When this game was announced, I wasn’t sold. They’ve tried and failed to remake these games before. What I was looking for is for these games to be better or equal to the originals in every way. The graphics will be better, but what if the animation is worse? Or the gameplay? There’s no reason that, 20 years later, there should be compromises. And for the most part, it passed with flying colors. But is this remake worth your time? Yes, but… It’s a small ‘but’, but let’s get into the specifics.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is a full remake of the original two games, with a lot of extras thrown in on top. Overall, the way they chose to remake this game is really good. It feels authentic, even in the parts that aren’t really faithful to the original.
Let’s take a look at the gameplay engine. In Tony Hawk 2, they added in manuals, but there were no reverts, spine transfers, wall plants, or freestyle. But all of that fits in the game. In an early interview, Hawk said that he wanted the game to feel like you remember it feeling, but not be exactly the same. And this was a good call. You can go into the game options and change the move set to match the original games if you want, but it really feels like something is missing if you do. Having all of those extra tricks feels like they were always meant to be there. The levels weren’t designed for them, which is a flaw they couldn’t really avoid, but we’ll talk about that in a minute.
As far as how the game actually compares to the originals, it feels the most like Pro Skater 4. You can’t get off your board like you could in Underground, and there are no pressure flips or bert slides or anything weird like that. But it still feels different. There’s more weight to this game than the previous ones had. In the original Pro Skater games, it felt more floaty. You’d be in the air for a long time. In this game, it feels like gravity is a lot stronger, but you also can skate faster and ollie higher. So it balances out and it ends up feeling faster, while having the same balance. I think this was a good call. A lot of the game is designed around you wandering around the level looking for things, so having the gameplay feel fast was a good way to go.
The biggest thing I was worried about with this game, after having played Tony Hawk HD, was the stability. In that game, you’re always glitching around, turning upside down, glitching through things, and just having crazy stuff happen for no reason. But in this game, the whole time I played, I don’t think I ran into any major glitch like that. Everything runs fine, and it feels reliable. That’s a big deal considering the last few games in the series.
How about the presentation? Well, the sound is really well done. The music is really good. A lot of the classic playlist is back, with some new additions too. I can’t play any of the music for you, but it’s good. And it continues independent of the gameplay. In the originals, a new song would start every time you restarted, meaning I have exactly 2 minutes of all the songs memorized. Now, they keep playing in menus and everything, which is a lot better experience.
The sound effects are great. Every surface has a different rolling sound. Grinding on different surfaces sounds good. Although the hollow pipes sound like the Taco Bell gong. Listen.
But everything is really polished. The menus are all well designed. Everything animates and pops in in a very pleasing way. I’m impressed.
Let’s talk about the graphics. The first thing I wanted to look at when I got the game was the animations. And for the most part they did a good job. But they screwed some stuff up. Nollie varial flips are inward heelflips, for some reason. Hardflips are still vertical, which I find really annoying, even if it isn’t technically wrong. And every nollie 360 flip – regular tres, 360 hardflips, 360 inward heelflips and laser flips – are all backward. They just play the regular animation instead of a nose one.
Leo Baker’s is a nose manual nollie inward heelflip. Which they did in a video right here. This is just a regular combo you could do in the game. How does it work as a special trick? It doesn’t. It’s the opposite, a nollie inward heelflip nose manual. What’s the point of this? What happened to the creativity?
The level design though, looks incredible. Everything looks really good, except Rodney Mullen’s face. Supposedly they brought everyone in and 3D scanned them, but I don’t think this looks anything like him. But still, every level is lovingly recreated and well developed. It would have been really tempting for Vicarious Visions to want to add new areas or make other changes, but they didn’t. Everything that’s supposed to be here is here, it just looks a lot better. Some of the levels I was really impressed by are the Hangar, the Mall and Venice Beach.
