Alright so I remember last year writing up a whole bunch of videogame reviews. I never did manage to go through all of them but I figured I would pick it back up again so here goes my first new one.
Note I don’t give out numbered scores, those are for idiots. Also I am not a profession, I am just highly opinionated.
Still Superman: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Personal Note: I haven’t played the multiplayer or Create-a-Skate features enough to hold a consistent opinion o there won’t be anything on either of that here.
In Control (The Gameplay)
The first Tony Hawk game is now almost 20 years old approximately yet it is perfectly clear that Vicarious have done such a terrific job redoing everything from the ground up you would have no clue this series is 20 years old. Everything is responsive, every transition between tricks is fluid (the exception is triple flips I find that those aren’t always quite right) and they even imported stuff from the later games like reverts, stat points, manuals, alternative tricks, mid- grind and mid-manual tricks and more. The moment to moment skating is top notch with only some minor complaints especially
The biggest flaw is that there isn’t a lot of variety between the objectives and stat point placements even between the individual skaters. Hell if you complete the tour then the objectives stay complete unless you reset all over. There is also a lack of customisable options in regards to clothing and tattoos that being said it is far more in-depth that the originals. Speaking of the pro skaters there is a wide variety, the entire evolution of skateboarding as a world wide phenomenon. You have an Australian here, you have Japanese skaters, Brazilian ones and the like, all in all it is a greater variety.
But luckily there is still variation thanks to the best new addition to the series in the challenge system. The challenges are varied and very skater has two unique ones for them with the rest being specialist challenges, there are ones for creating special gap combos (called Get Theres), ones for doing in-game feats and the like. Challenges have rewards tied to them in the form of customisable options most commonly deck graphics.
Write-Up: Responsive, fluid and incredibly faithful with other elements of the series sewn seamlessly into what turns out to be a faithful experience marred only by the occasional unresposive flip.
Even with an expanded line-up there is lack of replayability over all the skaters in terms of the main challenges and stat point collection gets dull but the challenges are more than enough to get you playing after it is all done.
Guerrilla Radio (Sound and Music)
The sound design is good I mean it isn’t anything all that far out but all of those tiny sounds are there from the wonderful sound of your board dropping, the different grinding sounds to the meaty crunch then VHS rewind when you bail and the sound you make when you hit Special. There is some voice acting most of it is things like the taxi drivers (nice detail the Downtown cabbies have thick Midwest Accents and the NYC drivers have thick New Yawker/Italian-American accents), the only real character with voice acting is Officer Dick (voiced by Jack Black).
Of course the soundtrack is still epic since it is a combination of the first two both of which are filled with a variety of skater culture adjacent genres from pop punk all the way to hip-hop. All of the classics are there even ones Vicarious said they couldn’t get (most importantly Anthrax and Public Enemy’s “Bring Tha Noise”) and Superman plays over the start screen. The new songs are… OK I guess I think only two of my own custom track list are new now: “She’s Famous Now” by Reel Big Fish (sadly not “Sell Out”) and FIDLAR’s “West Coast”. All the other songs weren’t for me or I got tired of hearing so I think a broader variety could have helped.
Write-Up: The sound design is top notch with the same care here as there are with the visuals. But the new additions to the soundtrack can’t compare to the classics to me, this is a matter of subjective taste though and you might enjoy the new slate more.
Mid Twenties Skateboarder (Level Design and Animations)
The animations are spectacular with every trick being done in great detail, there is a variety of different bails, idling results in your skater just going “fuck it” and sitting on their board and every trick is fully realised. They put a lot of time, effort and sheer love of the games to do all of this even just mo-capping it must have been a nightmare for them.
Note the actual lighting, visual fidelity and art direction is covered next this is about the actual design. So the levels are faithful recreations of the original levels so THPS set is the best for me since I found 2’s levels to be to large. Burnside is still the worst fucking level in this whole series, I mean it is so small and incredibly clutter couple with the worst gap list. Oh yeah they updated the gap list to account for the new tricks you can pull off now.
Evil Eye (Graphics and Art Direction)
I am not one for graphics but all of the textures are nice, the graphics are clearly the level all sports games should be at but aren’t and the framerate is smooth. The real improvement is in the art design there is so much attention to detail and Visions lives up to the name adding colour and street art to much of what used to be drab areas full of earth tones and greys and the textures are better replacing the samey textures of the originals are now detailed and their materials have been changed to varieties concrete, woods and metals. Rails made of metal have chipped paint and grinding them causes sparks to fly and water splashes from fountains and drainage pipes
Then there is the lighting which makes all the difference in levels like Venice which is now in the late afternoon as the sunsets over LA or School and School 2 which feel like it is summer vacation early in the afternoon enjoying vacation time and the skyboxes unlike the originals. Oh and the skyboxes are all improved in Streets you can see the Transamerica Pyramid and the Golden Gate Bridge, Downtown gives you a full look at the Twin Cities area, NYC has depth it isn’t fog, Downhill Jam now has this vast red rock canyon river going off into the distance with a bridge over it and you can see Santa Monica’s pier from the Venice pavilion this greatly improves the feel of these levels.
Lovely little details are abound as well like references to the virus (School’s message ticker talks about online learning after summer break and a mall in Minneapolis (Downtown) talks about contactless pick up), Venice beach has banner wanting you to help “Save The Pit” (The name for the skatespot Venice is based on it was demolished months after Two’s release) and I mentioned things like rails having chipped paint and even certain ramps in competition parks have scuffed paint. They really did remake this game from the ground up and they clearly loved working on these levels.
Write-Up: Vicarious Visions absolutely meant it when they said they remade this game from the ground up they have used the current generation of technology to the max to add a much needed sense of vibrancy and difference to the levels. Some have been completely transformed by this.
In full: This game is an Essential from me, perhaps the only sports game in the past decade to do so and one of the few remakes. This should supersede whatever desire you have to play the originals in any capacity other than curiosity towards the staggering differences. The game handles like a dream making skateboarding as fun as it was two-three decades ago if not more so, they lovingly took things from the other games and placed them with care, the levels have a level of detail and eye catching beauty now and the classic soundtrack is there.