Pretending I’m a Superman
Once upon a time, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series was on top of the gaming world. When it stormed onto the scene with it’s 1998 PlayStation 1 debut, it brought in a certain attitude to compliment the tight controls that developer Neversoft came to be known for. It successfully captured the skater scene in all it’s glory and distilled it down to a game that was incredibly fun and addicting. After over a decade of middling to bad attempts, publisher Activision has enlisted Vicarious Visions to develop the best entry the series has seen since it’s glory days.
While no real “story” is found here, fans of the series will feel right at home. Players simply choose a skater from a list of classic and new school greats such as Rodney Mullen, Tyshawn Jones, or Tony himself. Once a character is selected, you’ll dive into insane levels which still hold the same goals as you remember from back in the day. Vicarious Visions also toss in a nice create-a-skater feature which, when created, carry his or her own unique challenges the player can unlock. Both online and asymmetric leaderboard style modes pad out the original 2 game’s offerings. The total package gives players plenty to dig their teeth into and at only $40, the price is right.
As alluded to above, the Tony Hawk series has had it’s struggles over recent years and no game has since been able to capture what made those original games great. Thankfully, Vicarious Visions has masterfully rebuilt every facet of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 and it feels like the best entry since the Tony Hawk’s Underground days. It feels so true to the originals, in fact, that my muscle memory kicked in (I had to use the D-pad) and it just felt wrong to play any other way. Pulling off grabs, grinds and nailing the perfect combo is just as rewarding as before. Nostalgia is present and accounted for since all of the main game’s goals are true to the source material, but there are also tons of new challenges for each and every skater. These challenges pepper the game and truly make up the meat of what you’ll be doing. Completing challenges unlocks new apparel, boards, trucks, wheels and so on.
The aforementioned online modes are a lot of fun and really help round out the package. Players can hop in a lobby and compete with others to see who can get the best combo, or see how many ramps and rails you can “tag” with graffiti. Toss in the leaderboard style modes and local split screen options and you’ll find yourself with quite a lot to do. I’ve got an outstanding number of challenges still to finish after putting in some 25-30 hours into the game.
Activision has done a fantastic job recently in bringing it’s old franchises to life for a new audience and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 continues that trend. The visual upgrades, while nothing mind blowing, are significant and welcome. Every level had a familiar yet new flavor to them. Certain lighting and particle effects especially stood out as I kickflipped my way through the levels. Old school fans will also feel right at home with the games soundtrack, which made it’s way over from the original games almost entirely. Punk, ska, and hip-hop is the name of the game here with tracks from Lagwagon, MxPx and, of course, Goldfinger. The soundtrack perfectly compliments the entire vibe which is the bedrock for the Tony Hawk series.
After several missteps, Activision has finally realized that sticking with what got you here is perhaps the best route. A reinvigoration of the Tony Hawk franchise was needed, and Vicarious Visions wonderfully delivers on that. The game is not only welcoming to new players but also scratches the itch for old school fans of the series. Tony and the other skaters control as good as ever and it’s all driven home with the right vibe and that killer soundtrack. Whether purchasing now or waiting for a sale, you’ll find one of the best Tony Hawk games in over a decade.
Note for Parents
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is rated “T” for lyrics. Given the nature of the genres of music which comprise the soundtrack, it should come as little surprise that many songs are inappropriate for minors. There are references to drugs/alcohol as well as lyrics which wouldn’t be out of place in a PG-13 movie. However, I did notice that all “F” and “S” words were censored from the songs. All music/songs can be turned off in the options menu and, even better, individual songs can be cycled on/off. Additionally there are 2 provocative art pieces during loading screens which display women’s cleavage.