STAFF REVIEW of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 - Xbox Series X|S (Xbox Series X)

Monday, April 5, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 - Xbox Series X|S Box art Even if you weren’t a fan back at its initial release, you probably at least heard of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series. While there were skateboard games before it, this was the series that really highlighted the sport and did skateboarding games justice. The first two games were masterpieces in their own rights and I can’t even begin to count the hours I spent on my original Playstation playing the Tony Hawk games over the years. When you think of the series, you most likely think of the opening Warehouse level, that iconic Superman song by Goldfinger and of course trying to pull of insane trick combinations that were absolutely not possible in real life; and that’s what made the series so great.

The two best games in the series, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2, were remade and released for Xbox One last Summer just a few short months before the new console launches, and while they did work on Series X, there were no real developer made improvements, until now. Activision has now released Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 for Xbox Series X|S adding better textures, framerates, reflections, shadows, audio and more, for a price.

Now, if you’ve not played the original release on Xbox One and want to pick it up now for you Xbox One X or S, no big deal, get the Cross-Gen Deluxe bundle and you’re good to go. Where things get trick is if you already previously bought the game on Xbox One, or worse, bought a physical copy. The quick and dirty explanation is that if you bought a digital copy for Xbox One, you can upgrade to the Series X version for $10. If you are a fan of physical media and bought it on disc at a store, or wanted the awesome Collector Edition with an authentic Tony Hawk deck, well, you’re not going to be happy knowing you’re expected to pay full price again for the Xbox Series X|S version with no upgrade path to take.

While I’m not a fan of the forced rebuy for people that bought the disc version originally on Xbox One, leaving them without any other option, I do have to say that the improvements made from Xbox One to Series X is quite substantial. Full disclosure; we were provided a physical copy of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 at its initial Xbox One launch and another digital one for this Series X|S version. Also, the bulk of this Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 (X|S) review will have content from my original review that pertains to the base game as that aspect is virtually unchanged.

So let’s quickly go over what’s new in the Series X|S version that Activision is trying to say is worth the upgrade price. The first two major features are going to be the native 4K support, but I really enjoyed the Fidelity vs Performance options that you’re given. Fidelity Mode lets you play in 4K60fps which is great, but Performance is a real treat for those that have a 120hz capable TV’s, as this mode plays in 1080p but 120fps. Say what you want about the real world differences between 60 and 120fps, but man, landing those grinds and combo-ing tricks in buttery smooth 120fps feels simply amazing, like a completely different game. Everything simply feels much more fluid and natural now going from trick to trick, rail to rail.

Textures appear to be sharper, shadows and reflections are definitely improved and even lighting seems to be enhanced, though maybe because I played the last version on my older TV compared to my newest I notice such a major difference. There is some extra content you get with the bundle, but what surprised me was that all of my save data carried over as if nothing changed, so thankfully I didn’t have to start my skate career all over again.

Nostalgia is a funny thing, as it can sometimes make you remember things far better than they actually were. With a slew of remake and remastered games coming in recent years, it’s easy to get swept up in nostalgia. Sometimes playing an older game you loved when you’re much older can bring disappointment, as you realize it really wasn’t as great as you remember. Thankfully this isn’t the case with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, as much care went into recreating these two classic games, arguably the best in the series, and is now the defining experience for skateboarding games. Both games were popular back then, and if my friends list is any indication, then it seems many have been clamoring for the return of a great Tony Hawk game.

Rebuilt from the ground up, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 brings its classic gameplay into the modern age with a boost of graphics, updated mechanics and of course, online gameplay for you and all your friends to enjoy skating together. It wasn’t clear what the future of the franchise was going to be after the abysmal Pro Skater 5 back in 2015, as it seemed to have lost that magic touch of what made the series so great, so it’s great to see classic Tony Hawk gameplay make a return, even if it’s the original two games remade.

You begin your skate career by either choosing your skater or creating your own. The options for creating are fairly decent, allowing you to create your male or female skater, but many of the options are bland or limited for the most part. While much of the clothing and gear will be locked until you reach a certain level or have enough in-game cash to purchase them. If you choose to create your own skater you’ll have low stats and will need to collect the stat point icons across the stages if you want to improve your skater.

You can also choose to skate as the iconic and legendary Tony Hawk of course, but there’s a slew of returning pro skaters, as well as some new ones for this release. Some of the notable returning pros are Chad Muska, Eric Koston, Bob Burnquist, Elissa Steamer, Bucky Lasek and more. It’s been many years since these two games originally released though, and many new and upcoming skaters have been making headlines and are now included in the game as well. Skaters Nyjah Huston, Leo Baker, Leticia Bufoni, Aori Nishimura, Lizzie Armento, Shane O’Neill, Riley Hawk and Tyshawn Jones round out the new class of skaters and is a welcome addition to the series.

