Courtesy of Activision

My love for the Tony Hawk games is fairly well known. Part of it is the nostalgia for the series, I’ll admit it, but I’ve also argued in the past that they hold up better than most other games from that era. The lack of any iteration on the formula was eventually what killed the skating game genre, but it also turned out to be what preserved it. I’ve replayed Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 and Pro Skater 4 a few times each this year, and they both remain a ton of fun, even after the better part of two decades. This is largely because there has been no improvements on the genre in the intervening years, so it isn’t hard to pick them back up. So, for the remaster of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, all that Vicarious Visions really had to do was give the games a face lift, and then let the praise and good reviews flood in. While that is essentially what they did, there is a lot to appreciate in the remasters that weren’t present in the originals.

“There is a lot to appreciate in the remasters that weren’t present in the original”

Let’s get the surface level stuff out of the way; Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 are both very well done remasters that manage to capture the magic of the originals for an aging audience, while remaining appealing and accessible to new players. The core gameplay is mostly the same as it’s always been (although a few moves from later entries in the series, like manuals and reverts,  were added to make the gameplay flow a little better), and it’s been a blast to jump back into the arcade skating fun that the series has always provided. 

All the classic levels return and are largely unchanged in a practical sense, but have been given some aesthetic over hauls so that they look less dated. Everyone is talking about the redesign for the Mall level to make it look more dilapidated and abandoned, giving it more character, but the more impressive one to me was for Venice Beach. The lighting looks better than ever (as is often the case with remasters, the lighting effects make up a lot of the graphical improvements), the graffiti on the walls and ramps adds a ton of character, and the setting sun over the beach as a background to the stage gives it a much more charming feel than it had in the originals. However, these  changes do nothing to change the layout of the level, so fans of the originals will still be able to guide themselves around based on muscle memory. 

Courtesy of Activision

Another thing that Vicarious Visions has taken great pains to preserve is the soundtrack, which features nearly all the classic tracks from the old games. There are a few songs on the playlist that don’t return, but they’ve been replaced with new ones that manage to fit the tone of the games well (unlike that awful dubstep in the abysmal Pro Skater 5).

“Everything that made the games great 20 years ago is still very much intact”

So, for fans of the originals who are looking for a faithful remake of their beloved games, the THPS 1+2 Remaster won’t disappoint. Everything that made the games great 20 years ago is still very much intact, and for a lot of people, that would have been enough. However, while there is nothing revolutionary in these releases, there is more to experience here than there was in the originals. As a matter of fact, there is a a deceptively large amount of content in these games.

While neither game features a story mode, both have around 10 levels each, all of which are packed to the breaking point with things to do. The main “campaign” mode has the player running through each map in two minute increments, completing as many goals as possible within the time frame. After a level has been unlocked, you can do time challenges, speed runs, free skates, score challenges, secret hunting, go searching for all the hidden “gaps” in each level, and so much more. Even a classic level like the Warehouse, a fairly small area, had me skating around it for hours, trying to beat my scores and place in the top one thousand on the global leader boards. After around 35 hours of playtime, none of the levels have started feeling boring yet, and that’s more important than the breadth of empty content that other games feature. 

Courtesy of Activision

There is also an exceptionally well implemented multiplayer mode, which drops you in levels with 7 other players and gives you a variety of objectives to compete for. Some have you simply trying to get the highest score or combo in a 2 minute time frame, while others have you doing tricks off of as many objects as you can to claim them as your own. The drop in is quick and mostly seamless, and the short matches give them that addictive “one more round” quality that suits games like this so well. 

Outside of the core skating gameplay, there are the create-a-skater and create-a-park modes that are staples of the series. Neither is particularly complex, but they add some nice depth to the game. These modes are complemented by a large list of challenges, which can reward the player with cash to spend on cosmetics, profile experience, and unique board graphics and clothing items. There are a huge amount of challenges for every skater in the game (including your own player created ones), every level, and every mode. While the leveling system is incredibly arbitrary, and a transparent way of trying to force player investment, I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. I spent a lot of time in the game trying to complete challenges, just to watch the progress bar slowly fill, to unlock outfits that I knew full well I would never use. As one final gripe, the create-a-park mode is not very well optimized for controllers, which is odd given that the skating itself seems to be made specifically for controllers. As I mentioned before, there isn’t a lot of depth to it either, but I’d be a lot more upset about it if the rest of the game wasn’t bursting at the seems with fun content. 

At the end of the day, there isn’t a lot to be said about THPS 1+2 Remastered that you couldn’t already assume based off of the name alone. They are the definitive way to play the games, and for my money, they are the best skating games you can get on current gen consoles. If this is a genre, or series, that you’ve ever had any interest in, these will be a must buy for you. 

As a final note, they have split screen too. That alone is enough for the recommendation.

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I’m late to the whole console gaming thing … I know.  I’ve always been a PC Gamer and very much dismissed the console especially in its earlier incarnations and with the games that they had then.  I’d always been more of a strategy gamer with titles like Civilization, Master of Orion etc… and actually wasn’t into the first person shooter style of gameplay at all.  I never really enjoyed it – especially the player vs. player – as it seemed mindless, boring and silly.

However I have had to change my mind and while I still believe that Civilization is one of the best games ever produced, over Christmas we bought a new Xbox One for my son (well he plays also!) and while there are a bunch of games on there one that I got for myself is Destiny.  After doing quite a bit of research and reading up on different games for the console one of the things that jumped out for me about this game is not the graphics (which are really, really good), or the story (which is OK, somewhat engaging, but not really a key differentiation) but rather the community that play the game.

Being a PC Gamer I’m used to playing games by myself.  Sitting and staring at a computer screen plotting out my next move or sequence of moves works for the loner.  First person shooters however are infinitely different and while you absolutely need to react faster than you do in strategy games, the distinction here is that in some missions you simply cannot do it all by yourself.  There are simply too many different enemies attacking in succeeding waves that regardless of how good you are, unless you want to spend day after day grinding through the same mission until you’re at a high enough level to survive, help is almost essential.  That’s where co-op play comes into … “play” … and unless you have tons of friends with the same game and more importantly the same schedule you’re stuck with the luck of the draw when the server assigns you to different groups in missions.  Perhaps a bit of a non-sequitur but even Kirito (from Sword Art Online) eventually realized that he needed to join a guild!

One of the best things that I’ve found in Destiny though is a group that matches MY requirements.  Namely the Dads of Destiny.  Perhaps a bit of a corny name it is – at least in my case – 100% accurate.  The sad fact is that when you’re participating in a raid or a strike (the names given to the more advanced missions within Destiny) you are committing yourself to at least one hour of uninterrupted gaming time.  Quite often with 20 year old kids with little to no responsibility and the reflexes of an Olympic level shooter!  While there is enjoyment it is somewhat muted knowing that you’re being outshot consistently and also that if your wife calls, or the kids need your help you have to go.  Your concentration – unless quite late at night – is never 100% and even then you have to get up for work the next morning so you can’t spend too much time blowing up monsters!

With the DoD’s though it feels different.  While I’ve only joined in a couple of missions so far they are more than anything else … helpful.  They want to help you get your character to that next level and they’re not there to compete, but rather to assist.  I know my experience might be limited to the few members that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and playing with, the impression I get is that they are all in this for the group and not just themselves. It’s actually quite humbling to be honest (see the video tribute posted below to get an idea of what I mean) and I hope to be able to return the favor in the future myself as I get my character (come find me if you’re a player – I’m “glassishalf”) to the next level and help other new members grow their own.