(Published by Activision, available to play on Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
Christ alive, I never thought I’d see the day when I’d see Tony Hawk games not only become available to play again (well, every last one but the last one), but they’d be cool again. I, dear reader, am emphatically not cool. I’m a somewhat melancholy and grouchy disabled man surviving lockdown by basically reviewing video games to keep the lights on, and getting angry at certain arseholes via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I’m not good looking, charismatic or funny. I’m just a nerd who played the original four games and spent far too much time playing these games than I probably should have done. Still, I did relatively well, so I guess that panned out okay in the end. On with the review.
So, when the news broke that not only had Activision gained the rights to this game that they lost years ago, but that they were going to remake the first two games for this generation, well, the internet had kittens. I was one of those people who, when they heard it, yelled vocally out loud from under my mask in the supermarket, much to the chagrin of the security guards, because of the ongoing global issue that has forced everyone to stay inside.
Still, the role of COVID-19 (or Coronavirus as it is more commonly known) in the success of this game cannot be ignored. Would this game have sold so well across the world if half of the western world not had to stay indoors to avoid one incredibly infectious virus that has reached pandemic levels? Personally I think it would have, so continue reading on, and maybe you’ll come to the same conclusion as this grizzled gamer.
The game is quite an expensive buy, folks, and sadly, it’s been revealed that the game will not be going on either PS Now or Microsoft Game Pass, so if you want this game, then you either have to borrow a disc copy from a friend to have go playing, or you’re going to have to purchase it from either your online store or your local game shops. Here’s the kicker for you though (and that pun was completely intentional), the game cost me £40, and if you want the extended version (which adds a few perks for which I’ll go through later in this article), then the game will cost you £50. Yikes. Before I continue with this review, I do have some good news for the Xbox gamers reading this though. As of the time of writing, Microsoft have more-or-less confirmed that if you have bought this amazing nostalgia trip on your current console, but are upgrading to the newer one, then you’re in luck. You won’t have to buy this game twice. I’m afraid due to Sony’s lack of clarity on how they’re moving on with the PS5, that I can’t say the same for PlayStation gamers. Sorry folks!
So what is this game? Well, in reality, this game is three games in one. It contains high-definition remasters of the first two games plus an online ranked game as well. For the gamers who bought the Crash Bandicoot remastered trilogy who’s pants are suddenly about to go brown, don’t worry. Activision learned their lesson well, and instead of just a traditional remaster complete with all the bugs from the original games, this game is more of a high-definition reconstruction job akin to the Spyro Trilogy than it is the insanely buggy mess that the Crash Bandicoot is. I’ve spent more than 48 hours playing the game, going through every nook and cranny looking for bugs, but as far as I can see playing on my Xbox One S, I can’t spot a single one. So, don’t worry, you’re in the clear on that one.
The game is not exactly how you remember it if you owned the originals, but don’t worry, the special tapes (which still look like VHS tapes) are exactly where they were in the first two games. The brilliance this game has is when it comes down to the finer points. Remember trying to Ollie your way around as the game had neither manuals, nose manuals or reverts? Well, dear gamers, relax, all the good stuff from later games is in here, allowing you to build amazing combos from grinding, flips, grabs, nose manuals and other tricks, with a fully customisable trick list. Frustrated that Tony Hawk’s special trick, the 900 can’t work on a certain half-pipe? Relax, because you can switch it out for a Christ Air should you need a special trick that doesn’t take forever to perform. One of the standout things about this game is the accessibility of it all. I’m in my mid-to-late twenties, and I’m pretty much the youngest you can be to have played this game the first time around, so obviously, Activision were aiming to make this game as addictive to teenagers as they were to the adults who bought this sheer piece of nostalgia porn.
