Saturday, September 12, 2020

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PS4)

Following the disastrous release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 back in 2015, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series was officially over, as the contract between Tony Hawk and Activision had expired. Because of this, I was surprised (in a good way) at the announcement of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, which aimed to remaster Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 with some quality-of-life changes to bring the series into the modern era and introduce it to a new generation of players. This announcement led me to go back and replay the original games for comparison to the remaster, followed by what turned into a rather lengthy retrospective on the franchise as a whole. Since the remaster was handled by Vicarious Visions, the team behind Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, my hopes were high, and thankfully this remaster delivers on that and more.

The game presents Pro Skater 1 and Pro Skater 2 as two separate campaigns, though unlike may HD Collections you can easily transfer between them without having to exit the game first. Both games are somewhat reworked on a technical level for a more consistent experience, such as having to track down Stat Points as in Pro Skater 3. One related quality-of-life change I liked is that assigned Stat Points carry over between campaigns so that you don’t have to start over from scratch when changing between them, though you still have to start each campaign over again if you choose a different Skater.

The cash system from Pro Skater 2 makes a return for this collection, however it works much differently, being used to purchase cosmetics for your Profile as well as for Custom Skaters and the Create-A-Park feature. Though earn $5 every time you complete a two-minute run, the fastest way to earn cash is by completing Goals and fulfilling conditions for various in-game Challenges, such as purchasing specific items or landing particular tricks (ex. Tony Hawk’s signature The 900). Completing such tasks also grants you EXP to level up your Profile, though there isn’t really any advantage to this aside from earning a Trophy/Achievement.

Additionally, the game features an expanded moveset that combines moves from both games while adding new ones from later games up to Underground 1, minus the ability to get off your board. However, there is the option to play with only the moves from Pro Skater 1 or Pro Skater 2 if you wish. As for the default move list, the added tricks include, among others: Revert, Wallplant, Spine and Hip Transfers, Acid Drop, Flatland tricks during Manuals, Grind and Lip Trick alterations and Double Flip/Grab tricks. As for the Wallplant, I instinctively pressed the two buttons needed to pull it off in Underground 1, though I soon discovered it can also be pulled off with a single button press, similarly to the Sticker Slap in Underground 2, as presented in Project 8 and Proving Ground.

The layouts of each level are the same as in the original release, including the placement of the original Goals, except there is now a greatly increased level of detail to take advantage of modern systems. This increased detail breathes more life into each Park and gives them a bit more personality, with the Warehouse, Venice Beach and Downtown stages being standout examples of appearing more lived-in than PS1 hardware limitations would normally allow. Additionally, some smaller areas in some Parks are now more accessible, such as the Downtown level having a small movie theater façade and a half-open garage around a truck. Throughout both games, there are now hidden Vicarious Visons logos to collect; collecting all of these unlocks an in-game logo and skateboard deck.

With the remaster comes a complete visual overhaul.

Fitting in with the visual upgrade, the returning Pro Skaters from the first two games have also been appropriately aged up to reflect what they currently look like, at the time of the game’s release. I will note, however, that the game has some minor texture loading for a couple seconds whenever you load a Park or cosmetic. In addition to prominent skate brands, there are also noticeable ads for Beats, Monster Energy and Red Bull, the last one practically sponsoring the Marseille stage in
Pro Skater 2.

Among the quality-of-life changes made to both games, some additional alterations were made to
Pro Skater 1 to bring it more in line with Pro Skater 2. For instance, whereas the original release only had five Goals for each level, the remastered versions double that in order to match the amount of Goals in the sequel, usually adding in an extra collectible and some new score and location-specific trick challenges, with score-based Goals and Park unlock requirements adjusted to compensate. Among the smaller changes, many of the vehicular stage hazards in both games now drive more erratically while still following their original paths.