Across both games, you have a persistent skater level that ranks up as you complete more challenges, regardless of which skater you’re currently using. Leveling up will earn you access to new clothing, skate gear and trick slots for specials. The cosmetic store is quite expansive and it will take a lot of hours playing if you want to purchase everything that is offered. With an absolute ton of challenges to attempt to complete as well, you’ll have plenty to focus on even after you’ve unlocked every level.

If you’re new to the Tony Hawk series, the gameplay is simple enough to play but takes time and effort to master. You’re given two minute runs to get the highest score possible or complete certain objectives like finding the letters S-K-A-T-E, hidden video tapes, grinding a certain amount of tables and much more. This 2 minute piece-meal approach is an old mechanic, but still works and suits the gameplay quite well. The games were known for not only pulling off crazy tricks, but combo-ing them all together in a completely unrealistic way, like pulling off Tony’s iconic 900 spin off a building to grind a bus and pulling off a manual with a dozen tricks in-between. This arcade take on skateboarding is what made it so fun in the first place and still holds up all these years later.

Skate Tours is where you’ll take on level by level, unlocking new ones as you complete certain amounts of objectives. The levels were just as iconic as the gameplay and soundtrack, so it was fantastic diving right back into familiar territory with levels I could probably recreate and draw from memory I put so much time into them when I was younger. Everything simply feels authentic and just as you remember, which is impressive given how much new is included as well. The majority of all the content from the original games are in, save for a few of the songs for licensing reasons I could only assume, but is amped up with a new graphic engine, new models (that look more realistic than ever), HDR lighting and smooth gameplay that makes it a better experience than ever before. There are some fundamental changes though which took me a while to get used to, such as being able to revert, a move that wasn’t available in these first games (it was introduced in THPS3) but allows for more combo transitions from landing vert moves. While some purists may frown upon adding changes, I believe this one is for the better overall, even if it does change the original flow and combo lines of the games.

So you’re now a pro skater and have collected everything the game has to offer and unlocked every stage? Well, this is where Create-A-Park comes in. While not a new feature to the series, now that online gaming is the norm you’re not only able to create any crazy skate park idea that you can imagine, but also upload it and share it for anyone else to try as well. The tools are quite simple to use and offer a lot more variety and options than ever before as well, so make sure to check online as there are some absolutely crazy park creations out there. Online simultaneous multiplayer is now an option as well, so gather your friends and challenge them to a variety of different challenges, like longest combo, highest score and more. There are casual and ranked sessions you can join, and although functional and lag free, having more robust options would be welcome.

Arguably, more iconic than the gameplay for the THPS series is its soundtrack. At the time, not many games used real world licensed soundtrack to this degree and opened me up to a ton of different musical genres. These games were actually the first gaming soundtrack I ever purchased on CD and defined a bunch of my musical tastes. With a quick click of the Right Stick you can instantly skip the song playing, or even completely disable certain songs you don’t like in the options. The developers knew that the soundtrack is a big deal with this remake, so they were able to get the majority of the original soundtrack included for this remaster, which is exciting, but also added 37 completely new tracks, most of which feel as if they blend into the original soundtrack seamlessly. What really matters though is that “Superman” by Goldfinger is still included and great as ever.

Remastering old games that gamers cherish is tricky, because if you put minimal effort into it you might ruin that classic feeling and nostalgia people have for said game, but change too much and you have the same results, so there’s a fine balance needed to preserve but improve at the same time. It’s abundantly clear that a lot of effort, time and care went into this remaster, balancing classic gameplay but improving many aspects simultaneously.

More than a simple coat of paint, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 for Xbox Series X|S not only brings back that nostalgia and great memories growing up playing every chance I could, but modernizes many of its fundamentals without completely changing everything about the classics that made it so great in the first place. For fans of the classics like myself, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is a perfect example of how to preserve its original essence as to what made it so great in the first place but adding many improvements at the same time.

Even for the biggest Tony Hawk game fans out there like myself, asking gamers to fork over a full repurchase if you happened to buy a disc version instead of digital on Xbox One is quite a steep ask, one that may put a bad taste in some mouths. The $10 upgrade fee for previous digital owners is also going to put some people off, as many games are offering the free upgrade for the Series X versions via Smart Delivery, so it's a shame to not see that here as well. That said, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 - Xbox Series X|S is absolutely worth it if you have a newer 120hz capable TV or haven't already purchased it on Xbox One, as there’s no better arcade skate game out there on the market today nor one that will play as smooth.

**Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 (X|S) was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 9.3 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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