Monday, September 14, 2020

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PS4, XB1, PC) Review

Let's turn from four-wheeling race cars to another type of four-wheeler, the skateboard. It's the long awaited, much anticipated return of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater with a full fledged remake of the first two games in one tantalizing package. It's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, and here is SuperPhillip Central's review.

Trickin' out with Tony

Throughout the '00s, the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series saw release after release, busting trick after trick and simultaneously busting up to the top of the sales charts year after year. The series popularized the extreme sports genre of video game, but eventually it faded in both glory and popularity. The death knell was a one-two combo of a poorly made THPS 1 remake and a quick-and-dirty, phoned-in--and quite terrible--Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5, meant to squeeze some extra last money out of the franchise before the publisher, Activision, lost the rights to it.

It seemed like the Birdman's games would go the way of another bird, the dodo, but now Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is back with a fantastically done remake of the first two games in one cleverly made package. With Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series doesn't just return to gaming relevance--it returns to form.

What worried me and pretty much every other fan of the old Tony Hawk games was that THPS 1 + 2 would end up like the promising but overall poor remake of the first game. The skateboarding feel wouldn't be right, the controls and handling would be off, and so forth. Fortunately, I am happy to say that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 feels just like the Tony Hawk games most of us grew up on. This is to say everything feels right, and this isn't a shoddy effort in the slightest.

Right away, the look and feel of the classics is strong in THPS 1 + 2.
Skateboarding is terrific, offering a solid degree of control, and ease of pulling off simple tricks with a combination of the D-Pad / analog stick and face buttons. There are flip tricks and grab tricks to pull off depending on the button pressed and the direction on the D-Pad/analog stick held. That's just the basics, of course. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 throws in some moves pulled from later games in the series for use in both games' levels, including Pro Skater 2's manual, 3's revert, and even 4's wallride and wallplant. This offers the ability to chain together tricks much more easily than before in both games.

Getting through the daily grind...
It's simple enough to pull these tricks off by themselves, but learning how to link tricks together into one combo and actually succeeding in landing is where the challenge truly lies. It's a juggling act between tying together combinations of flip tricks, grab tricks, flatland/manual tricks, vert tricks, and grinds while simultaneously trying to land a killer combo. The more tricks you successfully pull off in a combo, the more you combo multiplier goes up, and upon successfully landing, the more points you earn. So, there's definitely a risk versus reward mechanic that comes in. Do you risk bailing by continuing a manual into your next trick, or do you end the combo there and get guaranteed points? By doing the former, you can either lose your combo and all those precious points altogether, but at the same time landing the combo successfully will result in more points than you'd otherwise receive.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater has always been a series about finding the best lines to earn the most points, and the career mode assists in doing this. What may seem like busywork in collecting S-K-A-T-E letters and bashing open boxes in the opening Warehouse level is actually supposed to teach you the levels better so you can learn and hopefully ultimately master insane skating lines in them. Career mode serves as not only a way to provide players with a series of objectives to clear in each level--such as earning set scores, performing certain tricks at specific gaps, collecting certain items, etc.--but also as a means to learn the levels themselves, so when you do hop online for some multiplayer, you aren't left totally in the dust.

Jump in and out of multiplayer as easily as you can pull off this gap.
(Which is to say, quite easily, as this gap isn't too terribly tough to nail.)
Before I do jump into multiplayer more, let's talk more about the career mode. It's taken directly from the classic-style THPS games of yore, giving you two minutes to complete different as many level goals as you can with each attempt. Thankfully, you need not to do all of the goals in one run, but I can attest THPS pros being able to do so for many of the early, and quite possibly, some of the later levels as well. As you complete various goals, you unlock new levels. THPS 1 and THPS 2's levels are split up between their own lists, and you can start with either game's first level and progress through them from there. Collectible stat points to beef up the stats of your currently controlled skater are sprinkled throughout levels, making for an easier time. These stat points work across both game's levels, so if you collect a stat point in a THPS 1 level, it works in THPS 2's levels as well. Really, there is no stringent separation of the two games in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 other than unlocking levels in order across each game.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 requires you to just clear level goals once as any skater instead of the headache that was playing through every level and completing every goal to fully complete the game like the classics had you do. This might turn off some players, as in the career mode, there's nothing else to regularly do in a level once you complete them other than scour them for each skater's stat points. This gets tedious quickly as entering and exiting levels takes a little while loading time-wise, and collecting stat points isn't exactly the most difficult thing to do in the game. You'll instead be switching between levels and suffering loading screen upon loading screen between your level selection.