In addition to finally being able to view the entire Streets level without having to make educated guesses based on draw distance, the police chatter is now more audible and features some crass humor and base-level police stereotypes (such as the association with donuts). Some minor changes were made to the level designs as well, with some smaller areas in many levels now fully accessible. One bigger alteration that I appreciated, though, was fencing off one side of the dam area in Downhill Jam, as well as placing a new rail at the bottom of a billboard, making one of my least favorite levels in the game a bit more tolerable. I will also note that, thanks to the expanded trick list and in spite of the stinginess of the judges, I was finally able to place in the Roswell competition, something I was unable to do when I played through the original release.

While the presentation is still the same as in the original release, one of the more major changes made to
Pro Skater 2 is that you no longer need to collect cash in order to unlock the next Park, rather you simply have to complete a number of Goals as in Pro Skater 1. In addition to the aesthetic changes present across both games, another notable difference is the presentation of The Hangar, which has been redressed into a tribute to Neversoft, the original developer of the mainline Pro Skater games, complete with the company’s logo and promotional/box art from the games they developed placed around the area. In a nice touch, the collectible Pilot Wings have been redesigned to incorporate the Neversoft eye mascot and one of the hidden areas now includes a large graffiti mural bearing Neversoft’s name.

Whereas Spider-Man was a notable unlockable Skater in Pro Skater 2, he is absent in this release on account of licensing. As such, Spider-Man and Marvel Comics logos were removed from the Marseille competition, though there is now the aforementioned prominent Red Bull sponsorship, with a Red Bull-inspired design spread across the entirety of the bowl area. I will also mention that, like with Roswell in Pro Skater 1, I was finally able to place in the final competition, The Bullring, thanks to the expanded moveset.

One thing that was hyped prior to release was the soundtrack, which collectively features all but three songs from both original games, for a total of 23 tracks between them. To make up for not securing every track due to licensing issues, an additional 37 songs were licensed for the game, featuring a diverse range of rap and rock songs that fit in with the legacy music, bringing the tracklist to a total of 60 songs. One thing that I liked was carried over from the later Neversoft titles was the use of a continuously-running soundtrack from when you start up the game, allowing songs to play uninterrupted and for some to finally hear the full versions of those from the original releases outside of Free Skate. That said, much like in the original PS1 release of Pro Skater 1, this did not make me any more of a fan of “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” by Primus than I already wasn’t, and so it was the only track I personally opted to skip whenever it popped up.

As for the rest of the soundtrack, the new and old tracks put together are a bit hit-and-miss anyway, depending on the listener’s tastes. From this new combined setlist, the ones that stood out to me more included “Connect to Consume” by A. Swayze & the Ghosts, “Misery Guts” by Alex Lahey, "Let's Do It" by All Talk, “Life Support” by American Nightmare, “Bring the Noise” by Anthrax (ft. Public Enemy), “Step It Up” by Backchat, “You” by Bad Religion, “Afraid of Heights” by Billy Talent, “Heavy Metal Winner” by Consumed, “Cyclone” by Dub Pistols, “Superman” by Goldfinger, “Bloody Valentine” by Machine Gun Kelly, “No Cigar” by Millencolin, “Bass (ft. Tech N9ne & Hopspin)” by Merkules, “Let’s Ride” by MxPx, “Blood Brothers” by Papa Roach, “When Worlds Collide” by Powerman 5000, “Guerilla Radio” by Rage Against the Machine, “Cyco Vision” by Suicidal Tendencies, “New Girl” by The Suicide Machines, “Like This” by Super Best Frens Club, “Five Lessons Learnt” by Swingin’ Utters, “Lose Control” by Tyrone Briggs, “Euro-Barge” by Tha Vandals and “All My Friends Are Nobodies” by Zebrahead.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is easily the best entry in the Pro Skater series to come out in some time. The two remastered games are presented in a way that improves upon what worked about them while also remembering the series’ roots. Fans of the original games will definitely have a fun time with this remaster, as will newcomers who have never played any of the Pro Skater games. With this game seemingly indicating the official return of the Pro Skater series, it would be interesting to see where things go from here, with either further remasters or a brand-new game in the series. Either way, though, things are looking up if they maintain this level of quality.

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