(Image credit: Future)
In addition to our team-selected Game of the Year Awards 2020, individual members of the PC Gamer team each select one of their own favourite games of the year. We’ll post new personal picks, alongside the main awards, throughout the rest of the month.
I’m not much of a completionist, but I had such a blast with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 that I was determined to 100 percent both games when they released this September. Grabbing every collectible and stat point is something that seasoned skaters can breeze through in a few hours, but having only mashed my way through a few levels when the games first released in 1999 and 2000, I had a lot to learn.
While cutting my teeth in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater demo a month before release, I could already feel that THPS would steal a good few evenings and weekends away from me, and I was totally fine with it. The best part about getting hooked on a game like this is that every second I spent trying to nail difficult tricks and land gaps taught me something new about the game’s mechanics.
I could see clear progress as I worked through the objectives on each level, and I’d eagerly check my stats after the timer ran out to see how high I’d managed to push my score that time. This process can become quite addictive, especially when you’re aware that scores can soar well into the tens of millions. Before I could concern myself with eight-digit milestones I needed to ace the campaign, which did an excellent job of teaching me everything I needed to know.
One of the levels I initially struggled with was Downhill Jam. This is over halfway through THPS1, and introduces tight gaps and places collectibles on platforms that are tricky to reach. Grabbing the secret tape on this level tested my ability to perform wall rides at the perfect moment, and navigate a challenging incline at speed.
Unlike previous maps that are quite lenient in how you launch yourself onto a platform, Downhill Jam requires you to build momentum as you grind pipes, and climb higher to reach the tape. One failed trick sees you plummet to the concrete below—an animation I became very familiar with. Despite battling through this level well into the early hours of the morning, I have more respect for it than resentment. Similar to THPS2’s Venice Beach ‘all gaps’ challenge, this objective forces you to improve. There’s no route that’ll let you cheat your way to that tape, and if you don’t land those gaps you’ll have to start over. But, once you’ve learned those skills, you’ll find that you’re using them constantly in later levels.
What’s most comforting is that, no matter how good you are, the skill ceiling is so ridiculously high that you’re never truly ‘finished’ in this game. The campaign is a great primer that’ll teach you the basics, but the real challenge begins after you’ve unlocked all your stat points. Once the training wheels are off, you can focus on acing its more advanced mechanics and maintaining long combos to rack up huge multipliers for your high score. It’s also essential to unlock all the stat points if you ever plan to graduate to online play.
I was concerned that I’d get bored of zooming around the same maps over and over again, but THPS1+2’s levels are so well designed that there’s always something new to learn. These zones are shiny new versions of the original arenas players have already spent countless hours grinding around, and they’re still just as welcoming for new players.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 may be a remake, but it feels right at home in 2020. It delivers a heavy dose of nostalgia for hardcore fans, even taking care to integrate mechanics that many will recognise from later games in the series, such as reverts and wallplants. This isn’t just for the first wave of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater fans though. I can spend hours practicing linking reverts into manuals without getting tired.