Let’s face it. If you were a kid with a PS1, you had a Tony Hawk game. You probably had several. I can remember countless hours spent in Tony Hawk Pro Skater’s first warehouse level (because I was very bad at the game and couldn’t progress, mostly). I also remember spending a ludicrous amount of time trying to unlock Goku because GameFAQ’s told me I could. You can’t, for reference. 🙁
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 was developed by Vicarious Visions, who you might remember also delivered the recent Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy, so they have form for updated remakes. Though, interestingly, just as they’d worked on previous Crash titles before delivering N Sane Trilogy, Vicarious Visions also has form working on Tony Hawk games, meaning they have a deep understanding of what goes into making a classic Pro Skater experience.
And it shows.
An important note
Before I get into the main review, there’s three things about this game that need to be discussed that have a direct impact on how I view the game. The first is a positive one, with the inclusion of the series first non-binary skater, Leo Baker. The second is also positive, and a story that was floating around a while ago. In the original games, there was a trick called the ‘mute grab’. It was named after deaf skater Chris Weddle, who was known in circles as ‘the quiet mute guy’. The name of the trick was meant to be a tribute to him, but as time has progressed, I’m sure pretty much all of us can see why ‘mute grab’ in reference to a deaf skater is not exactly a good thing.
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For nearly 40 years, we’ve shamelessly referred to this trick as the “mute” air/grab. Here is the backstory: around 1981, a deaf skater and Colton skatepark local named Chris Weddle was a prominent amateur on the competition circuit. The “Indy” air had just been created & named so somebody proposed that grabbing with the front hand should be known as the “Tracker” air. Others countered that Chris was the first to do, so it should be named after him. They referred to him as the “quiet, mute guy.” So it became known as the mute air, and we all went along with it in our naive youth. In recent years a few people have reached out to Chris (who still skates) about this trick and the name it was given. He has been very gracious in his response but it is obvious that a different name would have honored his legacy, as he is deaf but not lacking speech. I asked him last year as I was diving into trick origins and he said he would have rather named it the “deaf” or “Weddle” grab if given the choice. His exact quote to me was “I am deaf, not mute.” So as we embark on the upcoming @tonyhawkthegame demo release, some of you might notice a trick name change: The Weddle Grab. It’s going to be challenging to break the habit of saying the old name but I think Chris deserves the recognition. Thanks to @darrick_delao for being a great advocate to the deaf community in action sports, and for being the catalyst in this renaming process. I told Chris tecently and his reply was “I’m so stoked!” And then he shot this photo in celebration yesterday. 📷: @yousta_storytellers_club
Tony Hawk later posted about it on his Instagram, explaining the history of the trick, and that moving forward it would be renamed the ‘Weddle grab’. Much nicer for everyone involved and honestly, as someone passionate about accessibility, it’s amazing they went to the effort when I’m sure it would be something overlooked in other cases. So that’s cool.
What isn’t cool, however, is the inclusion of several tattoo customization options that were references to Māori tā moko. The short version of why this is offensive is that these tattoos aren’t just a fun aesthetic for your character to wear. They’re a deeply intrenched and important part of Māori culture. I am incredibly white and also not even from New Zealand, so I’ll let this absolutely amazing thread by Pākehā/Māori tattooist, Timothy Russell do the talking.
Been meaning to make a thread on this stuff for a while, because I always get tauiwi asking me anytime I shitpost about Ta Moko popping up in video-games as a cosmetic character option, i.e in the new Tony Hawk game, so I'm gonna go quickly over the basics on why this sucks 1/14 pic.twitter.com/Udo5p3IFQz
— Timothy / Conquest of Dread (@dreadconquest) September 5, 2020
So in other words: It’s not good. This also, at the time of writing this review, has not been patched out. Nor have any announcements been made on the possibility of it being patched out. So, one step forward, and one big step back.
Grinding rails and massive bails
The setup to Tony Hawks’ Pro Skater 1 + 2 is going to look very familiar to people who have played either of those games. Essentially, upon choosing the main campaign mode, you’re playing through… Both of those games, in their entirety. Players are able to choose which games maps they want to play through, or they can choose free skate, which allows the choice of any map in the game.
On map selection, players are given a list of tasks. High scores, finding items, destroying items, combos, trick requirements, etc. and then 2 minutes to complete as many of these as possible. A certain amount of completed tasks is required before the next map opens up. It’s a very straightforward progression system and it’s been kept in its entirety because it absolutely works. Each objective requires a different part of the map to be explored and mastered, and will require multiple runs, all culminating in a better understanding in order to get the highest score possible. Which is important, because there’s leaderboards now.
Though I had also forgotten just how much fun it is to go on what is essentially a fast paced scavenger hunt. The levels are faithful one to one recreations of the originals, so if you have it memorised, this is probably going to be pretty easy. For new players, the levels hold up just as well. Though certain objectives become hugely more difficult given the changed scale and the updated realism of the games.
A good example of this comes from the level Downtown, in which one of the objectives is to destroy 5 ‘no skating’ signs around the level. In the original, this was easy because they were big, obvious signs that even glowed. In the remake, they’re… Much more realistic. They’re much more difficult to find as a result, and given so much of the environment is now able to be interacted with and destroyed, this just adds to the frustration.
It would have been nice to have a ‘highlight objectives’ function of some kind under the accessibility options, given that the accessibility menu is so robust in other areas.
Same, but different
So, for those that enjoyed the originals but are wondering why they should get on board the new game, the biggest enticement is the new online play. There’s online competitive multiplayer, leaderboards, and of course, create a park is now fully online as well. This opens up an entire world of hand made parks, though players will find their own options to make parks a little lacking at first.
A lot of the content, able to be purchased ingame with ingame currency, is locked behind the store. This is fine for cosmetics, but a lot of the create a park content is also locked at the start of the game, requiring the player to complete various challenges in order to unlock the option to even purchase the items for their custom parks. For those that wanted to dive right in to the more creative side of the game, this is a huge pain in the butt.
The other big thing players will notice is, of course, the more realistic physics. Mostly because this isn’t a PS1 game anymore and we can do realism a lot better now. This means those absolutely ridiculous stunts you found easy are now probably going to wind up with you eating concrete. Though this isn’t a bad thing, as it doesn’t take long to get used to, and as stated previously, accessibility options are available to improve things like balance on grinds or manuals and the like.
The other big change comes in the soundtrack. Which makes sense, it would be hard to get the licences to every single artist on the original, plus it’s always nice to have something new. So while you’re still gonna hear Naughty By Nature and Rage Against the Machine, you’re also going to hear the likes of Baker Boy and Machine Gun Kelly. So, you know, variety.
Overall it’s definitely the kind of remaster we should be looking for in the future. Faithful recreations of old content brought into the future with updated physics and online capabilities, as well as slipping a few fun new bits and pieces in there which constantly surprised and delighted me.
But, you know. Patch out the racist stuff, please.