Trepidation about such remakes is comprehensible after the disastrous Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. After all, one of the best games of all time is the latter of two games provided in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. With the right font, the right music, and the right menu design, it begins so teasingly. And then, as you step through the first wall and into the famous warehouse floor, the final barrier between hope and confidence is literally broken down. It looks amazing and functions so well.
In terms of smoothness, graphics, and its trick system, THPS1 has been so enhanced that it is almost like an expansion pack for THPS3. Best of all, real modernity is absolutely scorned when you snap onto grind rails regardless of your approach angle and perform tricks rather than analog stick waggling with optical button sequences. The movement is rudimentary, some may argue outmoded, but it still offers some of the finest risks vs. reward play ever seen as you chain trick combos and wrestle with balance meters with one mistake at risk of losing everything. Relevantly, even though the games are not quite the same as the originals, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 looks like the series did in its heyday.
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The key change is the inclusion of the manual of THPS2 and the reversion of flatland tricks from THPS3 into the package, the latter at the request of Tony Hawk himself. These make for a game that is far more fun and fluid, with much greater scoring potential. Of course, the goals have been raised to match, but this uniformity of control eliminates the little variation between the two games, so they no longer really feel that different. They both feel fine now. At the beginning of the game, there’s an optional tutorial, and even if you’re a Tony Hawk veteran, it’s worth playing, just so that you’re aware of the systems used here that are adapted from later games. Vicarious Dreams wisely stopped short of adding Tony Hawk’s Underground’s dismounting and climbing functionality. This feels correct and pure.
Pro skater is mainly played in two-minute, paced pieces. This arrangement means that you can still enjoy a short session, but even after the clock expires, the game keeps running cleverly, as long as you perform a trick or combination. You can potentially keep skating for the next minute or more after the buzzer if you’re good. Even so, after you’ve done the treasure hunt type challenges like wall-ride 5 fire alarms or gather the letters S-K-A-T-E, because you automatically reach for the pause / rest series of button presses to aim for a better game, you’ll find you seldom play the entire 2 minutes. If this part of the game could be questioned, it would be that the small pause of the transition screen could really have been omitted, since the sooner you can restart, the less break in the fun there is. It’s still fast, of course, but it should be instantaneous, arguably.
There are plenty of levels to discover and admire in Pro skater, but even if you have forgotten where all the collectible symbols and hidden tapes are before veterans begin running out of things to do, there really aren’t that many hours of career mode. Maybe a day, maybe two. Everything of it is expertly crafted, and while it lasts, the steady drip of unlocks and checkmarks always allows for a very rewarding campaign. (Speaking of which, unlocking the ‘mods’ like perfect rail balance essentially ruins the skating that is finely balanced, so avoid them better.)
There are tonnes of issues to cross off for those who want to suck the last drop from the box. Whenever you go back to the main menu, these pop up on the right-hand side, and beating them unlocks new clothing, decks, and videos to watch. It’s strange that it doesn’t really open any of the hidden tapes to ‘search the hidden tape,’ but hey ho. No, stop that, don’t say ‘let’s go,’ that was THPS3. Which also means no Motorhead, unfortunately. (But if this does well, we can also get a THPS3 to remaster. We can but hope.)
in Pro skater, there is a multitude of jumping holes, special learning tricks, and upgrading figures. The game is quick enough that everyone can have fun on their first go (because even bailing down the school steps spectacularly is fun), but it has enough variety to keep you playing for weeks. When you open up a secret area, fun set pieces to watch, and even sometimes some ‘judged’ sessions, where the score can be influenced by bailing, there is frequent joy in exploration, so it’s not only just about the mega combos.
In addition to career, in a separate pillar of career mode, there is the skate park builder mode with several levels built by Vicarious Visions themselves, plus online leaderboards. Unfortunately, it seems like some of these entries have already been compromised, but it is still evident which times are true, so it still counts for something to do well.
Then, when you watch other boarders around you, happily with collisions turned off, there’s an online play with a round-robin of event styles. Expect master players to be royally trounced, but while I played it, I didn’t encounter any technological hiccups.
With a smooth-running split-screen mode and a wealth of game styles, including the riotous H-O-R-S-E, where you are given a letter each time you lose your friend in a one-shot combo test, the local multiplayer is also exemplary. You can always change the word to whatever you want, so you’re either called a horse or a lot worse. It’s one of the greatest local multiplayer modes of all time, and ‘trick greed’ turns out to be a great leveler.
Graphically, nothing here is incredible, but it’s a powerful remaster of the simple geometry of the old levels. Vehicles and skaters have much more detail, there’s no obvious pop-in, and there are several standout moments in the lighting and texture work. For the most part, the Nvidia RTX 2070 ran the game at 1080p on automatic max settings just fine, although it stuttered a little on the longer, downhill-style stages, so some tuning will probably be necessary if you want it to be perfectly smooth. When the server link drops, another technological hitch arrives, as the game freezes a few times in succession as it tries to reconnect, which can fully kill any combo that you have going on. All the rest is just as you would have hoped. The soundtrack is (as usual) censored, but hearing Rage Against The Machine’s Guerrilla Radio as you cannon around is still fantastic.
Pro skater has an excellent score system, immaculate level design, enhanced graphics, outstanding online mode, and local multiplayer means that there is very little to worry about here. It is possible that even players who blaze through it in a day will carry on playing competitively. This is everything it had to be and feels remarkably new. Wonderful stuff.
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