Like many people barreling headlong towards their thirties like an out of control skateboarder heading towards an ill-timed stair rail grind, I’ve been playing a lot of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 this past week. Like, a lot.
Remasters/remakes on the scale of Tony Hawk’s run the risk of exposing your rose-tinted glasses to be a bit of a sham, but somehow the Pro Skater series feels as good now as it did 20 years ago, erasing the damage done by the accursed Pro Skater 5.
Far from being a straight-laced remake of the first two games, Pro Skater 1+2 incorporates gameplay elements that were introduced in later games, such as reverts, acid drops, spine transfers, wallplants and more, allowing for a more rewarding game as a result. It’s a celebration of how the series got its big break, while acknowledging the progress later entries in the series made. It’s fantastic stuff, honestly.
However, after about 4 hours with my Create-A-Skater’s Career Mode, I’d 100%’d each level in terms of goals and collectible stat points. Sure, there’s more to do, like find all the collectibles and complete the Career Mode with some actual pro skaters, but I can’t be the only one who’s longing for some additional levels, right? Maybe this is just me being a little bit greedy, but here’s some levels that I’d like to see added to the game in the future.
Yes, I’m proposing DLC in an Activision game, I’m aware that’s like turkeys voting for Christmas.
Airport – THPS 3
We’re kicking things off with the THPS 3 levels first, as they’re the most likely to be updated when compared to the other levels. Pro Skater 3 still followed the same 2:00 minute run formula, meaning they’d require the least work to update. Don’t get me wrong, they’d still be a massive undertaking, but adapting levels from later in the series would be more of a pain, as they’d require brand new goals and likely a few reworks to boot.
All that being said, let’s talk about Airport, which followed the same linear level design as maps like Downhill and Mall, which were pretty much abandoned by the series going forward. While normal Tony Hawk’s levels allow for a more freeform combo development, the linear levels present a more technical challenge: can you make it to the bottom in one combo? Personally, I like Airport more than Downhill and Mall as well, as those too levels are a bit too narrow for my tastes. Airport has more room to play with.
Los Angeles – THPS 3
From Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 onwards, Neversoft’s level design seemed to better emphasise discovery. A couple of choice grinds here and there were enough to unlock brand new areas, such as the Opensezume Rail in School 2 to unlock the gym, or the falling pole in Philly that unlocks the skate park. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 built on that premise more with some levels, but none emphasised that more than Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles level was similar to other metropolitan areas in the Tony Hawk’s series, with plenty of verticality, grinding opportunities and lots of conveniently placed half-pipes. On top of that, you could channel the power of skating to cause an earthquake, because yeah, sure. By grinding specific rails, you’d trigger an earthquake that would drastically change the level, unlocking new areas and combo opportunities. Honestly, I’d just love to see that transformation on modern consoles.
Suburbia – THPS 3
If Vicarious Visions ever felt like producing seasonal content for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, the Suburbia level would make for a great Halloween drop. You might be forgiven for thinking that Suburbia is just a nice gated community, but there’s pumpkins everywhere, a haunted house that looks like the Addam’s Family household, and an ominous looking Thin Man wielding an axe. Plus, if Get Out taught me anything, it’s that gated communities aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
As for the level itself, it’s a collection of haunted house secrets, backyard pools and skate parks, and the opportunity to kickflip over a plane. It’s an eclectic level, but some of the best Tony Hawk’s levels seem to have come about after chucking ideas at a wall and saying “yeah, that works”. Suburbia is no exception, and I’d love to see it brought up to modern day, even if it’s just to get answers on what happens if you jump through the open front door to the haunted house.
Japan – THPS 3
One of the bedrocks of early Pro Skater games were the competition levels, which were smaller in scale and didn’t focus on elaborate goals. Instead, players take part in 3 heats that last a minute, trying to accumulate the highest score possible without bailing. They’re a welcome change of pace from failing to find secret tapes and the like, and any DLC would be incomplete without one, so let’s talk about one of the best: Japan.
No matter whether you prefer grinds, vert tricks or flatland dominance, you’ll find your needs more than met with Japan’s combination of rails, billboards and half-pipes. While the level itself is great fun, the visuals are even more impressive. Japan pops with its colourful neon lights adorning every pipe and railing, making for a memorable park that would look brilliant on current platforms.
Canada – THPS 3
I’m a big believer in level variety being one of the most important aspects when it comes to choosing levels, and right now there’s no big snow level. You can see snow when you go for the secret tape in Hangar, but you spend the entire time cooped up inside performing 540 Benihanas over the top of a plane, so that doesn’t count. With that in mind, a trip to Canada would be in order.
