It is time for a serious Gaming Nexus confession: I never played the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater. I also never played Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. My time with the original PlayStation was extensive, and the river of games I played ran deep and wide. But somehow I managed to sleep on this series until one day in the early 2000s when I picked up a used copy of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 on PS3 for five bucks at a local burrito shop (yes, the burrito shop had a used game area, RIP Talitas).
Flailing around and bailing over and over again on the first level, I was immediately intrigued and hooked. Why was this game so damn hard? How could anyone possibly pull off some of these ludicrous challenges? Why were those letters just floating in the sky, and how could anyone feasibly get up there to get them? Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 was one of the rare times in my life where I actually exercised some patience with a game, settling in to master some tricks and get good.
I ended up living pretty exclusively in Tony Hawk land for about a month. After I beat every challenge in Tony Hawk 3 (I would have gotten a platinum on that bad boy, if such things existed), I made another trip back to the burrito shop for Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 on GameCube. Adjusting to the different controller and the new flow of the game was a bit of a hassle, but before long I settled in and beat every challenge in that game too. Then I just stopped.
I never picked up another Tony Hawk game. I had vague intentions of trying out American Wasteland, and I watched in dismay as my oldest son wasted his Christmas wishes one year by asking for Tony Hawk Ride, the gaming abortion that came with a non-functional plastic skateboard peripheral. But I never went back. I figured that no games released would ever top the glories that I experienced with Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 + 4, and I felt no need to sully those memories with some substandard nonsense.
So here I am, nearly 20 years later. From my perspective, Activision just dropped the world's best sequel from the sky right into my lap. To me, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 is my long awaited follow up to Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 + 4. And what a glorious follow up it is.
Some of my happiest gaming memories are of sitting for hours playing Tony Hawk, trying the same two-minute level over and over again, attempting to get a “Sick” score. This new version of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 replicates that experience, and I’ve lost just enough of my skills to need to work for my high scores again. It can't be overstated how addictive this game loop is. I've gone hours on end, with no idea how much time has gone by. I've stayed up nights, well after my wife and kids have gone to sleep, only to wake everybody up with my shouts of triumph when I finally pull of a combo I've been trying to master. This game is a thumb blister-inducing blast.
For the uninitiated, Tony Hawk games typically consist of about 10 levels. Levels tend to be sprawling areas, with tons of ramps, rails, pools to skate on, and lots of secrets to discover. Players run through the level with two minutes on the clock, attempting to complete as many of the level’s goals as they can. If you run out of time, you simply start again. Goals can be anything from hitting a given score, to finding hidden objects, to performing specific tricks on specific obstacles. Goals range from very simple to viciously difficult. Get ready to hit that restart button a lot, but also prepare for moments of absolute triumph when you pull off that magical run you’ve been attempting for hours on end.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 is an enormous game, and not just because the geniuses at Vicarious Visions took two sizable games and spliced them together. Simply doing that and giving the game a facelift would have been more than enough to ensure success. But Vicarious and Activision went much further than that, adding a ton of structure and goodies to the experience.
Yes, if you want to, you can simply play through shiny new versions Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 in order and be done. But you would be missing out on some of the very clever design choices that have been added in. For starters, any skill points your skater picks up in either game carry over to the other. This centralized progression allows players to dip back and forth between the two games, building their skater up further than was previously possible before facing the game’s late challenges. This lends a cohesiveness to the entire experience, making it feel more like one game than like two separate titles that have been welded together.
Every original concept in the game has been expanded and modernized in a way that displays taste, care, and fidelity to the spirit of the original titles. New skaters have been added to the roster, and original skaters have been aged to appear the way they would now. New songs by current artists have been added to the amazing soundtrack, and they fit in exactly the way they should in the rotation, sounding like they had always been there. Online leaderboards have been instituted for Free Skate modes, allowing players to not only chase their own high scores, but the world’s.
Moves that were introduced later in the series have been added in, allowing the muscle memory of fans like me that only played the subsequent games to still be viable. An entirely new system—challenges—has been added in, to give players of all skill levels something to strive for beyond each level’s goals. The depth of new additions makes the game feel fresh and modern—everything from current clothing options in the in-game store to advertisements on billboards for Beats by Dre.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is the insanely tight gameplay that the series is known for. Tony Hawk games (the good ones, at least) are some of the most precise, reactive games in history. You press a button, and your character moves exactly as intended. The game shows you everything you need to know to succeed in its tutorial, but the only way to truly succeed is to learn how to use the tools in your kit together. That takes practice. If you’ve never played a Tony Hawk game before, get ready for one of the most rewarding learning curves you’ve ever experienced.
Out of curiosity, I threw Tony Hawk 4 in the old GameCube and was surprised at how easily the moves I’ve relearned in this new game translate over to the older one. These games feel the same, and that’s a huge testament to the quality of work that Vicarious Visions put in for this remake. Yes, the visuals are modern, and some of the references have been updated, but Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 feels like an O.G. Tony Hawk game. It turns out that you can go home again.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Howdy. My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids. During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories. I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 to my headset collection. I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.
My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then. I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep. Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, PS5, PS4, PSVR, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan. While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.
When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host Spielberg Chronologically, where we review every Spielberg film in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.
Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here.View Profile