Republished on Wednesday 27th July 2022: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of August's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is a series that defined early PlayStation just as much as Crash Bandicoot or Tomb Raider. The games are fondly remembered for their tight controls, licensed soundtracks, and endlessly replayable levels, although the franchise has certainly bailed a few times as well. Never fear, though, because Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a triumphant return to form.
Combining the first and second games into one package, this full-blown remake is a nollie flavoured nostalgia trip that will have old fans doing 900 degree spins in delight. As soon as you start playing, the controls feel absolutely spot on. It might take a minute to get back into the rhythm, but skating around and pulling off ridiculous tricks is just as fun as you remember from 20 years ago. It really does nail the handling, and frankly, that's half the battle won. Unlike the original two games, you have access to gameplay enhancements from later titles, such as spine transfers and the all-important revert. These moves allow you to keep combos going for miles, and landing a huge line of tricks is of course extremely satisfying. It feels particularly good at 60 frames-per-second, even if load times do take their sweet time.
But there's more than just the wonderfully tight controls to enjoy. Each of the 19 levels from the original games are presented here in glorious form. The visual overhaul and attention to detail on display is brilliant, with most stages given a dramatic new look. It goes without saying the graphics are a huge improvement on the originals, but so much care has been taken on each map to give them all a unique identity. School and School II are now radically different from each other, Venice Beach doubles down on the graffiti, and Mall now looks like something out of The Last of Us. It's a seriously impressive effort.
What's more, every level has had something added to it. This is most noticeable with the Tony Hawk 1 stages, where all the stages have more objectives to bring them in line with Tony Hawk 2. At the very least, each map now has a couple more gaps to find. It means that even veteran players will have something new to see and do, and that's to say nothing of the hundreds of challenges that'll keep completionists busy for a long time.
That leads us to some structural changes that make the collection more cohesive. Stat points for each character are now collectibles scattered across the game, and instead of picking up cash icons, money is earned simply through completing objectives and beating challenges. You'll also earn XP and level up, which in turn unlocks more and more cosmetic items with which to customise your own skater. It does seem a bit limiting that these items can't be used with pro skaters, but it does at least encourage you to experiment with making a custom character. All these different metrics might sound confusing, but everything feeds into rewarding the player in some way, and it makes the game feel more modern.
Speaking of modern, online play is pretty seamlessly integrated. You can easily start a session with friends or join a public lobby, and engage in all the multiplayer modes you remember, like Graffiti and Trick Attack. Local multiplayer is an option, too, where two skaters can enjoy some split-screen action.
As well as creating your own skater, Create A Park returns, and it's more robust than ever. You can place all manner of ramps, rails, and other objects, then share your masterpiece with the community. However, there's more to it than just dropping in half pipes and funboxes; you can use smart pieces to create truly custom parks. Placing one of these down, you can then modify them in various ways, leading to totally unique obstacles. It's kind of fiddly to use, but with some practice, you could easily make some fun maps using these tools.
Meanwhile, the soundtrack contains nearly all the music you remember while adding lots of new songs to the mix. While it's a shame that not all the songs from the originals are here, the vast majority of new additions fit right in. You can change what will show up in the playlist, but we left everything on as we enjoyed the variety. Among the skate punk and hip hop is some rap and pop music that somehow all hits the right tone.
There's so much packed into this game that it can all feel a little daunting at first. As you begin your arcadey skating career, you'll see a bunch of challenge notifications, your level increasing, cash racking up — it's a lot to keep track of. However, everything is smartly presented, and once you get used to the game's structure, it offers lots of reasons to keep playing. There are secret skaters to unlock, hidden areas to access, and more. It just about balances the old school feel with more up-to-date features, meaning both old and new fans should be satisfied.
Vicarious Visions has produced another excellent remake with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2. It brings those PS1 classics to the modern era with a wonderful visual upgrade, rock solid performance, and all the features you'd expect of a game released in 2020. Most importantly, though, it retains the specific feel of the franchise at its best, delivering an addictive, fast-paced, arcade-like experience. Old fans can rest easy knowing that the Tony Hawk games are back on form, while new players can dive into the skateboarding world for the first time. This game is sick, bro.