During the 5th generation of consoles, we had some very important titles that defined or redefined genres. But if I had to name one title that created a whole new genre of games, this title would certainly be Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (THPS for short). First developed by Neversoft and published by Activision for the Playstation and Nintendo 64 in the now so distant 1999, THPS was the first step of this 21yo franchise that covers more than 15 titles in 4 generations of consoles. And after its not-so-well received last entry in 2015 (THPS5), the series goes back to its roots. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to (re)introduce you to Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2!
Every new version of THPS generated huge expectations from players all around the world. But after reaching the stars with THPS2 and 3, the series has only gone, pardon the expression, downhill! To the point where players stopped looking forward to the next installment of the series – especially after THPS5, the worst title of the series according do Metacritic. I was really surprised to see that, five years after and by the hands of the NY studio Vicarious Visions, the series went for a (literally) return to origins. Select your favorite skater, prepare your equipment and let’s see together if this is the skate game we’ve all been waiting for!
What we liked!
- Gameplay: If you are new to the THPS series, what better way to introduce you to its world than talking about its gameplay? The first titles of the series (and this remake) are all about skating in closed arenas like hangars, malls and parks while doing quests and trying to beat the high score in a limited time. By completing quests, you unlock new stages and special competitions where you will face other pro skaters for the higher score. If you manage to win those competitions, you’ll be awarded some shiny medals to your collection (that are used to unlock even more stages). Every skater has a given set of tricks (we will talk more about it later) and skills (like speed, jump and balance) that you can customize and upgrade to help you in these missions.
- Visuals: If you’ve played the original titles (THPS 1 and THPS 2), you will feel at home. Feel at home and be able to see how amazing the world of THPS 1+2 is: colorful, incredibly animated and astonishingly alive! There is so much detail in every corner that sometimes I found myself just skating around to admire the stages. Take the mall level for instance: the living and colorful shopping from the first game is now closed and abandoned, full of fences and graffitis. Terrific! The character models don’t get too far behind: your favorite pro skaters are more detailed than ever – I dare to say they even look older, like their counterparts in real life.
- Old school meets new school: Old favorites pro skaters like Tony Hawk (really?), Geoff Rowley, Kareem Campbell and Bob Burnquist all make their return along with new and younger faces (who have already appeared in previous titles) like Lizzie Armanto, Riley Hawk (Tony’s son) and the all-new Tyshawn Jones. It’s nice to see this encounter of the old and new school in this title! Oh, and there are still some secret skaters for you to unlock (but unfortunately – and comprehensively – not Spiderman, Darth Maul or Wolverine, like in the first titles of the series). Maybe there’re some surprises in this rooster waiting for you.
- Customizing your rider: THPS 1+2 offers an impressive customization system where you can create your own skater not only by selecting his physical appearance (what is expected from any ‘create your own character’ tool) but with great emphasis on his clothes and equipment. There’s an in-game reward system fully focused on buying and unlocking new equipment to customize your skaters, from shirts and pants to the shape and trunk of your skateboards. And the level of detail in each piece of equipment is impressive! You can also fully customize his tricks and maneuvers, making those hard to connect tricks more accessible (and allowing you to reach those impossible scores).
- Soundtrack: Truth be said: I love some ska and punk rock, the soundtrack of the skate world! And back in the day – before the internet was a thing here in Brazil – the best way to know new bands was to watch MTV or playing videogames! And I can’t even remember how many awesome bands I’ve discovered playing games like FIFA, Burnout and especially THPS. To my surprise (and joy!), the majority of the original soundtrack of both games is here! Bands like Dead Kennedys, Goldfinger, Suicidal Tendencies, Lagwagon, Millencolin, Rage Against the Machine and Papa Roach are back and now share the stage with songs from other great bands (at least, great in the skate world) like MxPx, Reel Big Fish and Zebrahead. I clearly gave focus to the rock bands here but there are some great hip-hop songs (both already present in the original titles and whole new) from bands like Primus, Naughty by Nature and Backchat. For the Brazilian fans, there’s even a song from one of our best rock bands ever: Charlie Brown Jr (whose lead singer, Chorão, has passed away in 2013). An important aspect of the experience in THPS has always been the soundtrack and I’m glad to see Vicarious Visions not only respected that legacy but went beyond adding some other great songs to the list.
- More about the sound: No, I didn’t forget about the other sound aspects of the game. I just wanted to emphasize the soundtrack of the game, which plays a huge role in its experience (as mentioned above). But have no fear: the sound effects and voicework are also impeccable! I find it amazing how you can perceive the difference between different kinds of floors as you skate on them. Sirens, glass shattering, walls collapsing and all the other sounds you remember (or imagine, if you’re experiencing them for the first time) are better than ever!
- Game modes: Besides playing in the career mode, you can venture into local or online multiplayer, competing against other players for the higher score. You can also take your time from the board and create your skateparks (with dozen of elements) and share them online or even try the creations of other players. There are some sick levels you need to see for yourself!
It can become a little repetitive: Playing and reviewing THPS 1+2 has been an amazing experience, be it for the nostalgia feeling or the outstanding quality of the game. Probably for both. The great variety of stages, introducing new elements and challenges level after level, is what keeps this experience so fresh. It ignites that flame inside of your chest that says ‘ok, just one more ride’. It keeps pushing you back to find all secrets in all stages. But even though being is so incredible, sooner or later the repetitive nature of the game will become noticeable. After all, the gameplay of jumping gaps, performing tricks, grinds, lips an all other maneuvers will always be the same.
What we disliked
Nothing; Not today, I’m sorry.
It’s great to see Tony Hawk back to its origins and even better to see how much it’s still in shape! Even though it has already been done before in THPS HD by Robomodo (which failed to impress the public and media, unfortunately), Vicarious Visions did the right thing in recreating two of the best titles from the series. I’m truly impressed by how they managed to rebuild this beloved series while preserving the exact same experience that made so many fans years ago. And once again proving that we don’t need new devices or open worlds for a game to be good: we just need what we love about it to be there and to be well delivered.
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.