The year is 1999. Minimum wage was introduced for the first time in the UK, Napster had just released to the world, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater launched on the PlayStation. Met with critical praise, THPS would go on to dominate playground and water cooler talk across the country and from 1999 through to the early 2000s it defined extreme sports through the games industry.
It’s difficult to describe just how pivotal the Tony Hawk’s series was. There were skateboarding games before its introduction, but none ever gained the same level of traction. For myself and many others Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater drew the curtain back on an alternative world and lifestyle that anyone could be a part of. Heck, it’s been 21 years and I’ve just recently got back into skateboarding again, a hobby I discovered because of this series. Now, I’m able to revisit the games that sparked this passion in the first place.
I felt it was important to mention how important the THPS series was to me – and many others – because it goes a long way to explaining why later games were met with such disdain. What started as a slick skateboarding series that challenged the player’s ability to chain combos together ended up being consumed by gimmicks that failed to appeal to their intended audience. Add to this a lacklustre THPS HD remake in 2012, and it’s not hard to see why the series ended being held in such disregard.
Fortunately, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 learns from those past mistakes, producing one of the best entries in the series to date. Stripping all the gimmicks, THPS 1 + 2 takes the series back to its roots, revamping those original iconic levels and bringing back the two-minute timer.
One of the most important features of any Tony Hawk’s game is the physics. THPS 1 + 2 captures that original feeling while also adapting it for modern sensibilities. There is also an option to play with the controls from the first two game, should you really want that old school play style. It’s a decision which will be welcomed by the hardcore members of the fan base.
As with the originals, you must collect, skate and combo your way through each level to a strict two-minute timer. For veterans of the series it will be a cakewalk, which is why Acitivison have also included an additional challenge mode. For those new to the series, there’s a lot of fun to be found in exploring these levels. It’s easy to see how much love was poured into them the first time round, as they are still as fun to skate now as they were back in the day.
There are also numerous collectibles to be found across the game, which includes stat increases for your character. These can be used to improve your skater’s air, spin, speed, flip tricks and many other areas, all making your character more efficient on the board. The entire roster of pro skateboarders comes with their own pre-baked stats, but you can also upgrade these as you see fit.
Speaking of the pro roster, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 has one of the most diverse cast of athletes I’ve ever seen in a game. The original cast returns, although the character models have been updated to represent their real age, but a new generation of skateboarders also join the cast. The likes of Nyjah Houston, Leo Baker and Aori Nishimura amongst others join the cast and it’s a visual reminder of how much skateboarding has progressed in the past twenty years. I would imagine quite a few of the new cast also grew up playing the THPS series; it’s weirdly prophetic in a way.
Much like it’s cast, the soundtrack in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 mixes the old and new to create a broad soundtrack that befits the Tony Hawk’s of a new era. Classics such as Goldfinger’s Superman and Guerilla Radio by Rage Against the Machine make a welcome return, but there are also some excellent new additions in the form of A Tribe Called Quest, FIDLAR and Skepta. You haven’t lived until you’ve strung together a huge combo to the sounds of Shut Down by Skepta.
Every aspect of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 feels like it’s been expertly crafted to not only meet the original, but exceed it. Visually, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is hands down one of the best remakes I’ve seen this generation. Each level has been rebuilt to match how you remember it, harnessing the power of the current generation of consoles. This is most noticeable in the stellar lighting system. You get a real sense of these environments being real places because of how fantastic the lighting looks – a special mention goes out to the sunset soaked Venice Beach which looks gorgeous.
The customisation options have also been ramped up in the remake, with players having the ability to dress and customise their skaters in any way they want. This is where the in-game shop comes into play, with and an almost endless number of items to buy. You can pick up new decks, wheels, trucks, clothes, logos and even additional pieces for the Create-A-Park mode. I do worry about Activision introducing microtransactions at a later date, as we’ve seen various publishers do in the past, and I feel it could be quite nefarious with the way the store works. For now it’s all done through the in-game currency.
This is where the new challenge system comes into play, tasking players with completing challenges across all of its game modes. There are hundreds of challenges to complete, ranging from creating a skater to landing a specific type of combo. Each one unlocks cash and new items for your skater or the shop itself. It’s a great system that adds replayability past simply completing the main levels.
Create-A-Park returns, bringing with it a whole host of improvements, the biggest of which is the ability to share your levels with people online. I had a quick go at building my local skatepark and it was pretty easy to use. The addition of smart rails and ramps enable players to mold and move the ramps however they please. Prerelease there was an active number of other reviewers building and uploading their parks to the system, but expect that to explode once the game comes out. The best one I’ve seen so far is a railway that takes you rocketing into the sky, as long as you hold down the grind button! Considering that creativity sits at the heart of skateboarding, I am genuinely looking forward to what the community builds in the coming months.
A number of online and offline multiplayer modes also make their way to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. I sampled a few game modes that task players with achieving the highest score or combo within a certain time, as well as a tag mode that tasks you with scoring the highest score on items around the level. The multiplayer is a welcome addition for me, especially as you are able to play all of these games on the sofa with a friend.
Impressively, there are also a number of accessibility options for players who just want to enjoy the game without it being overly difficult. Right from the start, players can head into the options and turn no bail mode on, along with perfect grinds and manuals. These are the types of design decisions we need to see more of in video games, as it opens the door to people who perhaps don’t have the ability to play it like the majority of the user base would.
In the spirit of the original games, there’s plenty to unlock and see in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, and returning players will certainly be happy with the unlockable stages in particular. There’s also a great, but very low-key celebrity cameo in one of the earlier levels in THPS 2. You’ll know it once you see it!