The best and most honest review of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is that I’m still waiting for it to f*ck up. It’s been a few days now, and I’m starting to think it’s just not going to happen.
When it comes to remaking the first two games of the genre-defining skateboarding sim, it’s hard not to consider the version Activision released on Friday without the context of the originals. The games already exist. They were great. To remake or remaster them in any way, at the very least, needs to match the greatness you’ve likely already experienced. It’s the first way the game can fail, a fairly high bar for the title to clear before you can even judge anything else happening in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing, sure, but it only gets you so far if what you’re currently playing isn’t as good as the thing you remembered. The game’s Warehouse Demo was a direct confrontation of that nostalgia. Here’s the stuff you remember, the demo seemed to say, it’s all here again so sharpen your skills because you’re going to need them. And any worry about it relying purely on what came before it gets quickly erased once you experience the full package. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is a fully-formed, modern video game with a spectacular soundtrack and a deeply customizable experience.
In many ways, the above sentence is typed with relief as much as anything. THPS 1+2 is a game that could have come off as a cash grab, a shameless way to tepidly reheat nostalgia, give skateboarding brands some new shine, and maybe get Goldfinger another royalty check. But it’s more than the sum of its parts thanks to Activision delivering what it promised this spring: an updated version of what fans love with features you’d expect from a game made this decade. Just seeing that it’s possible to make a good, modern Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is satisfying after the disappointments of the series’ most recent entries. But 1+2 plays smoothly, and it seamlessly incorporates newer moves like the manual and revert into the lexicon of cool sh*t you can do in the game’s various levels.
It’s really great to see Downhill Jam and the various School levels done with modern-day graphics, and the various tasks you have to complete in two-minute runs remain intuitive and fun. It’s amazing how much muscle memory for tricks and combos comes back to you after just a few sessions, and how fluidly the search for S-K-A-T-E or hard hats or spotting ways to access secret tapes becomes during your runs. This isn’t reading the same book again looking for new details, but revisiting a book you loved 20 years ago and remembering why as you flip through the pages — maybe on an e-reader this time, I suppose.
If anything, 1+2 offers gamers a useful outlet for the skills they picked up long ago, when a game shaped their childhood and (probably) their musical tastes in a way that’s reverberated through the rest of their lives. Creating a skater and custom-mapping your favorite tricks, or simply grabbing your favorite skater (Bob Burnquist over here) and finding all the secrets in the Hangar will keep you up late into the night, just like the old days. The rust comes off quick, and it’s extremely satisfying to execute high-scoring runs or clearing multiple challenges in a session. The formula has always worked, and once you get a few runs in you’ll start to wonder why these games weren’t remade any sooner.
Overall the game’s new soundtrack additions fit in with the old and kept the fun, catchy vibe of the originals. I never needed to switch to a particular song for a big run, but the option was there if I ever got tired of letting the new mix of hip-hop and old school classics ride.
Both the custom skaters and the game’s overall roster offer a lot of new challenges and individual options with which to tinker. The game’s collectable skill points can be swapped to different categories as you find them and swapped on the fly, making finishing some challenges less of a grind and offering a more customized play experience for those that struggle with certain skills or need one run with monster air to land an important gap. The only frustrations I found were with myself, not the game’s camera or wonky physics or anything that often sinks sports sims. The pitfalls that usually besiege projects like these, especially in a year like this, never really came up.
The in-game currency builds up quickly as you complete challenges and allows you to purchase plenty of new boards, wheels, and other merch for customizing if you need it. The most fruitful customizing option in the coming months, though, will be the game’s Create A Park mode. It’s sprawling, seems fairly intuitive and has loads of options to make themed parks and wild mashups. I will be happy to let other people find their calling in that mode and reap the benefits they share online, but it looks to be a satisfying ride for everyone involved.
Perhaps the strongest endorsement I can give Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is that it’s not just for people amped up on nostalgia. I handed the controller over to someone who had never played and they were gently guided through a tutorial of the basics by Tony Hawk himself. It was a reminder that the skills the game takes are learned, and they’ve been dormant inside millions of gamers who are eager to once again give them a use. But watching someone learn how to escape an empty pool and pull off a lip trick with some friendly guidance from the legend himself, it became clear that this game isn’t just for those who want to hear “Guerilla Radio” while they live in the past for a little bit.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is poised to be a modern classic, even if you don’t remember the skateboarding world back when it was a lot more pixelated.