I take full responsibility for the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 video uploaded to the Engadget YouTube channel this week. Everything except the editing -- which was minimal and lovely, by the way -- is entirely my fault. I like to think my video game skills are solidly average, but most of the comments on this particular video can be summed up by a single line from commenter Sai Swaym Shree: “Hire a better gamer.”
Harsh, but understandable, coming from someone who likely hasn't touched THPS 1 or 2 in nearly 20 years. Hell, it’s fair considering I hadn't touched a Tony Hawk title in over a decade. My partner and I recorded that consecutive 10-minute chunk after about an hour with the new game, drinking beers and relaxing on the couch after a long day.
Our combos and landing skills have improved since then, but the video remains a valid example of early-game THPS. It takes time and rhythm to play smoothly, to feel the weight of the skater falling back into the half pipe, to know which angle is too steep, too twisted, too much, not enough. If it were easy to land every move, this wouldn't be much of a game.
I promise you this: While you're still finding your bearings in THPS, cruising around Venice Beach and practicing basic combos, there will come a moment that you bail four, five, six times in a row. You'll learn to hate the sound of the deck crashing against the concrete and the record scratch will feel like a personal insult. But you'll get back up and you'll keep skating. Eventually, you'll find your rhythm. You'll land your perfect run.
And then you can destroy your loved ones in local multiplayer.
I’m immediately 30 percent more interested in any game that supports local multiplayer, and that jumps to 50 percent when it’s a remake of an old favorite. THPS has local and online multiplayer, and they both support Free Skate, Score Challenge, Combo Challenge, Trick Attack, Combo Mambo and Graffiti. Two game modes are only available locally, HORSE and Tag.
When I think of THPS, I’m transported to the floor of my childhood living room, neck craned upward and N64 controller in-hand, playing a game of HORSE (or whatever foul phrase my brother has chosen that round). The remaster blasts this memory into full-color. Its maps are gorgeous, its sound effects are crisp, the music is right, and the animations are buttery smooth, once you get the hang of things.
In the new THPS, HORSE is still great for a few rounds of silly fun -- especially if there’s a real-life consequence for the loser -- but the flow is interrupted by one too many button presses between turns. On PlayStation 4, the player that just performed a trick has to press X to move on, and immediately after, the next skater has to press X to begin their turn. It’s a small thing, but it leads to more instances of, “Oh, you have to press X first,” than the original game ever did.
There’s plenty to do in THPS. It includes every park and skater from the original two games, plus a handful of newcomers and the option to create your own character, live stats and all. The Create-A-Park toolset has received a massive, modern upgrade; it’s robust and capable of constructing lifelike parks or absolute fantasies. And then, there’s the option to share these creations with the world, and dive into maps made by other players.
The main game is broken into three parts: the THPS Tour, THPS 2 Tour, and Ranked and Free Skate. Ranked and Free Skate includes Speed Run, Free Skate (naturally) and Single Session modes with online leaderboards. Each Tour has one open map followed by a lineup of locked levels — nine in THPS and eight in THPS 2 (plus two secret parks). Levels are unlocked one-by-one after completing challenges in the previous arenas, like collecting the letters of S-K-A-T-E, performing specific tricks and finding special items. The secret parks are unlockable by 100-percenting each Tour. There are additional skaters buried in the game, too.
Online multiplayer automatically connects you with up to seven other skaters, and offers two difficulty levels with their own leaderboards, Jams and Competitive. In Jams, the top four players win, and in Competitive, the No. 1 skater takes it all. For now, there’s no way to start a private party with just friends, but that feature is coming in an update this fall.
Which is just one reason local multiplayer is the star of THPS. There are plenty of extras here that weren’t included in the original games, including Speed Run, online play and a vastly expanded Create-A-Park mode, but local multiplayer exemplifies everything that makes the THPS games shine. It’s about being seen landing complex combos, sharing the excitement and reveling in the competition. The only difference is that now, the games themselves look 1,000 times better. They’re easier to get lost in, together.
My partner and I have happily played through every local mode, a vertical line separating our skaters, snickering at each other, talking smack and showing off new tricks. It helps that we’re stalled at similar skill levels, re-learning how to play this game with each other, even when we’re technically competing.