Speaking of nostalgia porn, you won’t be disappointed by the soundtrack either, as pretty much all of the songs from the original two games (for which this one is a high-definition remaster) appear on there. Dead Kennedys, Anthrax and Rage Against The Machine make a welcome appearance on the list of songs that play on the game, but also, in a nod to how old gamers who played this the first time around are, there’s a load of new songs to acknowledge the younger gamers on here, who probably have only ever heard of Tony Hawk because of his appearance in the Epic Rap Battles Of History series. Machine Gun Kelly, Reel Big Fish and Skepta also make appearances on this game’s soundtracks, which to be fair is a little offputting. Creating one gigantic combo is a tad unnerving when at one point, Anthrax is playing, and then the game changes the music to Skepta. I like both artists, but one constructive criticism I’ll give here is that maybe they should have given the soundtrack a “legacy” option, allowing for the music to have remained the same unless you wanted it.
On the presentation front, there’s a lot to enjoy here, both for the older and younger gamers here. If, like me, you got this on an Xbox system, meaning that you could start playing this game before it fully downloaded the entirety of it, then you got access to play The Warehouse level first, which was a lot of fun to do. It’s not quite how you remember it, and is strikingly different from the 2010 remaster that came about, so I’ll warn those that haven’t bought the game yet now: Don’t expect quite the same levels visually as you remember. Like us, the world of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater has moved on somewhat, and aged in real time. The Warehouse no longer looks relatively new, and the amount of graphical detail gone into showing us what has aged is superb. The big rail you grind across as you make your way down that ramp is no longer bright red and shiny, but a softer and darker maroon, with a lot of rust on it. Oddly enough, they’ve done the same with the Pro Skaters as well. Tony Hawk now looks his age in the game, and not resembling the twenty-something he was when they made the original games, and the same can be said for the other Pro Skaters in the game. But, if watching your childhood heroes move inch-by-inch closer to grave is a somewhat depressing aspect of this game for you, then you’re in luck, because the game has other options for you available. As is the case with the original game, true completion isn’t just clearing all the goals with one skater, but with every skater. In recognition with the impact the original games had on the skateboarding industry, the games have younger skaters to play as from a variety of backgrounds, each one inspired to skate after playing the original games when they were younger.
So, time for the part of the review where I give you the pro’s and the con’s.
There are only really two negatives when it comes to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2. Firstly, the price for what the game actually is feels far too steep. “Skateboarding,” as Tony Hawk himself said, “is for everyone”. At that price tag, Vicarious Visions and Activision beg to dream and differ. You can hours ubiquitous playing this game, it’s true, but for a completionist such as myself, this game starts to feel repetitive, and to be frank, boring after about 8 or 9 hours. Yes, the nostalgia boner was fun and everything, but there isn’t that much (at the moment) to back that sizzle with a good bit of steak. Activision and Vicarious visions may back that up in the future, but at the time of writing, that’s how this game currently feels.
Secondly, whilst the game is a rip-roaring blast from the past that has been modified for players of this gaming generation, it has to be said that the disparity between the old and the new in this game is very jarring at times, with new collectibles being in awkward places whilst the secret tapes and SKATE letters remaining where they used to be. This can and did confuse me as I sank my perfunctory 48 hours into getting this game played and reviewed for you lucky, lucky people. The most egregious example of the game not quite managing to blend the old and the new, however, was the soundtrack, as I explained to you people earlier.
There are a lot of things right with this game, however. In this well-endowed author’s opinion, there is far more that has gone well with this game than has gone wrong. The game isn’t a “port-and-rescale” job, containing the jarring bugs from the first two entries into this franchise, instead it’s a complete rebuilding job, with plenty to enjoy from both older and younger gamers alike. The way in which the game’s controls are mapped is superb, with the game broadly speaking matching your muscle memory, regardless of whether you played the original games on Nintendo’s GameCube or Sony’s PlayStation. This became immediately apparent to me, because as you all know, I was a PlayStation gamer, and I had this game. Comparing the gameplay across, there is very little difference in controlling your skateboarding avatar.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, this review has got way too long anyway, so here is my verdict: Go and get it, but ideally, get a disc-based version on sale. The price tag is way too steep.