Every sport has its signature video game series. American football and soccer have EA Madden and FIFA respectively, while basketball has the NBA 2K series and baseball with MLB The Show. For skateboarding, no series is more fondly remembered than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Skateboarding games have been around for a while before the late 1990’s, with the first one being Atari’s 720° in 1986. However, the genre didn’t become popular until Activision and Neversoft released Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in 1999 for the original Playstation. Many critics at the time praised how the game successfully captured the rawness and high-octane energy that comes with skateboarding, and the series only got better with a sequel releasing the following year. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is widely considered being among the best video games of all time, and it’s not hard to see why. With even more tricks, more in-depth levels, and a killer soundtrack, Pro Skater 2 solidified itself as the quintessential skateboarding experience and established itself as the top skateboard video game franchise.
Activision and Neversoft worked together to release eight more games within the Tony Hawk series until 2008, when both developers decided to focus on Guitar Hero. The Tony Hawk series was handed over to the now-defunct developer Robomodo, who many blame for decimating the series. Their lack of understanding what made the original series great, along with implementing failed gimmicks that utilized motion controls, is what led to the demise of Tony Hawk. EA’s Skate series succeeded as becoming the next best skateboarding series, but it was a short-lived success after complete radio silence on future installments since 2010. There have been several attempts to revive skateboarding games with mild releases like Session and Skater XL, but many believed the genre was officially dead.
Enter Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2. A remake of the first two games, Pro Skater 1+2 was announced by Activision back in May with Vicarious Visions behind the development. Both had seen major success with 2017’s Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy, a remake of the original three Crash Bandicoot games on PS1, and many praised Vicarious Visions’ faithfulness to the original series while making several optimizations for the current generation. Activision capitalized on this success and worked with Vicarious Visions again to create Pro Skater 1+2. Much like the N Sane Trilogy, Pro Skater 1+2 delivers the perfect balance of maintaining nostalgia for old fans and freshness for newcomers.
Jennifer Oneal, head of Vicarious Visions, explained that they had consulted with former Neversoft employees as well as obtaining the original code used to make the game. They then layered new programming on top of that in order to keep the gameplay mechanics both familiar and updated for the current generation. The controls feel smoother than ever before, and landing multiple strings of tricks still feels satisfying. As someone who hasn’t played a skateboarding game in nearly a decade, hitting those high scores was certainly challenging to say the least. The most basic piece of advice I can give is to master manuals and reverts; these will allow you string tricks together and make it easier for you to score big as you learn each of the levels.
Speaking of, these levels are the best to come out of any skateboarding game in over a decade. To be fair, they’re all the exact same from the original two games, but they have much more variety in their layout and substance compared to Pro Skater 5’s flat and uninspired stages. Each of the levels do a great job at capturing the untouched feel of a city plaza or skate park and turning it into a skateboarder’s personal playground. Between discovering secret areas and hard-to-reach places, each level has something interesting and unique that makes it worthwhile to explore every nook and cranny.
The best new feature in Pro Skater 1+2 by far is Create-A-Park. As you can probably tell by the name, this mode allows anyone to build their own skate park within a fairly large arena. The editor mode is surprisingly in-depth; the game allows builders to add numerous ramps, rails, and other countless props to create an immersive playground. Players can also browse other created parks as well; one builder created a massive skate park that has a gigantic rolling ramp shaped like a waterfall, while another replicated an outdoor shopping center. Pro Skater 5 did have its own level builder, but Pro Skater 1+2 takes everything that made it initially good and builds upon it even further. Not only are players given the freedom to create their own skateboarding wonderland, but they can do so with the feel of the original games.
Most of the licensed tracks from the original two games also make their return. Old players will greatly remember Rage Against the Machine and Powerman 5000 from the PS1 era, and new fans may even discover some new favorite songs from the older tracks. In addition to the original songs, many new tracks from the 90’s to today can be heard as well. From Less Than Jake and Sublime to Machine Gun Kelly and Skepta, each of the new tracks manage to capture the grit of a skateboarding counterculture and make perfect background noise as players skate through all of the levels.
In a similar way, Pro Skater 1+2 also sees the return of the original pro skateboarders who were featured in the first two games. Tony Hawk, Chad Muska, and other familiar faces are once again playable, only this time their look has been updated to show their age. There are new unlockable pros as well; Nyjah Huston, Riley Hawk, and several other newcomers can traverse around the classic levels, which is pretty strange if you think about it. And who can forget about fan favorite Officer Dick? He has been given a much stronger personality from the originals, and best of all, is portrayed by none other than Jack Black. He can be unlocked by completing each of the create-a-skater challenges.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 has plenty to offer for both old and new fans. With a classic engine that has been given a fresh coat of paint, updated graphics, and a mix of old and new content, this game is easily the best skateboarding video game to come out in a very long time. Activision and Vicarious Visions have done the impossible and revived the skateboarding genre. With Crash, Spyro, and now Tony Hawk, Activision is 3-for-3 when it comes to classic remakes. Hopefully a few years from now they will announce Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 6. A guy can dream, can he?
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is out right now for PS4, Xbox One, and PC through the Epic Games Store.
(Cover Photo: Complex)