement-style challenges that tie into a new meta progression system. They cover everything from trying out different game modes for the first time to racking trick totals to skater-specific challenges, ensuring a boatload of optional carrots to chase if you really want to go down that road. At the same time, it’s really up to you how much you engage with this system—it’s primarily a way of earning cash to buy new cosmetic items, but it doesn’t impact on actual progress through the game at all. Working your way through Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2‘s Skate Tours—its version of a career mode—comes through completing the core goals of each level, the same as it was in THPS1 and (indirectly) THPS2.

A screenshot from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 showing a skater from behind, standing with his foot in a skateboard in front of a skate park.

The original games’ soundtracks are legendary—not just for being kick-ass collections of music, but for the way they captured a snapshot of skating culture of the late ’90s. Almost all of those tracks return in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, making sure that the remake can recognise that history (and avoiding the sad situation that would be trying to play THPS2 without Naughty by Nature’s “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” in the mix).

But it also has a whole lot of new additions, which could have been a controversial decision—except that every new track feels like a perfect fit for the ethos driving Tony Hawk‘s mood and soundscape. It’s a similar blend of punk, ska, and hip-hop, with an assortment of tracks both classic a modern that paint a fuller picture of 30 years of skating culture. We’re talking classics like A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It” to bangers from talented up-and-comers like CHAII and Chick Norris. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2‘s soundtrack feels like a natural extension of what Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was doing 20 years ago, and that’s high praise indeed.

All the pro skaters from THPS1 and THPS2 return, looking more like they do these days than they did 20 years ago (a nice touch!). They’re also joined by a new generation of younger pro skaters like Riley Hawk, Aori Nishimura, Tyshawn Jones, and Lizzie Armanto. It’s a nice way of staying true to the original games while also using this opportunity to give today’s rising stars a moment in the spotlight, while also addressing the lack of diversity in the original games. 

A screenshot from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 showing Aori Nishimura skating in San Francisco

Create-A-Skater also returns, with a good assortment of customisation options and apparel (both licensed and not). The in-game skate shop ties into the meta progression system I mentioned before, ensuring a steady stream of new things to unlock and plenty of ways to show off your style. It would have been better without the “Poly-Face” tattoo—a generic-looking attempt at tā moko that completely misunderstands the purpose of a tā moko (@dreadconquest shared a very good rundown of the issue on Twitter that’s well worth reading). That misstep aside, the Create-A-Skater options give you a lot of freedom to customise your skater, especially compared to THPS2.

Create-A-Park mode also returns, which is particularly welcome after Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD ditched it completely. All the standard skatepark pieces—halfpipes, pools, rails, and the like—are available to use right out the gate, with more unique elements unlocked through the levelling system. Created parks can be shared online, with a decent curation system to give visibility to the best and most-liked custom parks, and you can also optionally allow other creators to take your parks and remix them.

Online functionality extends to multiplayer too, with both casual and competitive play across a few different game modes. As well as classic multiplayer modes like Trick Attack and Graffiti, there are new modes like Combo Mambo, where the goal is to get the highest-scoring combo possible. THPS would be nothing without local multiplayer, and luckily that returns, too—with all the classic game modes (Horse!) and a couple of new ones.

A screenshot from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 showing Nyjah Huston skating in New York.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is the real deal. It’s everything that a remake of THPS and THPS2 needed to be—something that recognises and celebrates the legacy of those games and manages to capture, in 2020, what it felt like to play the originals 20 years ago. It’s both meticulous in its attention to detail and innovative where it needs to be, resulting in something that’s completely faithful to what it’s remaking but never feels stuck in the past.

Score: 5 stars

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is developed by Vicarious Visions and published by Activision. It’s available now for PC via Epic Games Store (reviewed), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.

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About Author

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.