Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 Review: A game of the decade contender

The Birdman is back and better than ever.

Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 2 Downhill Jam
(Image: © Windows Central)

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is easily one of the biggest franchises in video game history, but recent entries have not only failed to capture the magic of the original games, but honestly tarnished the reputation of the series. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 was an absolute disaster and there's an increasing number of spinoffs focusing on gimmicks over gameplay. Does anybody remember Tony Hawk's Ride?

It makes total sense for a franchise that's clearly lost its way, to revisit its roots, and reevaluate what made these skating games so special in the first place and that's exactly what Vicarious Visions did with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2. This team managed to replicate the incredible, tight gameplay of these iconic titles and even make two games that are literally decades old, look and feel like a modern game.

With a fresh coat of paint and some additional features, it becomes crystal clear just how ahead of the times the first two Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games were.

Remaking that classic feeling

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TitleTony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2
DeveloperVicarious Visions
Xbox VersionXbox One X
Game Size26GB
Play Time20 hours
Players1-2 Players Local/1-8 Players Online
Launch Price$40)

As someone who spent hundreds of hours playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 growing up, I went into this remake with a laundry list of expectations and a whole lot of muscle memory. Unfortunately for my fingers and my brain, this muscle memory was tied to sub-30 FPS on the PS1, so initially adapting to a locked 60 FPS on the Xbox One X was pretty intense. I spent the first several sessions crashing simple combos that I would have nailed with ease back in the day, but once was my reflexes caught up with the increased frame rate, everything clicked in a big way. These games didn't feel as good as I remembered them, they actually felt better.

Additional mechanics from later Tony Hawk games like wall-hopping and reverts completely changed my combo game. I was able to revisit classic runs from my favorite stages and stretch my combos even further thanks to these additional features. While you do have the option to switch to classic Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 control schemes, these restrict your ability to wall-hop, revert, and even manual, but if you're interested in experiencing the most faithful feel of these classic games, this is a really cool detail for long-time fans.

Even after all this time, I really can't stress enough how great these games feel. Even players who never touched the originals can dive into this remake and have a blast trying to beat their own high scores or gather fun collectibles thanks to its perfectly crafted arcade design. Sometimes revisiting a game you love reminds of its glaring flaws, but with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, it only reinforces why this franchise was such a massive success.

Bring tha noise

Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 2 Tracklist

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The only thing as important as the gameplay in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater franchise is the killer soundtracks. The music of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 defined a generation and perfectly embodied the spirit of skateboarding culture. This special blend of rock, hip-hop, alternative, and even heavy metal, didn't really exist in any other genre at the time.

The soundtracks for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 are easily two of the best of all time and having the songs from the original games return with this remake, is a huge feat and an even bigger win when it comes delivering on that classic feeling. In addition to the tracks from the original soundtracks' 22 artists, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 adds 37 new songs, bringing the total to a staggering 59. While some of the new artists don't deliver the same skate-hype as infamous tracks like Guerilla Radio by Rage Against the Machine and When World's Collide by Powerman 5000, there are still some pretty great standouts from artists like Mercules, Billy Talent, and Zebrahead. Thankfully, you have the option to customize your skate playlist and skip any tracks that don't deliver on your skate vibe.

There's really something for everyone here on the music front and I'm a bit blown away by the team's dedication to delivering on what was most definitely a licensing nightmare. Also, in case anyone needs a reminder - 'No Cigar' by Millencolin still hits hard.

Classic stages truly brought to life

Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 2 Secret Tape

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

As we see more and more studios deliver incredible remakes, it becomes very apparent just how much we filled in the gaps of the original's graphical limitations with our imaginations. Going back and watching footage of the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, I couldn't believe how poor the draw distance was and how bland the environments looked. I vividly remembered these areas feeling alive and vibrant, but now they are mostly dull and filled with gray fog.

The updated Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 somehow manages to present environments that are more detailed and dynamic than even my wildest imagination as a child. Stages like Venice have bustling backgrounds with ocean waves, flocks of seagulls, and even sailboats. With a seemingly endless draw distance, you really feel like these places exist in a world and not simply as an isolated series of ramps and rails in a video game.

The amount of detail in the recreated stages from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is genuinely jaw-dropping. You can stop anywhere on any stage and marvel at all the small touches Vicarious Visions put in to reimagine these iconic locations. The updated mall is incredible and a bit depressing, as all the shops from the original games are now boarded up and vandalized – mirroring the modern-day decline of the shopping mall. As a fan of the original games it was incredible seeing my favorite stages meticulously reconstructed and anyone jumping in for the first time will still be impressed by these gorgeous environments.

Tons of customization and collecting

Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 2 Character Customization

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One of my favorite elements of the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 was creating my own skater and living the Pro Skater dream. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 expands character customization in some huge ways. The number of boards and clothing options is so much more expansive than the original games. You have hundreds of options to choose from. Not only can you change your deck, grip tape, trucks, wheels, outfit, and appearance, but you can also customize your profile to share your favorite deck and emblem with other players online.

The expansive skateshop offers a wide range of items you can purchase with your hard-earned skate cash, but there are also special unlocks tied to specific in-game challenges – including some amazing animated decks. Collecting SKATE and completing all stage challenges in both Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 also unlocks fun modifiers like Tiny Skater and low-gravity. And for players looking to forever leave their mark on the skating landscape, the new and improved create-a-park gives some pretty impressive stage creation tools. You can even upload and skate other player's creations online.

With over 700 challenges, hundreds of unlocks, and a great suite of customization and creation tools, this is easily the most expansive Tony Hawk's Pro Skater experience to date. You literally and figuratively have a serious amount of stuff to grind.

Local and Online multiplayer

Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 2 Online Modes

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 brings back all your favorite local multiplayer modes and introduces a collection of new modes for local and online play. Horse and Free Skate make their return, but are unfortunately restricted to local play at the moment, but the classic Trick Attack and new modes like Combo Mambo and Combo Challenge are available to play in local or online multiplayer.

A simplified party system and playlists for casual or competitive play, quickly throw you and up to 7 other players in a streamlined matchmaking system with a randomized assortment of these game modes. While I appreciate the overall simplicity of the matchmaking process in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, I really hope the team has plans on expanding the options for online play. As it stands, you can't create a private skate session with your friends, choose a stage, play Free Skate or Horse, or even play created stages with other players.

The local options are far more robust than online play right now, but that didn't stop me and remote friends from playing for hours at a time. With a few tweaks to online matchmaking, this could easily be the perfect Tony Hawk's Pro Skater multiplayer experience.

Why I love this remake

Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 2 Hangar

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The remake of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a genuine triumph. Rarely does a game, especially a remake, meet my admittedly lofty expectations, but in the case of these two classic skating titles, Vicarious Visions absolutely blew me away. They managed to make two of my favorite games of all time look and feel better than they ever have.

With beautifully recrafted stages, a massive collection of modes and unlocks, and gameplay that just doesn't get old, there's so much to love here. If Resident Evil 2 set the bar for quality video game remakes, then Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 has successfully Airwalked over it and set a new gold standard.

Outside of a single complaint regarding a somewhat restricted online offering, this is a perfect remake and stands firmly as my Game of the Year for 2020. I'll have some serious internal debating to do, but there's even a genuine possibility this remake will end up being my game of the decade.

Miles Dompier

Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.