Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 remake does exactly what it says on the box…
…then does three heelflips, nose-grinds the box, lands manual, and finishes with an 1800 stalegrab over the quarterpipe gap… Pass it to the left, friends!
Let’s get straight to it, in case you’re looking for a verdict in a hurry. Here are the answers to the two questions everyone keeps asking me first:
Does this remake do justice to the original and recapture most, if not all, of the magic?
Yes it totally does.
Does it have all the original skaters, parks and music?
Yes on the first two, plus a whole lot of new, younger skaters like Nyjah Huston and Leticia Bufoni. It has most – but not all – of the original music. And, a lot of cool new stuff, which blends in pretty seamlessly with the old classics. I did miss a couple of songs I was hoping to hear, but the vibe is right and there’s enough tunes you forgot that you know every word to, to fuel a good nostalgia trip if that’s what you’re mostly after here. Plus, enough good new sh*t to get you into some new music and keep younger people interested too. I hope.
But, is it a totally brilliant game you can’t live without, even at about a grand in price?
Well, that really depends on what you’re hoping for from it. To find out what I thought, read on…
Firstly, hi. I’m Gord.
I’ve been friends with the LW homies for a long-ass time, getting up to all kinds of no-good in the overlapping folds of the magazine industry (RIP), the music scene, and fun things where you can break yourself in general. They know that I am both a big fan of the original games, and old enough to remember them.
They hit me up and asked if I’d review it in exchange for a copy. Before you could scream “f*ck yes, I will!” I’d called my bestie Gump and told him we were going full-2001 on this, and sessioning a proper Tony Hawk evening like the ol’ days!
We quickly did our hair and beards like Guy Fieri, put on our baggiest jeans, made sure our bead necklaces fit exactly around our necks, and clipped our wallet chains to our belts, which hung just beneath our asses. Obviously, keeping true to both the time period and the spirit of the experiment, we burnt a few herbal* tributes in offering to the PlayStation Gods so as to win their favour and blessings. Then… we were off to the skatepark! And, quite a few times, both the fridge and the place in my complex where you have to go meet delivery dudes…
So, how was it, already!?
From the moment the game launched with it’s original box-TV-shaped intro screen, set to RATM’s iconic Guerrilla Radio, we were totally sold! Everything looks, feels and sounds exactly like the originals… only not exactly like them, because it’s all in clear, crisp, HD, and – with the exception of the intro screen – in modern-day widescreen format. It’s weirdly trippy. Like someone did Lasik surgery on your hazy (and in our case, smoky*) memories.
Add in the fact that the original cast now looks their current age (which is think is a very cool touch), a whole roster of some the world’s best new skaters, and some obligatory current-gen online-play and customisation options, and it’s like living in a schism between two time-periods. It’s totally familiar, and yet everything is also brand new. A very cool balance, if you ask me.
Before and After
And the gameplay?
You know the old expression, “it’s like riding a bicycle”? The one that’s meant to mean you just get right back on and it’s like no time has passed at all? Well, riding a bicycle, if you’ve ever not ridden one for a long time, is actually a bit of a sh*t show. Sure, you can more or less ride the thing, but it’s a process; getting beyond being terrified you’re going to fall every second, and looking like a bell-end while things that used to come naturally suddenly feel life-threatening. I know because I once didn’t ride a bicycle for 20 years, then did again… As I mentioned, I’m getting old.
So yeah, this is just like riding a bicycle. Your muscle memory instinctively just knows to hold down X, release it to ollie, press Square and a direction to flip your board, ditto with Circle for big airs, and that you hold Triangle to grind something when you land on it. You know all about tapping a quick up-down to land in manual. You “know” all kinds of things… Only now, you’re crap at them! You will over and under-rotate. You will try squeeze in more tricks than you have time for. You’ll go way bigger than you expected. Or not nearly big enough… In short, you will bail. All. The Time.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. It’s cool that there’s a “relearning” curve, which forces you to go through the basics again, and gives you a massive sense of satisfaction as you start to stick your old lines and your timing comes back, one bail at a time (I literally started to feel guilty about what I was putting my favourite skater, Leticia Bufoni through; fatally smashing her into the ground from height, over and over). On the one hand, it would be cool to just be able to pick up the control and shred like it was 2002. But that would also wear off really quickly, and you probably wouldn’t bother getting immersed in progressing through the actual game, which is actually really rewarding if you do it old-school: one task at a time, with the timer on.
So, is it just a bit of novel nostalgia? Or is a new Golden Era of THPS dawning?
Honestly, the jury’s out for me. I might not be the best person to answer that, because I’m something of a lapsed gamer. My PS3 and PS4 have both been largely failed attempts to recapture my love for and dedication to gaming I had in the PS2 era and before. I like simple, low thought/high action, addictive, arcade-style games that you can play without your brain. My favourite game franchises are the same ones they’ve always been; Mortal Kombat, Fifa, Wipeout, Tony Hawk’s, etc. So, I’m pretty much exactly the nostalgia market, much as it sucks to say it out loud. While I’m thinking about it, could someone also remake the original Burnout games too? Thanks.
So, is the game both playable and relevant enough to appeal to a younger audience who only vaguely remember the first games, if at all? I can’t say. I guess time will tell. But the original gameplay still holds up for me. It doesn’t feel disappointingly primitive or basic, nor have they overcomplicated or changed it too much from the old feel you know and love. But, it looks great and it’s smoother than a baby snail’s bum, so it certainly doesn’t look like an old divorcee looking spare at a young-people jol. Personally, I hope the kids take to this again. Because it would be cool for them to get as much mindless, (extra points for blazed* af) fun out of this timeless classic as me and all my friends did, back in the day. The Youth, however, shall decide their own future. As they always must.
I mentioned the fine tightrope that THPS1+2 represents in terms of balancing wanting to stay true to the original look and feel, with current-gen graphics, performance and gameplay. So, as with any balancing act, you know for sure there will be people complaining that it’s “wrong”, in one direction or the other. The game is built on a new and entirely different physics engine than the originals, and it’s two Playstation generations later than the franchise’s heyday. So yeah, you can feel that it’s not exactly the same. But it’s also familiar enough that you’ll adapt to the slight changes quickly. Especially if you sessioned this hard back in the day. And, its improved sensitivity should ultimately make you better at imposing your precise will on the game after some proper practice.
For a new audience, it looks really good, the controls are subtle but intuitive, and it should have at least a few of everyone’s favourite current skaters in it. I’m hoping, though, that it will win new fans on the strength of the same merits as the original: it looks and plays brilliantly, it’s as addictive as porn-coated meth, skateboarding is still awesome in general, and it’s just really fun to play.
For those seeking a hit of nostalgia… Well, tie something around your bicep, ‘cos it’s time to shoot up! It’s as good a job of remaking something exactly as it was – but also entirely from the ground up – as anyone could have reasonably hoped for. In that regard, it’s a total home run.
Unless you already have something against the originals, it would be hard to find something to dislike about this game (er, games?) without having to try. That said, if you were hoping for something new and revolutionary in this new incarnation of the game, it would be hard to find that, too.
*allegedly. For the record, we are officially not, in any way, referring to cannabis.
Words by Gord Laws.