The Hangar is really glossy and polished, but in a way that feels authentic. Like, of course this hangar would have nicely polished floors, and have stripes painted in the floor for the workers. The wind tunnel looks great too, even if this spot ends up being useless in this game. We’ll talk about that in a second. But this level looks really clean and nice, which is in direct contrast to…
The Mall. This was probably the best redesign in the game. This mall is abandoned and destroyed. The difference between the Hangar and the Mall is really impressive. Vicarious Visions’ designers didn’t just make the exact same level with new technology – they stopped and thought about how the level should be updated. In this case, the mall is empty. I wonder what the thought process was for this. Maybe they wanted a good reason for it to be empty. It would be weird if everything was nice and pristine, but there were no NPCs wandering around. Or maybe it’s abandoned because malls are dying out across the country. Either way, they really leaned into it. It looks almost like the site of a zombie apocalypse. It’s very well done.
The last level I wanted to highlight is Venice Beach. This is a more typical remake, but they did a lot here to liven up the flat and boring areas. When you think about it, this level has tons of empty space. The rooftops, the concrete over here by the quarter pipes. So what did they do? They made it rain. Does it ever rain there? Probably not. But from a stylistic standpoint, it was a good call. There are puddles everywhere just to break up the monotony, and plenty of texture and cracks in the pavement. It’s really well done.
Another design choice that I really appreciate is the drivers. Minneapolis, San Francisco and New York all have cars driving around, and they made them CRAZY. They always yelled at you when you got in the way, but now they’re drifting around like maniacs. It’s brilliant.
Adding details to these levels sometimes has some strange effects though. In Chicago, I had to do a wallride, but there are all these pipes now. It looks like you couldn’t possibly do it, but you can. So some of this stuff is just graphical fluff. It plays just like it always did.
The only thing I disliked about the graphics is the pretty extreme lighting contrast. This might not be so bad playing in HDR, but my PC monitor is only standard dynamic range. But there are parts that are so dark that you can barely see anything, just to make sure the sunlight feels bright enough. It looks nice, but it doesn’t help the gameplay. When you go into the gym, for example, it’s hard to see. I keep waiting for the camera to adjust and get brighter, but it doesn’t happen.
The hardest thing is finding collectibles though. Hidden in every level is a couple of things. First is the Vicarious Visions logo, which is bright and glowy. They made everything bright and glowy, which helps with the darkness problem. But the one collectible you might not notice is this little green alien. There’s one hidden in every level. I couldn’t find a few of them and I looked them up. Sometimes, I looked in that exact spot, but it’s just so dark that you can’t possibly see them. I mean, look at this. How are you supposed to see that?
And, spoiler alert, when you squash them all…. I’ll give you a second to skip if you don’t want to know… When you collect them all, you unlock the Roswell alien. Which is cool, but you also get his gear, which is cooler. I use his deck, which glows in the dark. That’s a really cool effect with the extreme lighting in this game.
And those Vicarious Visions logos? If you collect them all, you get some gear. Like, shirts and decks and stuff. I was expecting a little more than that, but I guess it’s fine. There are a lot of unlockables in this game, including decks with animated graphics. You won’t see that in Session or SkaterXL. I think this is actually really cool.
But anyway, let’s look at the games themselves. Pro Skater 1 and 2 are broken up into different tours. You pick your skater, and you can play through them… but only once. I was expecting that you could replay it with every character like the originals, but that’s not the case this time. All the characters share progress, except for the stat points, which have to be collected on an individual basis. And you unlock character videos based on the stat point collection, not the completion of the actual goals. It makes sense, but it’s something you should know before you get started.
Playing Pro Skater 1 in this game was a really interesting experience. In order to make both tours match each other, they doubled the amount of challenges that each level has. This usually means additional collectibles, and maybe a special gap or location to get. It’s almost always good.
In the Warehouse, they added in fire hydrants. That’s what this factory makes, apparently. You also have to do one of the channel gaps. In the school, they added in bells…. Which I found to be a little bit weird. School 2 has bells, so adding them in School 1 feels almost like a ripoff. But it suits the level, obviously, so it’s fine. They also added in collectible textbooks, and heelflipping the kicker gap. I really love these additions. As someone who has played the originals dozens of times, it’s almost impossible to recreate the experience of playing them for the first time. I know where everything is. But adding in new things for me to try to find for the first time makes this feel more authentic than an exact remake, if that makes sense.
