The first (and last) time I ever stepped on a skateboard, I was about 5 years old. It promptly shot out from under me and I crashed to the garage floor, head first if memory serves. It would be another 10+ years before I put hands on the devil’s wheels again, this time in a virtual sense with 1999’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Between the thumping soundtrack and the endless gameplay grind (literally), I was hooked.
Fast-forward more than 20 years later and, lo and behold, I’ve got my hands on another skateboard game, this time a remaster of Hawk’s landmark titles Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Do I remember any of the terminology from 1999? Nope, not really, and neither do I remember how to do any of the tricks, IRL or otherwise. But if the stripped-down and simple Warehouse demo is any indication, I might just be devoting more hours of my life to virtual skateboarding than ever before.
Thanks to our friends behind the scenes at Activision and Vicarious Visions, we had a chance to check out the demo a little bit early. (The Warehouse demo for the remastered Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is available on August 14th for those who pre-order the game, which arrives on September 4th.) It features an iconic environment for you, as Tony Hawk, to skate around in during solo 2-minute single sessions, trying to rack up the beefiest score you can. You get the advantage of all the tricks from THPS1 & 2 at your disposal, along with a few from the third and fourth editions as well. And speaking of score, the pared-down selection of music is a fantastic sampling of skate-friendly tracks that span nearly 25 years. All of that is indicative of a new game that balances nostalgia with the modern era of skateboarding and all that entails … but is it any good?
I’m far from being a skater IRL, so I leave the discussion of the technical side of the game’s mechanics to more informed folks. But as a nostalgia experience first and foremost, even this basic demo was an absolute blast. There’s an excellent transition into the menu screen by way of a music video of sorts (Remember those?) that honors the ’99 version’s aspect ratio and relatively low a/v quality compared with the new version, which blasts in to the tune of Rage Against the Machine‘s “Guerilla Radio” with HD visuals. From there, the video plays like an old-school skating clip show (Remember those? Remember MTV’s Scarred?) featuring new and returning skateboard stars — including Tony Hawk and Steve Caballero, of course — and showing off a variety of locations where you’ll get to polish your skills … eventually. For now, we’re stuck in the Warehouse with the one and only Tony Hawk to test things out.
But before I even got to the skating, I honestly just sat and listened to the menu music for a good ten minutes. (You don’t have to do this; the demo’s four tracks will loop while you play.) The aforementioned (and edited … WTF?) “Guerilla Radio” is joined by Goldfinger‘s 1996 ska single “Superman”, Billy Talent‘s 2016 track “Afraid of Heights”, and the 2020 song “Lose Control” by Tyrone Briggs to form your skating soundtrack. Half modern, half 90s “retro”, all atmospheric. (And if you need me to explain what “ska” is, just hit me up on Twitter.) There’s a playlist function in the game that lets you turn these individual tracks on or off, and I’m sure there are many more to come.
The same can be said for the cosmetics in-game. You start with one board design; 15 are available in total with 5 hidden (at least for Hawk), and there’s a nice transparency of which challenges you need to complete to unlock specific boards. There are also 15 outfits, 3 of which are visible but only one is accessible in the demo. But the Tricks is where the customization really heats up. There are Grab, Flip, and Lip tricks, with 5 slots open and 3 default tricks available (including Hawk’s 900) to start, with 10 total spaces to unlock. The best part here is that you can not only add tricks — of which there are an overwhelming amount — to your trick list, you can customize your button combo to whatever works best for you!
A lot of the customization in the demo is locked down for now, as are the Skate Shop, Challenges, and Profile, but you can at least get a glimpse of the upgrades to the skater stats you’ll earn as you level up. (Leveling up in the demo didn’t seem to grant any points or extra access, in my experience.) You can only see Hawk’s stats to start out, but I’d imagine every character has the same categories: Air, Hangtime, Ollie, Speed, Spin, Switch, Flip Speed, Rail Balance, Lip Balance, and Manual Balance, plus a skater’s given Stance, Style, and Push Style. The character stats page also shows the number of completed challenges, trick slots earned, exclusive boards earned, and exclusive gear earned, to help you keep track.
But, like, what about the skating, bruh? I’m getting to it! The problem is, for a rusty virtual skater like me, I really could have used a tutorial on this thing. I don’t know an Ollie from my elbow, so that resulted in me button-mashing more often than not. (There is a tutorial in the Extras section of the main game, but I didn’t come across it in the demo.) The Single Session grind in the warehouse will be your crash course tutorial for now, and crash you will. Luckily, the game is pretty forgiving with how quickly you get up and get going again, even though it’s got a strange little de-rez animation rather than focusing on real-life movement, almost as if you were playing a video game…
The skating itself is fluid, more so for folks who have been playing each and every title since they started arriving back in 1999. There’s definitely some rust on these old finger joints but I warmed to the task quickly. However, the starter setting is very simplistic and stripped down, so I’m curious to see what they’ll add in the full game. For example, there are no S-K-A-T-E letters spinning around, as far as I could tell, and smashing the stacked crates didn’t yield anything but frustration. (You can crash through the office high above the warehouse floor though!) And speaking of frustration, there’s a tug-of-war with the movable camera that got increasingly frustrating as I played. The character-locked camera wants to stay fixed on your skater, which leads to the player feeling like they’re not in total control of what’s going on. That’s a shame, because total control of your skater is kind of the point of the game. I’d advise keeping your hands off the camera controls because the default follow-along does a good enough job on its own.
Luckily, that’s about the only gripe I have with this demo. The sessions are short, but the map is simple and the gaps are few; you can actually view available gaps in the Options menu, where you can also tweak your move sets, like adding AI assists for tricks or taking bails out of the game, which allows you to practice without interruption. And you get a little bonus time if the clock runs out while you’re in the middle of a combo or a movie, sending you into Overtime. You may not have the biggest half-pipes or drop-ins available for Hawk’s signature Special moves like the 900 — or maybe I just haven’t figured out how to pull it off yet — but there’s a broad spectrum of trick setups to try out here. All good practice for the full game in just a couple of weeks!
Here’s how your scores will be tallied up after each session (along with a cash reward):
- Single session
- Total score
- Longest grind
- Longest manual
- Longest lip
- Best combo
Again, there doesn’t seem to be a point to leveling up and gaining cash in the demo beyond simply practicing the moves and getting comfortable with your chosen trick set, but on the other hand, you can play the demo as much as you want up until the game’s release. And there is going to be so much more in the main game than what this 3.6GB demo has to offer. Not only are there a ton of skaters to unlock … there’s also a park creator! I can’t wait to see the Devs and indie creators out there come up with!
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 arrives on September 4th.
Dave Trumbore is Collider’s Senior Editor overseeing Games, Animation, and all those weird Saturday-morning cartoons no one else remembers. Test his trivia IQ on Twitter @DrClawMD