“Let’s ride, ride, how we ride.”
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 was announced during an interesting time in gaming. Skateboarding games have achieved a bit of an unexpected renaissance. The Skate series achieved a resurgence over the years thanks to a thriving underground community, propelled to the forefront by various skateboarding YouTubers. This resurgence was also attributed to Electronic Arts shipping out more copies of Skate 3, which helped aid the increase in popularity.
Alongside the Skate community, two new skateboarding IPs were also in development; Session and Skater XL. With the former still in development and the latter having been released earlier in the Summer, all eyes were on the one game that brought skateboarding into the mainstream. Is the game all hype and no substance? Or is it truly the “Pro Skater 5” that the fans deserved?
I’m reviewing this from the PC version of the game, so my experiences may be different from console players.
After being treated to an intro reminiscent of the first several THPS games, with the song Guerrilla Radio by Rage Against The Machine (the intro song to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2) playing in the background, you’re treated to an optional tutorial. While Pro Skater vets will be quick to skip, it’s actually not a bad idea to get a bit of a refresher course.
If you are familiar with Pro Skater, that is to say, if you’ve played the older titles up to Pro Skater 4, you’d feel right at home. The newer tricks that were introduced in the Underground series such as getting off your board, the Caveman, Natas Spin, and Bert Sliding, are all absent. However, all of the quality-of-life essentials such as the revert introduced in Pro Skater 3 and the wall plant in Pro Skater 4 all make their appearance. The ability to modify your tricks by double-tapping the trick button, another mechanic from Pro Skater 3, also returns yet it is nowhere near as in-depth as it would be in later entries in the series.
That said, it’s not a “1:1 recreation” of any existing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game, rather, it takes the best qualities of all four games that bear the “Pro Skater” name and is treated as an “anthology” of sorts. This is even down to the presentation of the game as every level has something changed about them to make them aesthetically different from their classic counterpart.
Examples that stood out to me the most was the School 1 level, which had bright and colorful details pop out in the Miami sunshine, in contrast to the haziness that I remember from the original game. Or the Burnside competition level where, instead of clear skies like in the original, it’s held at night time in the rain. The Mall is now convincingly abandoned with flora growing outside and run-down storefronts within its interior. You can actually see where you’re going in the San Francisco Streets level as the fog that plagued the original level is non-existent.
The Pro Skater 2 levels also have their share of aesthetic changes. The Hangar is transformed into a modern skate park with posters from previous games decorating the walls. Marseille is revamped from the ground up with entirely new architecture while keeping the overall classic layout (including the hidden fountain level).
Every level in the game, even the levels that have seen the least amount of extreme changes such as Downtown, New York, and Philly, all look beautiful re-imagined. Some of the goals in the game are updated to reflect the modern changes as well, such as collecting NYC Metro Cards instead of NYC Subway Tokens.
Not to mention loads of Easter eggs scattered around each level, which include alien plush dolls that are well hidden to floating “Vicarious Visions” logos which are there just to be there at the time of this writing. Even the various hazards that are tailor-made to ruin your skater’s day, whether it’s a hoopty, a taxi cab, or a golf cart, hilariously drift in your direction like Han in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift.
The skater’s animations are all on point. Skaters react accordingly depending on how you land, losing balance if you land sloppy and landing with steeze if you land perfect. The music also echoes during indoor and stadium areas, mimicking the atmosphere of a skatepark blasting tunes.
The attention to detail within each level serves as a testament to the developers who worked on the remake. Vicarious Visions and Tony Hawk games have been rooted in history since the Pro Skater 3 days as they were the ones responsible for the many ports onto previous generation consoles. Beenox, coming fresh off the heels of their amazing remake of Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled, served as the co-developers. With the expertise from both developers, they hit the Tony Hawk experience out of the skatepark. Neversoft would be proud.
All thirteen skaters from the original two games make their return with their updated appearance over the years. Joining them are four returning skaters from previous Tony Hawk games; Lizzie Armanto, Leticia Bufoni, Riley Hawk, and Nyjah Huston. Lastly, there are four new pro skaters; Leo Baker, Tyshawn Jones, Aori Nishimura, and Shane O’Neill.
With the new skaters and changes, THPS 1+2 sought to be as inclusive as possible. For the longest time, the “Mute grab,” as it was known, was changed to the Weddle Grab out of respect for the original creator of the trick. Newcomer Leo Baker, as another example, is one of the rising stars in skateboarding who happens to be queer non-binary.
The stories of the other new skaters are just as interesting. Nishimura was set to represent Japan at the 2020 Olympics while still being a teenager. Jones’ story from being a fan of skateboarding to winning Thrasher Skater of the Year in 2018 is as inspirational as anything. Of the four new skaters, O’Neill may be the eldest, but his brand, April Skateboards, is on the rise to becoming the brand to look out for.
There are also three hidden characters in the game. The digital deluxe exclusive, “The Ripper,” who is Powell Peralta’s mascot character, the alien from Roswell, and Jack Black.
Yes. You read correctly. Jack Black is an unlockable character, playing the role as iconic skateboarding officer, Officer Dick.
You can also create your own character. A staple that would be introduced in Pro Skater 2. However, there’s not as much customization liberty as there was in the previous games. That’s not necessarily a huge negative, as in the older games your character was only limited to your creativity. Flaming skulls and eldritch abominations need no apply here. You choose a base body preset from about twenty available, decide upon a name, place of origin, and skating style, then you’re free to choose your clothing. However, the majority of clothing are locked behind the in-game currency and your in-game level.
By completing challenges for your skater and other pro skaters, you unlock outfits, decks, extra special move slots, and you earn money and experience points. You also earn money and exp through generally playing the game. Everything unlocked however is purely cosmetic unless you’re going for unlocking Jack Black–Officer Dick. In which, you need to essentially 100% the game in order to unlock him. Find all the gaps, medal gold in everything (as your created skater), and clear all of the goals. It’s a bit grindy, but there are tons of replay value to be had here.
Lastly, there is the music. Almost every song from both Pro Skater games is included in the soundtrack alongside new songs. The new songs are a hit or miss. Some of them would fit well in a Tony Hawk game by default from the classic A Tribe Called Quest to Machine Gun Kelly of all people. Others miss the mark, but as music is subjective, I wouldn’t mark it up as a negative.
Overall, the game is an amazing homage to the past two decades of dominance from the Birdman and friends. Most importantly, the game doesn’t take away from its competitors. The experience I get from playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater is nothing like the experience I get playing from Skater XL. Fans of skateboarding can appreciate both games while both bringing something different to the table. It has been literally years since I’ve played a good Tony Hawk game and everyone knew this. It would have been almost criminal for this game to not do the legacy justice, especially after the bad taste that Pro Skater 5 left in everyone’s mouth.
Would we have been blessed by such a game if it wasn’t for competitors? It’s tough to say. Is it fair to say that the influence of competitors encouraged the Birdman to return? Absolutely. Nevertheless, this year and the past few years have been great for skateboarding fans, and what a way to close it out than with this masterpiece. Old and new fans alike will definitely find enjoyment out of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2.
The Lost Summer HIGHLY recommends! ✔️✔️✔️
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is now available on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4