Minneapolis has popcorn, which I’m not sure the significance of, and it also has 3 roof gaps. One of these would have been really confusing if I didn’t get lucky. The first one is here, which is a gap you have to do to get the popcorn anyway, so there’s nothing wrong with that. The second one is the same gap that you do to get the secret tape. But where is the last one? It’s here. You jump off the roof, and hopefully land on this rail at a 90 degree angle. On my first playthrough, my stats were low and I landed right on it, which was lucky. On my second one, my stats were already full, and it actually took me a few attempts to get it. This one is probably the worst addition.
I won’t show you everything, because I want you to have fun looking for all of this stuff yourself, but overall, it’s really good, and I think I prefer the Pro Skater 1 stuff over the Pro Skater 2 because of it.
Eh, I take that back. This tour still has Downhill Jam in it, and this level is the worst. I mean, this gap barely works still. I glanced off it and fell to my death a few times. This gap got completely ruined. You’re supposed to be able to wallride and transition right into the grind, but now you hug the wall and wrap around it. And this gap doesn’t make sense! One of the new challenges is to do a Madonna over this gap, but how do you trigger it? Sometimes you ollie the whole thing and it doesn’t count, and once I only got it to count by transferring between the pipes. I don’t know. If this level was deleted from history and we all forgot it ever existed, humanity would be better off. But this is a very faithful remake, so we’re stuck with it.
Let’s look at the Pro Skater 2 section of the game. This is an exact remake, except for the fact that the original version had cash icons everywhere. So you’d do all the challenges and then you had 10 or more locations of icons to try to find. Now, all you have is stat points (2-4 per level), the alien doll, and the Vicarious Visions logo. That makes some places useless, like the wind tunnel in the Hangar. It looks pretty, but what’s the point? They could have put a stat point in here at least. But if you’re playing the game for the very first time, you might stumble into opening this section up… all for nothing.
The Carlsbad gap in School 2 is the same. You can get over there… and there’s nothing there. I know that standardizing these two games made it so that they couldn’t keep the cash icon idea, but the levels actually have a little bit less to do than the original.
Remember the poo piles in the Bull Run? Most of them were just poop, but the green ones had money in them. Now there’s just poop for no reason. They put a stat point in there so there’s at least a reason to go in there, but some of that charm is gone. It’s not a big loss, but it’s noticeable for someone like me who played the old versions so many times.
But with that aside, everything feels familiar and you’ll be right at home as a fan of the Playstation 1 version.
One thing that is definitely different, though, is the difficulty. Remember how hard Philadelphia was? Getting up to the roof here to drain the fountain is… oh. That was first try. Okay, but getting the secret tape actually is a pretty big challenge because you have to hold your balance alllll the way up… oh. I did both of these first try. The score challenges are really easy too. I was hoping there was going to be a sick difficulty mode like some of the later games in the series had that bumped that up and made it a little more of a challenge, but we didn’t get that.
So you finish both of the tours… and nothing happens. You just get a little splash screen, and it’s over. It took me a grand total of just a hair over 2 hours to beat both tours. This is the part that I think is the biggest problem for potential buyers who are on the fence. If you just want to beat the game, it’s not going to take you very long. You only have to beat it once, and I blasted through getting the stat points with my created character in about 25 minutes. I could do that with every character and get their videos if I want, but that just feels like work.
So what did they do to extend the life of the game beyond those couple of hours? A few things.
First is the challenges. This is outside of the actual level goals. These are separate, almost like trophies or achievements. But it’ll be small things, like doing all your special tricks in one combo, getting a certain number multiplier, and things like that. And there are hundreds of them. Every character has challenges, and there are overall challenges. Completing these earns you money, which you can use to buy decks and graphics and stuff like that. On my second playthrough, I made a create-a-skater, and my options were pretty limited. I had tons of money though, so I could have gone through and bought lots of stuff for my character. I didn’t though, because I’m lazy.
