(Pocket-lint) - Back when skateboarding was going through its second peak as a cultural phenomenon, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came along and blew our minds. It took the sport beyond skateparks and trick videos, making fans of us all.
Part of the PlayStation One original’s appeal was that, while it rewarded skill and endeavour, it was also easy to pick up and play as a novice - its sequel too.
Both gave you a myriad of skateparks to explore, goals to accomplish and let you stunt and trick your way around them with mindbogglingly simple controls. And that’s the same here in this masterful remake collection.
Developer Vicarious Visions has captured exactly how both games felt to newbies in the late 90s/early 2000s, while also sprucing them up for a modern audience while adding plenty of extras along the way.
It’s such a successful exercise that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 won’t just appeal to old Hawks hacks like us and newcomers to the series, it marks a reboot for the franchise full stop. There will undoubtedly be additional remasters or even a brand-new game after this. Mark our words.
Back to this release now though, and it is not only a joy to revisit an old friend (or two) but feels like a fresh new release to boot.
There are new tricks (lifted from later games in the series), a new challenge system, online multiplayer, new skaters and a refreshed track list of new and original punk, rock and hip-hop anthems. All on top of the existing line-up. It makes for a very attractive package.
What you will discover though is that, unlike later Tony Hawk’s games, the premise is basic. There are 18 parks to skate on in the career (skate tour) mode – nine from THPS and nine from THPS 2 – and progression is made by completing a set number of goals on each before the next one is unlocked.
These goals range from collecting letters or related items, to racking up huge combo scores. Accomplish enough of them and the next park unlocks.
It’s a very solitary exercise as, unlike Tony Hawk’s 4, you aren’t joined by non-player characters who give you missions. Instead, you have a set time limit in each level to reach your targets. If you do one or more, they are stricken off the list and you can retry to get the others. That’s essentially it.
It’s basic stuff in today’s standards, but the thrill and replay value is in trying to better your performance each time, or find the more elusive collectables. And that’s an addictive pursuit that put us right back in the baggy jeans of 20 years ago – staying up to the early hours of each morning striving to get longer combos or more impressive trick sets.
Test of character
On top of the set goals, there are challenges to complete that refresh regularly, earning you cash to spend on customising your skater and other rewards. You can either play as one of the many real-world (or fantasy) skaters on offer or create your own, with licenced gear available from actual apparel and board makers to put your own stamp on him or her.
Your skater’s stats can also be tweaked, with skill point pickups available in the skate tour parks. Indeed, you soon realise that you need to adjust them to get some of the trickier collectibles or combos, with revisits to unlocked parks a must to get 100 per cent on each.
One truly cool thing is that there isn’t a single microtransaction in sight – everything in the game is unlockable through play. That might have been the norm in ’99 but is something of a welcome rarity these days.
As well as cash, you can earn XP through the challenges and level-up your skater. The higher your level, the more goodies you unlock. Basically, every hour you put into THSP 1 + 2 is rewards with loot. Nice.
We are the modes
As well as progressing through the tour, you can also tackle any of the preset parks in ranked sessions or just in free skate. That allows you to try parks without having to unlock them first and set personal records – either with or without time limits. There are speed runs scores to achieve too.
Your overall scores will also appear on a global leaderboard for that course, so it gives you extra incentive to try harder and get better at pulling off extended combos. And, on top of all that, you can also free skate in custom made parks, created by other players using the included “create a park” toolbox.
It’s quite exhaustive in the options and items at your disposal and there are several made by Vicarious Visions that you can try or even adapt to suit your own skate style.
The final game mode is multiplayer, which features both local and online play – with the latter being a new addition as neither of the first two games were connected. In all honesty, it’s not as fully featured as we’d like and effectively just pitches you up against a handful of online opponents in a sequence of different multiplayer match types, in which players with the highest in each round take the win.
The game modes can also be played locally, and we’d have preferred if you could also choose between types online too. We’ve always had a hankering for Horse, for example, but you have to also skate through other seemingly random modes before you can get to it.
Still, it’s a bonus when compared with the originals and not exactly a deal breaker.
What is more important or, at least, more impressive is the presentation. While the game plays more or less the same as it always did – with fluidity and speed that doesn’t require a master’s degree in controller manipulation – the graphical upgrade is immense. The game looks truly stunning.
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Available in 4K HDR on systems that can handle it and 60fps, it is beautiful. Every asset has been remodelled and rebuilt in Unreal Engine to give a modern sheen to the entire experience.
It’s also worth considering that the originals were presented in 3:2 aspect ratio, while this has clearly been upgraded to 16:9 (for the console versions). We played on a PS4 Pro and were happy to stop sometimes to just take in the visuals.
The soundtrack too is immense, with new bands and songs added to some of the greats. We will never get tired of Anthrax’s cover of Bring The Noise or A Tribe Called Quest’s Can I Kick It? booming out while we’re leaping over the blades of a helicopter. Resigning all the rights to the songs we remember was a must, and the new ones fit flawlessly.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 isn’t the most complex game on the planet, but it’s certainly one of the most playable. Tricks are easy to pull off yet easy to master – a necessary combination for a game with longevity. It also remarkably suits the DualShock 4 (or Xbox One controller), even if it was original built with the direction pad rather than thumbsticks in mind.
It would have been nice if online multiplayer had been more fully fleshed out. And, if you’re the sort of person who prefers a long, involved story mode, this isn’t really for you.
But, Activision and Vicarious Visions has breathed new life into a long dormant series - one that we hope will now continue for some time to come.
THPS 1 + 2 unashamedly puts gameplay above all else and reminds us why we got into gaming in the first place. A re-masterpiece, you could say.