Between 1999 and 2007, each subsequent Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater release was more innovative, wildly addicting, shockingly deep and jam packed with secrets. Its success as one of the most popular video game franchises of all-time (outselling many legendary franchises along the way) was integral to bringing the sport of skateboarding and its incredible culture to the mainstream. EA’s Skate titles provided a new experience in 2007, and THPS hit a few snags along the way with some less-than-beloved releases.
With over five years between traditional series entries (with the most recent being 2015’s disastrous Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5), there was demand for some sort of new entry and an understandable skepticism from previous releases. However, Activision and Vicarious Visions, who literally developed the game based off of original developer Neversoft’s code, have seemingly taken every piece of criticism from panned entries and made a “proper” reboot for the franchise’s 21st birthday.
So, is the Tony Hawk Remaster demo any good? Is it a boring, buggy mess that insults the originals? Or could it be the first breathtaking step in a full-on franchise revival? I cannot possibly overstate my love for this series altogether, and I was hoping that this remake would do it justice based on everything we’ve heard so far.
And it not only nailed but exceeded my expectations so far.
Tony Hawk Remaster Demo Impressions
The demo only lets you skate as Tony Hawk in the THPS 1 Warehouse in the classic two-minute single session. There are four songs on the playlist (censored as they were in previous titles as well), and you can assign new specials for Tony. It is charming how they have gone out of their way to try and emulate but modernize the Pizza Hut demo disc that hooked so many of us on this franchise over 20 years ago. They even ran a brief promotion through Chipotle on Monday!
From the second that the Warehouse boots up and Tony drops in down the steep decline, returning players will immediately feel right at home. Make no mistake about it, this truly feels, controls and plays like the classics. The series’ recent missteps were definitely taken into consideration with this game’s development, and I did not encounter a single bug, glitch or hiccup in performance.
It’s hard to accurately describe, but the physics feel greatly improved while the game retains the same arcade feel of previous titles. Maybe it’s the HD cleanliness, but Tony just seems to land more naturally and smoothly maneuver around the environment. Ollies look more realistic but maintain the same timing, and all of the sounds of the skateboard are crisp and correct. Hitting the 900 for the first time with Goldfinger’s “Superman” blasting just felt right. There’s no other way to put it.
From a skating gameplay perspective, it truly feels like it picked up where the series left off in THPS 4, which is a tremendous sigh of relief for day-one THPS fans. Double-tapping and alternating button inputs while mid-grind, manual, and lip trick switches them into chainable combos, just like in the original series. Yes, this includes the handstand, and yes, it is as fun as ever to transition between the handstand and other manual positions in rapid succession.
I will steer clear from spoilers, but the intro video does an exceptional job of simultaneously recapturing that late ’90s/early ’00s magic while ushering in a new era of skaters. For returning players, it is incredibly nostalgic, and for new players, it is a great table setting for an experience full of exploration.
There are a lot of small new touches that give the game a little extra polish. For starters, there is some sort of progression system immediately felt upon landing on the main menu. You earn experience points (separate from stat points) and in-game currency after every session, which presumably go towards unlocking items from the Skate Shop. No matter what my score was or how many tricks were packed into my largest combo in the post-session stats screen, I received $5 in-game after every single session.
Other nice improvements include an image previewing special tricks in the menu so you have an idea of how they look, songs continuing to play through the loading screen and into your sessions, and the ability to skip songs with the press of a single button. This adds to something the game does very well: pace of play. Session load times are fast, menus never get hung up or become too clunky, and the presentation is designed for you to immediately be incentivized for another run. You can easily tap in and see your current skater’s challenges completed, trick slots earned and exclusive boards/gear.
Only two new additions were off-putting, and I cannot reiterate how these were minor inconveniences as opposed to legitimate complaints. One is the random collection of ad-libs from Tony himself as tricks were landed, which were reminiscent of, say, NPCs from The Sims dancing around a stereo or Wario celebrating hitting an opponent with a red shell in Mario Kart. They did not necessarily add anything to the Warehouse’s engrossing environment.
The other deals with getting back on your board after bailing. Gone are the days where button mashing speeds up the get-up animation. Instead, a very peculiar “it’s all a computer simulation”-style animation appears. It looks like Tony just respawns in thin air through a collection of pixels, which is the only other time the game pulls you out of its atmosphere. Why is this happening? Is there something in the story or career mode that pits the THPS world as a simulation that we are all a part of? Could this be in reference to the mysterious and vague Skate Tours on the main menu, or is it just how you would respawn in multiplayer? We gotta know, folks.
As a veteran of the series, the only thing that I truly felt that was missing was the ability to get off of your board, which was introduced in Tony Hawk’s Underground. The muscle memory would kick in and have me lunging for the shoulder buttons, only for my combo to abruptly end. It’s not the end of the world, especially considering that everything else is already there. All of the THPS 1 and 2 tricks are in, plus reverts, acid drops, and spine transfers from 3 and 4.
Recently, I’ve been gunning through Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, a wide-reaching collection of tremendous-sized madcap levels. It made the Warehouse feel a bit tiny in comparison, but that was only exacerbated by my recent playing of a more “modern” THPS game. Regardless, make no mistake about it, this a 100 percent faithful re-creation that will win over both new and old players.
Around the rest of the demo, players will find that the main menu is fully fleshed out, but many tabs are locked. Before you jump into a session, Hub (mode select) and Skater (edit skater) are accessible while Skate Shop, Challenges and Profile are all greyed out. Locked modes include Skate Tours (the presumed career mode), Multiplayer, and Create A Park. On the Skater tab, new decks and outfits are hidden behind specific in-game challenges.
Within the settings, the HUD is customizable. You can calibrate your HDR settings, and there is an interesting set of options in a section titled “Game Mods.” In it, you find the option to restrict the in-game tricks to THPS 1 or THPS 2 only, which could be fun for extreme purists I suppose. Under “Assists” we find five classic THPS cheat codes: Perfect Rail/Lip/Manual Balance, Always Special, and No Bails. Hopefully, there will be plenty to unlock as players progress and level up.
At the end of every session, I found myself compelled to hop back in and go again. I truly hope that the final game will have a bounty of replay value because they absolutely nailed the skating gameplay and atmosphere of the series’ most beloved titles. The Warehouse demo got me beyond excited for a release I was already greatly anticipating, so it succinctly did its job. Pre-ordering the game digitally gives you access to the Warehouse demo between now and its release on September 4, so drop in and give it the try it deserves.