What is rather difficult, however, in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a brand new addition to the series with this remake: challenges. There are over 700 total, ranging from easy and "not so tough" to "you'll want to break your controller over your knees as if it were your skateboard" hard. These come in various categories across skaters, levels, tricks, combos, modes, and more. Such examples include earning a medal in all skate competitions, performing 20,000 point combos with various trick specifications, and beating high scores in one combo. Each challenge completed earns you money and experience points. The former allows you to purchase in-game goods like apparel, boards, logos, etc. in the shop. The latter is more for achievement/trophy hunters, but your player level also gives you more items to buy in the shop as well.

This school may be out at the moment, but it's a perfect time for some skating to be in session.
Outside of the career mode, there's plenty more to shred through in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2. For instance, a free skate mode offers plenty of opportunities to practice or partake in gap-hunting. There is also a speed run mode where you do your best to complete all of a level's goals as fast as you possibly can. Finally, there's of course multiplayer, which comes in both local, comfy couch split-screen play and online multiplayer forms.

Online works rather well, offering lobbies that don't take much time at all to fill with players, and games start quite quickly and seamlessly. Modes alternate in and out between rounds, levels can also occasionally get switched between rounds as well. Rounds don't take too long to complete, so even if you're doing horribly, you won't have to suffer for long. Perhaps my only gripe with online multiplayer is that HORSE is one of the only modes unavailable. That's local split-screen only. Other modes, such as attempting to get the highest combo score in a set amount of time, or the ultra-fun Graffiti, where you try to "paint" as much of a level's geometry to control the most by the end of the time limit, are present and as fun as ever.

Whoever said "look before you leap" sure said a mouthful.
Aside from competing against yourself for best scores and competing against others in multiplayer, Create-A-Park is back in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, and mechanically it's better than ever before. While the tutorial is rather poor, practically pushing players into the deep end of the pool with no life preserver or water wings, there's a lot that you can do when creating a park. It becomes second nature and easy as the game snaps pieces together in a way that makes building the skate park of your dreams almost effortless. Furthermore, smart pieces--where you can tinker, pull, and stretch objects like vert ramps, rails, walls, and more--add even more creative possibilities to created parks. I just wish there was a way to implement your own gaps and goals like in past Tony Hawk games, but what's here is pleasant. Searching and finding created parks isn't, however, with level pictures that seldom load, making it a crap shoot on if the park you're about to enter is worth the hassle of the load times or not.

It wouldn't be worth talking about a remake without talking about how improved Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is compared to its originals. The game is on another level graphically, offering unprecedented detail in both characters and levels. The latter delivers astonishing new takes on classic parks, such as THPS 2's Hangar, which is essentially now a shrine for Neversoft, the developers of the classic Pro Skater games, and the THPS 1's Mall, which now heavy vegetation growing through its abandoned, dilapidated halls and passages. Not all of the levels, however, are great glam-ups, as THPS 2's Venice Beach with its especially bright and almost garish sunset makes it particularly difficult to see certain collectibles.

Venice Beach is one of my lesser loved levels in THPS 1 + 2 due to the lighting
(though this screenshot is on the shady side), but it's still an overall winner.
It especially wouldn't be worth talking about a Tony Hawk game without mentioning its soundtrack, and here, too, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 brings it with nearly all of the music from both THPS 1 and 2. This soundtrack will definitely trigger nostalgia for most players who have fond memories of skating and thrashing it up in 1999 and the early 2000s. There are also some new songs thrown into the mix, and they fit the style and tone of THPS wonderfully. Plus, if you dislike a particular song, you can skip it with a click of the right stick, or better yet, just remove it from track rotation entirely in the options.

Like Activision's past reworks like the Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a marvelous remake that, like Tony Hawk with his infamous 900, nails the landing. Unlike the Birdman himself, however, it's not a perfect landing, as lengthy load times between levels and some odd physics in relation to some level geometry can and do occasionally annoy. Nevertheless, if you want a game that retains the feel of the classic THPS games that you know and love, or you want to experience what the hubbub regarding the Pro Skater series is all about and don't know where to start, then Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is an outstanding remake and the game for you.

[SPC Says: A-]

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