It's hard to believe we've reached this point. It's been well over a decade since Tony Hawk fans were last treated to a standout title in the long-running series, and even a past attempt at remastering the original two games didn't come close to hitting the mark back in 2012 with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD. But this time, developer Vicarious Visions hasn't bailed in its attempt to return this franchise to its former glory, delivering not only the best Tony Hawk game in many years, but one that also offers tons of potential for the future.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 serves as a remake/remaster of the original two games in the series, both of which landed on the original PlayStation back in 1999 and 2000. If you're not familiar with how those games worked, here's the idea - you compete in timed two-minute runs in order to achieve high scores and complete objectives around each course, and doing so unlocks more areas for you to visit. It's a simple concept for anyone to grasp, and despite the series eventually doing away with timers, the old format still feels fresh in 2020.
The bread and butter of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater has always been its unique brand of accessible, easy to learn yet hard to master gameplay, and that's where this remake excels. From the moment you first drop into the iconic Warehouse from the original game, everything just feels right. Unlike past attempts at replicating that classic Tony Hawk feel, there are no wonky physics, awkward mechanics or ragdoll bails - Vicarious Visions has done an incredible job at making everything feel authentic and just as you remember it.
That's not to say there aren't some changes. The biggest of these is the addition of extra tricks from later entries in the series, and this means you can pull off combo-enhancing moves such as reverts and spine transfers, increasing the potential for some seriously high scores. These can be turned off if you like, but they ultimately freshen up the first two games' control schemes, and never feel out of place despite not being originally designed for those classic titles.
The career mode (or Skate Tours, as it's known) is where you'll spend much of your initial time, completing goals to unlock new stages. And those stages look fantastic. They range from basic, small warehouses to extravagant city settings and giant outdoor parks, and while some are more enjoyable than others, they've each received vast visual improvements that really bring out their best qualities. The more elaborate the level, the better it shines, and we can't help but fantasise about how incredible some of the more ambitious stage designs from later in the series would also look in this format.
Progressing through the two games remains as fun as ever, and Vicarious Visions has even added more goals to complete per-level, so there's always plenty to work towards. We do have a relatively major gripe, though - you can't go back and replay the core career experience when you're done. There are other ways to replay all of these goals (such as a dedicated speedrun mode where the timer counts up rather than down), but it seems a bizarre oversight that you can't at least reset your career progress to complete the main mode again with other skaters.
After you've finished the career, there's a good selection of additional activities on offer. You can simply jump into free skate or a single two-minute session along with the aforementioned speedrun mode, and there's also both local and multiplayer support featuring a variety of classic game types. The online functionality isn't overly exhaustive - only casual or ranked playlists are available for now, with private multiplayer on the way later this year - but it works just fine, although we noticed that local multiplayer suffers quite a frame rate drop on the original Xbox One.
And then there's the return of Create-A-Park, which adds far more replayability than it ever used to due to its online sharing features. You can download other players' parks to try for yourself or create your very own and share it with the world, and the process of building those parks is intuitive, offering plenty of scope for creativity. The new Smart Pieces in particular are really cool, allowing you to manually bend and twist certain items to your specifications, such as ramps and rails.
The other way in which Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 provides replayability is in its challenges feature, which tasks you with completing certain goals in order to level up and gain new trick slots, earn cash for the cosmetics store and acquire exclusive items for each skater (including your custom character, which you can build from a limited selection of body appearance options). There are well over 700 challenges, so you're not going to be finished with them any time soon, and each individual skater has specific objectives which provides good reason to go back and play with all of them.
We'd be doing the game a huge disservice if we didn't mention its nostalgia-laden soundtrack as well. It includes nearly all the classics from the original two games (Goldfinger, Rage Against The Machine, Dead Kennedys, etc), as well as a new selection of very appropriate tunes, and it's the perfect backdrop to cruising around the likes of The Warehouse, School and Downhill Jam like it's 1999 all over again. It must have been costly for Activision to get all these artists back on board, but it was absolutely worth every penny.
The greatest compliment we can give to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is that it's a very faithful remake of the original two classics. And for the first time in a long time, the franchise feels fresh again. The game does a great job at recapturing the magic of Pro Skater's early days while also modernising them for the current generation (despite a couple of wobbles), and now we can't wait to see where Activision takes the series next. Welcome back, Tony!