It's 100 degrees outside and I'm sitting just a few inches away from the TV screen. My friends are at the door, asking me to come out and play, but the curtains are drawn and I'm maintaining that nobody is home. Punk rock is blasting out of my speakers, the soundtrack to my ongoing attempt to nail an Over the Pipe, Secret Room, and Holy Shi... combo in Warehouse. Goldfinger's Superman cycles into play for the umpteenth time and now somebody is banging on the ceiling and screaming at me to "turn that shit down".
It's time to apologise to my neighbours, just like I had to with my parents all those years ago, because summer 2020 is suddenly looking a whole lot like summer 2000. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 Remake has me asking: What's my age again?
Sooner or later, everything old is new again
I didn't think that Warehouse would be able to capture my undivided attention. Not again. Not anymore. Not now that I'm a 30 year old equipped with bad knees – a million miles away from the wannabe Rodney Mullen kid that spent many a night eating shit on these same spots two decades ago. I expected to dip in, have a little fun, eventually get annoyed with the cadence of John Feldmann's voice, and dip out. So believe me when I tell you that I don't know what happened. I sat down with the demo after work and the next thing I know it's 1am. Time erodes all things; Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is the one constant.
I honestly couldn't tell you if the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 Remake handles exactly as it used to, but I can tell you that it handles exactly as I remember it did. I don't have a PlayStation, Dreamcast, or N64 to hand, but if I had made maintaining a retro library as my number one priority for the pandemic I wouldn't be surprised to find that the conversion was close. Truth be told, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 Remake looks and sounds exactly as I remember it did too. It's as if I'm excavating memories from amber.
There's something so strangely satisfying about stumbling upon all of these special spots from 20 years ago. It's as if they had been preserved in a small, cordoned off area of my brain for later use – a dopamine hit released every time I hit one of those lines or gaps that is enshrined in blue on the combo chain. Warehouse might be missing the giant, glowing S-K-A-T-E letters and the secret VHS tape in the Single Session mode the demo is limited to, but I already know where they'll be in the final game from muscle memory. And in their absence, I'm still having a bloody great time smashing past the SICK Score boundary and hitting a 5-0 on the Big Rail – some things never change.
That's because there's something to the speed and momentum here in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 Remake; it invites competition and escalation in a way few other games have ever been able to achieve. The hangtime is as satisfying as ever too, lingering long enough to tempt you into weaving an ill-timed faceplant through your combo. The magnetic snap to rails and the drag of griptape across concrete, your bodyweight shifting in tandem with that of the balance meter… Listen, I don't know how much you can ultimately divine from one demo, but if this is truly representative of the wider experience then this will be the Tony Hawk's game we've been waiting a long time for.
And that's the tricky thing with nostalgia. Because we have been waiting. Not for something new, necessarily, but definitely for something old – rather, something that feels old. This has put developer Vicarious Visions in the unenviable position of needing to recreate a feeling rather than the experience itself, and it has to do this while it works to both erase Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 from living memory and establish a platform for the series to make an endearing return. Thankfully, the studio charted this path once before – as it revived Crash Bandicoot alongside Toys For Bob in 2017. The N. Sane Trilogy is a success story few could have predicted, and it has established a precedent for retro revivals within Activision.
After an evening with the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 Remake Warehouse demo, I can't wait to drop into School 2. I can't wait to hit Downtown and Marseille, Venice Beach and Hanger. Vicarious Visions has made me want to play more Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and that's something I never thought I'd find myself thinking again. There's enough in here that makes me wonder whether Vicarious Visions is actually capable of picking up where Neversoft left off in its golden Pro Skater years, before it took a step back from the deck and engineered an American wasteland of its own design.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 Remake is due for release on September 4, 2020, for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.