Almost immediately after hearing about the upcoming release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 my initial excitement slowly became tainted with a bit of sadness and dread. As a massive fan of the series, I couldn’t stand to see yet another nail driven into the coffin of the franchise. That’s not to say I expected this remake to fail; but with so many of the most recent additions to the franchise having done that, common sense told me to prepare for the worst…
A little about myself: I spent over a decade of my life on a skateboard beginning in the mid-90s, and the Tony Hawk games played a huge part in keeping me on my wheelie-board for so long. Like many others, these games were a major influence on me– one of the biggest influences of my life, in fact. They helped expand my taste in music, they introduced me to professional skaters that I’d never heard of but would soon grow to idolize. I even spent a number of my adolescent years wearing a black hoodie just because Jamie Thomas wore one in the first game and he was my favorite skater at the time.
And don’t even get me started on how the early games affected my social life. Most of my skater years were spent in Memphis, TN, and there weren’t many of us there, especially in those days. My friends and I were lucky to find each other and aside from skateboarding itself, the THPS games served as the active ingredient in the glue that held us together.
With all that said, it’s probably abundantly clear that I have a strong emotional connection to the series, which is why it hurt like a knife to the heart every time a mediocre new game or a thrown-together remaster of a classic was released. By the end of my 15-disappointing minutes with THPS5, I’d decided I just couldn’t take another THPS engraved knife to the chest. I wiped my hands of the franchise and decided to move forward with only my fond memories of the glory days. That was my intention, at least. But then, five years later, the THPS1+2 release trailer finds me.
As I’m watching the original pros rip through the beautifully redone levels to “Police Truck” by Dead Kennedys, my wounded heart began to flutter just the way it did during the first THPS trailer I ever saw. It felt true. It felt right. It felt like I wouldn’t be let down this time. When the trailer was over, I sat excited but also still skeptical. The skepticism wasn’t rooted in a fear of wasting money but rather my fear of seeing the series I love so much take another hit.
Despite this internal battle of emotions, being the fan that I am, I decided to day-one download the game, and let me tell you.. it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time! This combo-remake was truly made with the love and respect these world, society and life changing games deserve. Finally.
I booted up the game after it downloaded but was still installing so I only had access to the tutorial and free-skate in the warehouse. I began the tutorial to knock off some of the rust I’d collected over the last decade and a half. It’s a very decent and effective tutorial. Complete the challenge, skate to the next one, repeat. I spent more time just skating around, appreciating the graphical improvements and the tightness of the updated controls than completing the tutorial objectives.
Speaking of, the default controls are more akin to those of the 3rd and 4th THPS games than the first two, allowing you to execute multiple maneuver switch-ups during a single manual or grind by tapping any combination of two face buttons excluding the Ollie button. Reverts have also been included in the default control scheme so players can now pull off the insane, over the top, million-point combos that weren’t possible (or very difficult) without cheats in the first two games. This added with the faster, more aggressive gameplay makes shredding through maps like the Mall and New York with endless combos an even more adrenaline inducing, finger blistering blast.
For players who prefer the classic controls of the first games, they can easily be switched on in the options menu. I personally enjoy the default controls and feel like they work perfectly on the classic levels but I appreciate the ability to switch to the old school controls should I so choose. My only real problem with the controls on the PS4 is that the touch screen opens up the profile menu and with such a button-heavy game, it’s very easy for my thumb to slip and open that menu while I’m pulling off a combo, costing me time and all those precious points I worked so hard for. It can be really annoying. Other than that, the controls are clean and responsive.
So after my game finished installing and I felt confident that my muscle-memory had returned, I decided to head straight to the online multiplayer and ended up spending a good number of hours there. The multiplayer isn’t without some issues, but, boy, is it fun as hell! MP is simple and virtually seamless with only a handful of modes for each level. On each map you’ll play through the modes Graffiti, Trick Attack, Score Challenge, Combo Challenge and Combo Mambo with a thirty second break between each play. Once players have played through all of those modes on one map, they’ll move on to the next one and start again.
I really like that matchmaking only happens once when you begin an online session. After that, you’re in your joined lobby until you decide to leave and players can come and go without disrupting the session for anyone else. Because of this, how quickly the matches move along and the sheer fun of it all, it’s very easy to get stuck saying “okay, just one more game” to yourself for an hour after you decided to stop playing.
As I mentioned earlier though, the MP does have its flaws. I’ve lost more than a couple of matches due to some pretty severe, spontaneous lag. There’s also the occasional bug such as one that caused my character to skate around in a circle endlessly despite commands from my controller. Another one I found on the Chicago Skate Park level caused the balance meter to disappear and “perfect balance” to kick in when doing a tailslide around the lip of the pool (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
Fortunately, these bugs mainly seem to happen between matches. The aforementioned lag is what causes problems during matches and will hopefully be fixed in a future update. But even with these issues, online multiplayer is a great time. And on a personal level, it only helps to know that in the 10-or-so person lobbies, at least a couple of those people are experiencing the same intense nostalgia trip that I am which creates sort of a potential unspoken bond between players.
Nearly all of the songs that make up the amazing soundtracks from the first two games are here excluding one of my favorites from THPS1, “Committed” by Unsane, and possibly a couple others that I’ve yet to notice are missing. There have been a good number of new songs added to the playlist that make it even more epic, which I honestly wasn’t sure was even possible. There are a few, more modern songs that, in my opinion, feel a bit out of place in the game; though I’m aware that could just be the stubborn, fist-shaking-at-the-kids-on-my-lawn old man in me. Over all, the soundtrack still invokes the same, if not more excitement with the whole experience.
The single-player modes are as fun and addicting as they’ve always been. There are some added challenges and collectibles so even veteran players who remember how and where to get everything will have new challenges to take on. Speaking of challenges, there’s a massive new overarching challenge and upgrade system. It’s OK. Leveling up and completing those challenges was less exciting the more I played. I can’t say they’re not worth doing, as you can unlock secret characters, money for gear and level up your skaters. There’s just so many of them — literally hundreds, many of which aren’t a big deal — that I stopped paying attention after a while. It’s still a nice enough addition to the game, though and definitely didn’t take away from my enjoyment.
Overall, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is the remake that long-time fans and players new to the series need. It’s incredibly well done and almost makes up for the disappointment brought on by more recent Tony Hawk games. Notice I said “almost”. It’s a modernized classic that sets out to please everyone and while that isn’t something that’s possible, Vicarious Visions and NeverSoft did a hell of a job trying. The game looks better than ever, sounds as great as it always did and plays exactly how it should. Welcome back, THPS! We’ve missed you. 4.5/5 Bibles.
By the way, if you haven’t already, I highly.. highly recommend watching the THPS franchise’s new documentary Pretending I’m a Superman, available now on Amazon Prime (peep the GHG review for that one too right here). As someone who’s life consisted of little more than skating and playing THPS games during the 90s and early 00s, it nealry brought a tear to my eye. Maybe it actually did. I’ll never tell. But I will say that it’s a great piece for anyone, whether you skated and/or played the games or not.