We Asked A Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater Pro How To Combo Like A Beast

Screenshot: Vicarious Visions / Activision
Screenshot: Vicarious Visions / Activision

There are people out there who don’t play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater like you and me. Where I’m happy with barely reaching the high-score goals on each level, more serious players have been pushing the limits of the series to rack up millions (and sometimes billions) of points for years. With the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, I reached out to one of the remaster’s more prolific high-score achievers to learn their secrets.

We got our first taste of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 through a pre-release demo, which allowed players to try the game in two-minute sessions with the Warehouse level. While there wasn’t much there for a goal-oriented player like myself, points-focused players quickly set about stringing together huge combos and racking up massive scores before the full game was even available. That’s how I became acquainted with prevzzy, whose videos began to spread on social media as excitement for the remasters grew.

Prevzzy, reached via email, told Kotaku that they got their start pursuing high scores in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. “When I realised that the more tricks you do in one combo the more points you get, that quickly became my only goal in this game. That’s mostly because I couldn’t understand any in-game goal that there was to complete, because the game was all in English and I’m not a native speaker. I remember I got a million-point combo once just by going around the level in one combo. I guess that was my first-ever high score.”

Prevzzy would eventually move onto Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, meeting several like-minded individuals through that game’s online modes. When the servers shut down, the community moved to third-party alternatives like OpenSpy and THUG Pro, a popular mod that adds every level from previous entries in the franchise to the Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 engine, complete with online play. After years of learning the art of the high score, prevzzy released their first video in 2009.

“When I started playing online and got matched with players way better than me, I just tried to copy whatever they were doing,” prevzzy said. “I would also look for combo videos on YouTube and try to copy those. I was completely blown away with how many points people were getting. To this day I think that trying to copy lines and tricks of better players, as good as you can, is the best way to progress. After some time, I eventually started getting these kinds of combos myself.”

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater high scores, prevzzy explained, are the result of meticulous planning. Rather than improvising like a real skater might, high-score players focus on developing “lines,” or paths through levels that allow them to continue combos indefinitely. These lines are optimised to rack up as many tricks and multipliers as possible while also keeping grind and manual time to a minimum to avoid having to maintain the balance bar, which more often than not is what wrecks long combos.

I always assumed special moves — big tricks like the 900 that require building a special metre and more complicated inputs — would form the basis of high-score runs, but prevzzy said that’s not the case. Spins are often more important than the actual tricks, as each 180 degree turn increases a move’s point total. From there, it’s really about squeezing as many tricks and spins as possible into whatever airtime you’re able to get and finding a way back to the beginning of the line you created.

“Either way, your route back has to be optimised in such a way that you use as little grind and manual as possible,” prevzzy added. “You want it to stay manageable for as long as possible. That’s why no one ever uses special manuals or special grinds in high-score runs. If you wanted to really capitalise on doing a special manual or grind, you would need to hold it for probably around 20 seconds, which basically means destroying your balance. Furthermore, you could get the same amount of points in around three seconds with spinning air specials.”

As the newest game in the series, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 has attracted serious attention from high-score players, with one interesting caveat that goes against the community’s own rules about landing combos. Getting on the remaster leaderboards is about landing your big combos, while the high-score scene never really considered that an important part of the process. Some of the biggest combos in history, like the 37-minute, 12.7 billion point monster below, actually ended in wipeouts.

“The point was not to land, but to go for an absolute maximum you could get out of the combo and therefore no one ever considered landing it on purpose,” prevzzy said. “Bailing or landing essentially meant the same exact thing: failing to keep your combo. The only thing that would change was the colour of your score at the bottom of the screen, but that wouldn’t make these scores irrelevant.”

This, prevzzy continued, is a good mindset to adopt if you’re trying to improve your scores.

“Even if you are in a terrible situation that would need some really risky move to keep your combo alive there is always a chance you pull it off and your combo will continue,” prevzzy explained. “If you’re trying to get higher combos, just never land on purpose and always try to save your combos from ending. Only this way you will get used to adapting to random situations while still maintaining your combo.”

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 has contributed to an explosion in high-score videos. Players like Bullet SiN, idunno, andyTHPS, and drthps regularly share their best runs, but more importantly, are also doing a lot to teach new players how to develop lines and improve combos.

While the game’s online mode may be lacking — prevzzy specifically called out missing features like text chat during our conversation — developer Vicarious Visions’ nailing of the core gameplay means players new and old are getting back into the series, and high-score veterans are doing a lot of work to make sure they stick with it long after the official level goals have been completed. As always, this comes down to a matter of love for the games rather than any potential monetary gains.

“I think that most people will agree that it’s easily the best Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater since American Wasteland,” prevzzy said. “I’m just really glad that my favourite game series is finally alive again.”

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