It’s no simple task re-envisioning an iconic property for a new generation of fans; balancing the expectations of die-hard series veterans while simultaneously sprinkling in enough to appeal to modern sensibilities. A remake that connects with all audiences regardless of familiarity is something to be celebrated.
A release like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is to be celebrated.
Odds are that returning players are going to be heading straight for the career mode that made up the bulk of the originals. Referred to as “skate tours”, players have the option of jumping between either of the campaigns featured in the classic titles. Throughout all 19 levels, the goals remain untouched letting players refamiliarise themselves with the iconic skating lines, so returning skaters will feel right at home collecting secret tapes and racking up sick combos.
They’re the same tasks we were doing twenty years ago, but it speaks to just how well the gameplay holds up that even with minimal changes, the core movement and polished controls still make Tony Hawk as hard to put down today as it was decades ago. It’s the tightest gameplay has ever felt in the franchise, making each two-minute run feel immediately gratifying and insanely addictive.
That’s not to say everything’s the same, however with environments, collectibles, and even the returning cast of pro skaters having seen visible signs of age. It’s oddly bittersweet to skate through the original game’s levels and see them run down, deserted, and even in quarantine. These changes are purely aesthetic though, so don’t expect to see Rodney Mullen’s speed stat being lowered or item positions shuffled around, but it’s a neat touch and if anything, it’s sweet to see some older skaters sharing the park with newcomers in the scene.
In a distinct departure from the originals that’s sure to polarise fans, goal progression is no longer tied to each individual skater. Previously, if players felt like changing their player character, this meant forfeiting their campaign progression and starting over from level 1.
While this is a marked improvement that falls more in line with modern games, a large draw for the franchise has always been replaying the levels over again with all the knowledge of previous runs. Meaning that by the time you’re tearing through the game with your sixth character, previously troublesome goals are a breeze. It encouraged players to strive for perfection, and Tony Hawk had such a high skill ceiling that players were rewarded for their intimate knowledge of the game’s levels.
You wouldn’t be mistaken in thinking that cutting down the unique runs through the campaign with each character hinders the replayability of Pro Skater 1 + 2. This small change to the structure of the game’s progression is emblematic of a larger change in direction for the franchise, with this title’s shift towards a kind of “battle pass” system popularised by other live service games.
This is accomplished through the addition of over 700 unique “challenges” incorporated throughout the game. These are smaller goals that are recorded consistently over your time in the various modes, things like performing a thousand kickflips, hitting every gap in a level, or pulling off a pro skater’s signature trick.
It feels great to incidentally knock off a bunch of these challenges over the course of a gameplay session, then jump into the pause menu and soak up the dopamine as you check off all the boxes and net yourself a bunch of new customisation options, but herein lies one of the biggest disappointments I’ve found with Pro Skater 1+2; there are very little secrets to be unlocked over the course of your playtime.
With only two secret characters and no new levels, your willingness to keep returning to the game is limited to two major factors: your enjoyment of the tight moment-to-moment gameplay, and a compulsion to keep expanding your digital collection of decks and skatewear.
This is where I found myself struggling the most with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2. Simply having an easily accessible Pro Skater on PS4 guarantees that it’ll remain part of my rotation for years to come, but I’m never going to return to the game to chase these challenges and unlock new customisation options, that simply isn’t why I play Tony Hawk.
It would have made for a stronger experience if additional skaters and unlockable secrets had taken the place of a couple extra customisation options. The battle pass-like challenges feel like they’re intended to hook a different crowd, but none of the tasks, or their rewards, feel substantial enough to warrant chasing them.
If the challenges aren’t enough encouragement to keep on attempting runs, then the Soundtrack sure as hell will. With the majority of the artists from the original games returning, in addition to a selection of modern musicians from across genres, you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking a couple of the new tunes had been there all along.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 effortlessly recaptures the exhilarating gameplay of the originals while elegantly making a case for the franchise’s future. I wasn’t entirely sold on the battle pass approach to progression, but given a little rework, I feel the model would make a fantastic addition to future instalments. Given another chance, I have little doubt Vicarious Visions could make this franchise their very own.