For the most part, the Canada level features two typical aspects of any good Pro Skater levels: a car park and a skate park, complete with ramps and grinding opportunities across both areas. However, Canada really comes into its own in one corner of the map, set in a densely wooded area that features more areas above ground, a half-pipe dangled precariously over the edge of a cliff and the chance to bury a bully in snow. Good level, all round.
College – THPS 4
On to the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 levels, which were often a lot bigger with more varied goals, due to the fact you took on goals individually as you freely roamed through the levels. If these levels were to be DLC for the Career mode, they’d have to be adapted to the 2:00 minute formula, and considering how big the levels are, it might be rough trying to finish each goal in that time, but sod it. THPS 4 is up there as one of my favourites, College being a particular highlight.
With School and School 2 forming the bedrock of levels for the first two games in the series, it stood to reason that Tony Hawk’s first big formula shift saw the series head off to College. As the first level in the game, College has a bit of everything, including big half pipes, electric wires for some high grinds and a stadium atrium filled with football players looking to knock you on your ass. You can also use your skateboard to batter some frat boys, so that’s reason enough to include this level, right?
Alcatraz – THPS 4
So many tried to escape from Alacatraz that it’s a little bit ironic that I’d be looking for an opportunity to travel there, even if it’s only in video game form, but here we are. Still, the world’s most famous prison turned tourist attraction just happens to be one hell of a skate park, and as far as I’m concerned, one of the better levels of the entire series. I said it.
The Alcatraz level offers so many opportunities to play the game how you want to play it. The huge ramp leading up from the start of the level to the prison is a perfect manual challenge, while there’s a decent vert park towards the top of the hill. Couple that with some ridiculous goals, such as performing a flip over an active bulldozer or dunking 30 tourists into the water, and you’ve got yourself a brilliant level worth revisiting.
Zoo – THPS 4
The joy of skateboarding games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is the thrill that comes with being able to skateboard in areas where you’re not supposed to, and I’m pretty sure you’re not meant to skateboard around a zoo. One ill-timed grind and you’re at the mercy of whatever animals are in the pen you happened to fall into, which could either lead to cute pictures of you with seals or you becoming the subject of the next Harambe video. It’s one or the other.
Based on the London Zoo, Pro Skater 4’s Zoo level features a variety of enclosures that you can hit sick tricks on, including hippo and elephant exhibits, an aquarium and a lion cage. It’s a huge level, with plenty of things to see and do, which would make it a perfect addition to the game’s potential DLC line-up, but perhaps PETA would have something to say about a goal where you have to run into penguins so another keeper can capture them.
The mid-2000s were wild, huh?
Kona Park – THPS 4
It’d be remiss of me to create a wishlist of levels for a skateboarding game and not include an actual skatepark, so here’s Kona Park, which featured as part of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. Situated in Jacksonville, Florida, Kona is the oldest operating skate park in the world today, so it’s a place with plenty of history, not just within the world of Pro Skater. Seems like it’d be fitting to celebrate that in-game.
As for the park itself, due to the fact it’s actually a real park, you’re not going to be nailing some ridiculous airs over 16 cars and a magic hobo. Still, you do have to Ollie over the magic bum like you do in Venice Beach, so at least there’s some thematic link between the levels already on offer. Kona’s iconic snake run also presents a great chance to test your vert, manual and grind abilities in one go, which is always nice.
New Jersey – Tony Hawk’s Underground
When it comes to possible DLC levels coming to Pro Skater 1+2, I’d be completely shocked to see anything beyond Tony Hawk’s Underground, which offered the revolutionary ability to, get this, step off your board and walk. While it might sound counterintuitive for a skateboarding game, it allowed players to tackle levels in new ways, easily accessing harder to reach areas to better explore a level’s combo potential. Rejigging those levels to circumvent the fact there’s no “get off the board” mechanic might be a little too much work.
All that being said, I’d love to return to THUG’s New Jersey level. The opening section of the game’s Story mode, New Jersey is where our created skater’s tale began and ended, THUG 2’s ludicrousness notwithstanding. It’s where we tried to impress Chad Muska in the hopes of going pro, it’s where our friendship with Eric Sparrow blossomed, and ultimately where it disintegrated. Say what you want about other levels in the series, but for many, myself included, New Jersey is home.
In comparison to other levels in the series, New Jersey is barebones and ramshackle at best. Half-pipes are seemingly thrown together with plywood, Flex Tape and the dream of becoming a pro skater. It’s dirty and downtrodden, and the perfect starting point for a rag to riches story mode. While I’m not suggesting a full THUG remake (though I’m not not suggesting that either), a remade New Jersey level would be absolutely lovely. Couple it with a playable Eric Sparrow and that would print money for Activision, if only so people can torture Sparrow by throwing him off cliffs.
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