Review

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 review: brilliant remaster nails its modern trick

5/5

The early-2000s skateboarding sims are among some of the best games ever made and this update recaptures a punkish heart for a new audience

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is out now for PS4, Xbox One and PC

From the moment I dropped into the opening Warehouse level in this remaster of early-noughties-defining Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games, the muscle memory came flooding back. Recalled visions of million-point combos, stringing together a calvacade of grinds, lip tricks and impossible air, fingers dancing across the buttons. Here I go, I think, before launching off the back-wall half-pipe and immediately spiralling into a 540 Indy grab... then fluffing the landing and splatting poor old Tony across the tarmac.

So, yes, for veterans there might be some rust to shake off the trucks before returning to your former skateboarding glory. But it is a feat that Vicarious Visions have achieved with this fabulous remaster, locating Neversoft's original code for its first two games, tweaking the necessary mod-cons and giving it a current-gen lick of paint.

The result is a package that looks and play as your brain recalls it -the golden ticket for a remaster- videos of the originals now reveal a blocky and less slick version than is in your mind's eye. This brings it into more into line with how you think you remember it -roping in tricks (like the combo-linking manual) from later games- while retaining the heart that made it so good in the first place.

And it is still extraordinarily good. The original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is second to only Ocarina of Time in Metacritic's highest ranked video games of all time and, regardless of whether you put much stock into such things, it is a well-earned position. The trick here is to unpack just what makes it such a treat, not so much for experienced players (they know what they are getting) but for younger folk for which the late-90s/early noughties skateboarding craze came too early. There are plenty of mod cons to satisfy a new audience: online play, countless game-spanning challenges and a solid Create-A-Park mode that allows you to share and play other players bonkers creations. But its excellence comes in how it provides its undeniable thrills.

You can choose between a roster of skateboarding stars or create your own

First and foremost it is because Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is chiefly concerned with being an exceptional video game. It never was a skateboarding 'simulation', more a digital fever dream with a die-hard reverence for its punkish subculture. The levels are manic combinations of street scenes and skate parks, often mundane urban areas re-imagined into a skater's paradise and packed with floating collectibles, secret locations and those special spots designed to reap enormous combinations.

That Warehouse is a relatively tame mix of half-pipes and rails to ease you into learning the basics (though can be rinsed for huge scores for those in the know). Later in the first game you will trade it for the more merciless chaos of Downhill Jam, hurtling down a tight dam with valves to grind open and hidden swooping ramps to launch yourself improbably high across its water gaps. The second game in the package follows a similar pattern, but its levels become larger and more elaborate - from schoolyards, to New York City, venice Beach and beyond. While the street levels are almost universally more fun to whizz through than the skate parks, the variety is consistently arresting.

This extends to the objectives; a list of 10 challenges per level that have you chasing high-scores, performing specific tricks in specific spots (ollie the cars, grind the school roll-call railings) and squirreling out collectibles. It strikes a terrific balance between skilful score chasing, exploration and the odd environmental puzzle that tasks you with find how to get to there from there using the 8-inch wide slab of maple wood beneath your feet.

The music is exceptional too, a heady mix of rock and hip-hop that brings back old favourites and add new tracks

The performance of those jumps and tricks rests at the heart of it all. I will bang on incessantly about the best video games being the ones where you have an almost invisible connection between the controller in your hands and the character on-screen. This is from countless hours of playing Super Mario and -bear with me on the comparison here- the early Tony Hawk games. Once in the flow of spinning out of a half-pipe, into a manual before screeching into a succession of special grinds, your fingers on the pad become pure instinct.

It doesn't always work, of course, and in my old age I bail far more often than I would like, watching my combo counter crumple into red mist as I plonk the board sideways. It can be a tough, often infuriating mistress, but one that always seems fair with any wipeouts feeling liek your fault. There is a knack to the amount of leeway you are given when landing and snapping into a grind; the game wanting to give you plenty of room for arcadey experimentation as you snap between tricks. But also give you enough challenge that when you nail a particularly troublesome objective or nail a huge combo, the feeling is one of exhilarating triumph.

And let's be clear on this: Pro Skater's raucous energy is not something easily replicated - even within the same series. That the first four editions were bottled magic became ever clearer as calamitous later entries in the Tony Hawk series piled up. That this remaster both captures that nostalgic heart and makes the series feel fresh and relevant again is an impressive trick to land.