The Tony Hawk’s remaster does justice to one of the greatest demos of all-time
Here’s a riddle for you. I’ve never properly played a Tony Hawk’s game, yet I put more hours into Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the original PlayStation than anything else on the console. Okay, it’s not a particularly tough riddle to crack – like a lot of kids back then, demo discs were a lifeline, and there was one demo that ruled them all. The warehouse demo’s legendary – partly because it introduced a genre that would soon dominate the world of video games, and partly because it’s a perfect self-contained distillation of everything that’s great and good about skateboarding games.
Those two minutes fly close to perfection – or rather they give you the opportunity to fly as close to perfection as possible, using that small, well-defined warehouse with its abundance of ramps and rails to rack up combo after combo in pursuit of a high score. It’s so damn pure.
The recreation of that demo for the forthcoming remaster doesn’t quite have that same purity – this demo’s a pre-order bonus, though if you’re in the US you can also get hold of it by heading to your local Chipotle and ordering the Tony Hawk special burrito (what I’d give to be in the US – I’d love an excuse to get a burrito right now). Get down to it, though, and it seems Vicarious Visions has done a bang up job, and achieved what every decent video game remaster surely sets out to do – this feels exactly as good as you remembered it.
Which is no mean feat given how cherished those memories are for some of us, and given how previous attempts to serve up the originals have fallen short. Indeed, after a considerable downward trend for the series, starting with Ride and culminating in the miserable contractual obligation that was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, with a lacklustre HD remake of the originals sandwiched in-between all that, maybe the biggest miracle is that this remaster is any good at all. That Vicarious Visions seems to have nailed the trick could be seen as some sort of miracle.
It helps that this is a remaster inclusive to all sorts of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater veterans – there’s a modern moveset, complemented by movesets faithful to either the first or second game, with players able to switch between them all. There are assists that can be layered on, which proves helpful for those whose wrists and fingers might have weakened in the intervening decades. And it looks fantastic too, the original aesthetic being revived while served up with all the fidelity and features that you’d expect of a modern release.
Most importantly, it feels incredible, the risk/reward implicit in trying to chain together a seemingly endless list of tricks combining with good old-fashioned score chasing for a mix that’s as compelling as it’s ever been. I relived those two minutes of the original demo countless times back in the day, and the past few days I’ve stretched them out to a good few hours in the remaster. It’s good enough to make me think that maybe I should finally take the plunge, all these years later, and actually get around to playing a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game proper when it comes out early next month.