My next skateboarding game needs to be a grind. After two Skate games, a long hiatus and a recent resurgence in the form of SkaterXL, my wants have swung from “make your own fun” to the structured Tony Hawk’s formula. Don’t get me wrong – analogue flicky, freeform skate sims have their place in my park. But I yearn for arcadey, two-minute runs of busywork.
Kickflips, kleptomania and combos. Thumb pain from way too much d-pad use.
Folks who pre-order the (second) series do-over that is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 will get a teaser demo later this week. I’ve been lucky enough to smash it out early and I’m here to give you some good news: this seems to be what Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD should have been. This might well be The Birdman’s phoenix moment. Or if you prefer Catholic mythology – a Christ Air rising again.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
In fact, the only disappointment to be had here is that there’s not enough of it. You’re basically given one of everything: a board, a lone skater (Tones himself), one play mode and a single level to make your skin deposits onto. Having been spoiled recently by the 5-6 hour Marvel’s Avengers pre-order beta, I have to say this is a pretty thin offering.
Worse, the original 1999 Warehouse level actually asked things of us fledgling Hawks. Find the 5 letters of SKATE. Smash over just as many boxes and find a not-so-hidden tape. Even better, you had score challenges of 5K and 15K to trick towards. With this, you should go in expecting none of that as you’re basically aimless.
Maybe you’ll want to post your best score of a two minute run on socials, maybe start a score war that way. Beware though, as there’s no telling what’s a legit result and what isn’t. In this modern gaming age of difficulty-thwarting accessibility, Activision has included options like ‘perfect balance’ and ‘no bails’.
Cheaters are going to flock to them.
All that being said, man does it feel good to be back. This new Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater ticks off the four things that matter most to fans – a buttery smooth frame-rate, a (mostly) OG soundtrack, reverts and manuals. It cannot be understated how much slicker everything feels at 60 fps. This is, after all, a game rooted in fluidity – sessions often become zen-like as you’re threading through a level, maintaining an insane line of 20+ tricks. 19 years hasn’t dulled the thrill of comboing on the razor’s edge of a schizophrenic balance meter.
In addition to the sheer teeth-gritting of grinding, we have manuals and reverts (the latter being introduced in the 3rd game). In theory, they’re both flatland combo-chainers that allow you to very precariously link distant trick lines together. In practice they’re just more rope to hang yourself with – combo greed is the number one breaker of limbs in this game.
Speaking of which, the 1999 original used to have Tony cough out a few pixels of blood after pashing some concrete. That lovely bit of violence has been axed, sadly, though I do quite like the replacement (think: a weird little reality-bending effect teleports your arse back under your tit). You still get the combo-breaking slap on the wrist but now you’ll reset with way more forward momentum than we got in the old days.
Some other little things that I appreciated pop up in the soundscape as well. IRL skaters will dig the rich new symphony of varied wheel squeaks and different surface clacks. Skaters are quite a bit more boisterous as well – Tony has a range of whoops and hollers when he’s shredding. Eating crap comes with a few choice words with himself too. Think of it as extra ear candy heaped onto the sweet nostalgic strains of RATM, Goldfinger, Dead Kennedys, Primus and more.
Poking around a seriously greyed out set of options hints at what’s coming down the half-pipeline. The main menu has a HUB that holds the Sessions Mode (2-minute runs), Skate Tours, Multiplayer and a Create-a-park option for all of your phallic object clustering needs.
It’s also business as usual for Skater stats as everybody is still graded in terms of Air, Hangtime, Ollie, Speed, Spin, Switch, Flip Speed, Rail Balance, Lip Balance and Manual Balance. I think there’s an argument to be made for the addition of an Arthritis level stat, but clearly somebody shot the idea down. The most interesting thing to note in this section is that Tony has his own set of unique Challenges to complete (which open up costumes and boards), an additional 5 Trick Slots to earn (more on this in a sec), 9 Exclusive Boards to unlock and 2 bits of Exclusive Gear too.
Trick-wise, there have been some alterations to the Special Moves that make this game less-than-true to the original(s). First off, Tony’s much beloved ‘Sack Tap’ has been nixed, possibly by some suit with no sense of humour. There’ll be no board molesting here today, folks. Looking beyond that, The 900 returns to break your ankles, plus there’s a healthy list of 20 or so grinds/manuals/grabs/kick tricks to map to simple button strings.
Last but not least, we have an XP levelling and ‘cash’ system that consistently seems to reward you for simply playing the game. I’m assuming that will tie into the mysterious Skate Shop section. Failing that, we’ll be once again asked to spend Real Dollars on Digital Things in yet another microtransaction trap. The current, somewhat open-ended messaging from Activision is that there’ll be none of those shenanigans “at launch”.
What really matters in the here and now is this: I rolled into Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 sceptical and it still managed to impress me. Obviously this looks leagues better than the original and it also makes 2012’s HD version look like a rookie spit-shine. More importantly, this latest attempt feels the goods. It’s like stepping back onto that lovely, familiar starter board you first learned to shred on. Only this time somebody has greased those wheels up to buggery and you’re clacking along at a 60 fps allegro.
There’s still plenty of road from now until September 4 and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is by no means bail proof. All that being said, it looks to be push-kicking along with serene confidence at this point. In my mind, the last great hurdle that needs to be ollied is multiplayer. Providing it delivers solid netcode and some sweet, sweet split-screen, 1 + 2 will become a no-brainer addition for any serious gamer’s collection.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 was previewed on PS4 using digital code provided by Activision.