So completing all of those challenges could probably take you a few weeks, but what else is there? The cheats are back!
This is one thing that modern games really don’t do anymore. The classic games had all kind of button combination cheats that would unlock stuff like big head mode, moon physics, and other things. Those are back, but they’re all just toggleable in the menu. There are filters too. If you want to be a giant and skate around in sepia tone, you can.
Perfect balance, always special, and cheats like that are available now, but you can’t use them to complete challenges. I’m glad these are back. I don’t see myself playing with them that much, but I’m an old man now. When I was a kid and I could only afford one game every few months, I would have messed with this stuff for hours. So I’m glad it’s there for other people.
There is another tour, kind of. It’s a place where you can do single sessions, free skate, and… speed runs. This is a perfect addition to the series. I’m really glad this is here.
Here’s how it works. You start a level, and instead of the timer counting down, it now counts up. You complete all of the goals in one run, and your final time gets uploaded to the leaderboards. I don’t care too much about the competitive side of it, but from a gameplay perspective, it puts a whole new spin on the career. Traditionally, my thought process when I’m playing the game is like “Ok, this time I’m going to get the Hall Passes, Kickflip TC’s roof gap, and get the high score. Next time I’ll get the SKATE letters and the secret tape.” But now, you don’t group things like that. I try to do everything in one location before I move on. I get two textbooks, one bell, and one table before getting the secret tape, which transfers me to this area, where I’ll get a couple more of all of them. It’s a new twist on the way you play it, and I like it. All of my Pro Skater 1 footage was taken in this mode, because my original playthrough’s footage got messed up in a Windows update that made my bitrate super terrible for no reason.
But this mode is fun, and I think this is where the bulk of the replayability comes from. You can replay the tours as every character to get their stat points, then try to get the fastest times in the speed run. It’s fun, and I don’t see myself really missing the option to replay the main career completely from the beginning with this being here instead. But this mode really made me hate that roof gap I was talking about earlier. I got all my stat points first, because they’re only in the regular tour mode, but that made getting this gap stupidly hard. But okay, that’s enough about that one challenge.
Another big replayability aspect is the Create-A-Park mode. Something that I just genuinely have no interest in. I’ll play the top levels every now and then, but I don’t think you’re going to see me uploading my own stuff any time soon. That just doesn’t appeal to me in any game. But I’ll show you what a couple of these levels look like to give you an idea of what kinds of things are possible.
And while I’ll do that, I’ll talk about the biggest fault in the game – the level design. I know, these levels are classics, and they were all amazing in their time. I’m not denying that at all. It’s just that this engine, with the reverts and the spine transfers really doesn’t match. I’ll give you an example. Here’s Roswell from Pro Skater 1. If you grind this rail, you gap out into this building where you can do… nothing. It’s a sharp turn, so you can’t easily land in a manual and keep the combo going. There’s nothing to grind either. This game wasn’t made for huge combos back in the day. You’d really spend most of your time on vert in these competitions. But the game feels like it really wants you to do that stuff, so there’s a bit of a disconnect.
And there’s not much they could have done about that. Updating the engine to be more like Pro Skater 4 instead of 2 was a good move. Keeping all the levels as close to the classics as possible was also the right move. So I don’t think this is a problem that could be solved. And for someone like me, who remembers these old levels so well, it’s fine. But new players might feel like the level design is lacking. That’s why I’m hoping for a Tony Hawk 6 in this engine. Make it play exactly the same, but just have all new levels that suit the play style a little bit better. And I’m a bit worried about the future of the series. There can’t be a Tony Hawk 3+4 as a sequel, because those games play too differently to share a game. 3 really should have been part of this game, because they’re all 2 minute timer games. Maybe the levels from 3 will be a paid DLC down the line? I’d be okay with that.
So is this game worth your time? Yes, but keep in mind that you can beat the whole thing in a couple hours. If you’re a completionist and you want to collect all the shirts and boards, finish all the challenges, and create your own parks, then there’s plenty to do. For me, this is an absolute ‘buy’. I’m happy to say that they really knocked it out of the park.