A double dose of legendary skateboarding games is about to hit with the arrival of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2. STACK had a chat with Leo Zuniga, the game’s lead designer at Vicarious Visions, to learn more of what’s in store.
It’s fair to say that many fans have high expectations for these updated versions of two of the most revered skateboarding games of all time. Rather than feeling pressured, Zuniga believes that the weight of expectation inspired the developers to go that extra mile.
“We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to bring Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 to the fans and a new generation of players,” he tells STACK. “Many of us have a long history with the franchise and grew up with the game. Knowing that players around the world love the first two games, those expectations have driven us to create what we think is a really fun and faithful remastered experience. Getting the chance to bring back two iconic games has been an epic journey for our team, many of whom worked on the original titles back in the day!”
Working on these games has been a personal homecoming of sorts for Zuniga.
“My career in games started with the original game, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. 21 years ago, I worked at Activision as a game tester. I then joined Vicarious Visions to help out on the Game Boy Advance games. This game means a lot to me, and to our studio – we’re all fans of the franchise.”
Remakes and remasters have become big business, with many gamers craving updated versions of games that they grew up with. There can be a big difference in what we receive, though – some are simple graphical updates, while others are rebuilt from the ground up. This one lands in the latter camp.
“Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is a faithful remaster of the first two games in the series and includes all the original levels, modes, pro skaters, tricks, and many songs from the original soundtrack,” says Zuniga.
The keyword there is “faithful” – gamers demand that classic formulas aren’t messed with. Capturing everything that made the original games as popular as they are was a key aim for Vicarious Visions.
“’It feels like coming home’, that’s what we wanted our fans to feel when they play the game,” declares Zuniga. “It’s a saying we kept in mind as we made development decisions. We set out to capture the look and feel of the originals, and can’t wait for fans to get their hands on it and experience it all over again, or land some insane tricks for the very first time.”
So, we’re promised the best of both worlds – they’ll invoke memories of the classic games that we played in the day, but with current generation sensibilities, in particular in the graphics department. We strive for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 to be how our fans remember the game looking and feeling, but with all the features of a modern release: 4K resolution graphics and HDR support all running at 60 frames per second on supporting hardware and systems, alongside quality of life features.”
“It feels like coming home’, that’s what we wanted our fans to feel when they play the game.”
The Vicarious Visions team’s dedication to creating faithful updates had them regularly referencing the originals. For research, of course!
“Once we had our game up and running, we all started doing our favourite combos in the warehouse level, and they became benchmarks for us. Eventually we started doing side-by-side comparisons as we made improvements to handling and animations.”
Zuniga reiterates how critical keeping that original feel was to he and his team.
“It was really important for us to capture and retain all the elements that made the previous games so amazing. Players, new and old, get the chance to step on the board and relive a classic that’s loaded with new details, online multiplayer, and updated mechanics – all with stunning visuals and a killer soundtrack.”
Multiplayer is new to the original pair of games, and Vicarious Visions are delivering both split-screen couch co-op and online experiences.
“From day one, we knew we wanted to bring the couch co-op experience to the fans – get ready to throw your best scores at a match in HORSE mode! Online multiplayer became a key feature later in the franchise alongside modes such as Trick Attack, Graffiti, Combo Mambo, and others.”
These aren’t the only new additions for fans to get into.
“We’ve added in some fan-favourite features from across the franchise, including revert, wall plant, spine transfer and flatland tricks,” Zuniga enthuses. “There are new in-game challenges to complete, and Create-a-Park and Create-a-Skater modes are back. Players will be able to share their parks online with friends via their platform’s online gaming services and outfit skaters with new customisation options.”
“We’ve added in some fan-favourite features from across the franchise…”
While fans of the original are well catered for, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 will also be more welcoming than ever to newcomers.
“We’ve added features for new players such as a tutorial with individual lessons to practice, and game mods for players to enable features to help them on their journey to become a pro,” Zuniga tells us.
Catering for old and new even encompasses the in-game skating stars, with those from the originals bumping and grinding up against today’s brightest champs.
“They’re all back! Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Geoff Rowley, Bucky Lasek, Elissa Steamer, Kareem Campbell, Andrew Reynolds, Bob Burnquist, Chad Muska, Rodney Mullen and the rest of the pro skaters from the original two games are here, brought to life in high definition,” claims Zuniga. “Reflecting the current generation of skater pros, the remaster also features talent like Nyjah Huston, Leo Baker, Leticia Bufoni, Aori Nishimura, Lizzie Armanto, Riley Hawk, Tyshawn Jones and Shane O’Neill.”
Despite our prodding, Zuniga refuses to be drawn on having any particular favourites.
“Of course, I’m going to pick all of them, they each bring their own personalities and skills to skateboarding,” he says, diplomatically. “Seeing a recent clip of Kareem Campbell landing a 360 flip above the coping at The Berrics was just wild, and Elissa Steamer still out there filming and active in the skateboarding community is truly inspirational.”
While the developers are all up in their video game skateboarding, we wondered whether any of them got some real-life boarding action in during development.
“Many of us dusted off our skateboards and got some sessions in,” says Zuniga. “Some started riding for the first time, and the excitement around the studio was real.”
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is available September 4 on PS4 and Xbox One.
OLLIE! OLLIE! OLLIE! OI! OI! OI!
Top tunes have always been a massive part of the Tony Hawk’s games, and Zuniga assures us that Australia and New Zealand are well represented in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2.
“The remaster features the biggest artists from the original games, including Goldfinger, Rage Against the Machine, Bad Religion, Naughty by Nature, and Powerman 5000, alongside a host of today’s hottest and up-and-coming musicians across rap, rock, and punk. Australian and New Zealand acts CHAII, DZ Deathrays, Alex Lahey, Baker Boy and A. Swayze & the Ghosts are all on the roster to skate along to.”