120fps is a game-changer for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 on PS5 and Xbox Series consoles
All the upgrades tested.
We've been massively enthusiastic about Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 in the past - Vicarious Visions revamped and modernised a brilliant game for PC, PS4 and Xbox One consoles while retaining the core genius of its original incarnations. It's one of John Linneman's top games of 2020 and I'm happy to report that the next generation update for the game is highly impressive - though the upgrade process itself could be better, and if you've already bought it, Activision wants more of your money for the latest rendition of the code. The good news is that the upgrades themselves are excellent - at least in our experience.
With that said, it seems that some users have had issues and we're not entirely sure why, as we didn't encounter any problems with the game during testing. Maybe the fact that we were given specific Xbox Series and PlayStation 5 review codes allowed us to side-step some of the problems others are facing - no upgrade was needed, no existing code was sat on our hard drives - but the fact is that the game just worked with no problems in the time we spent with it. Your mileage may vary of course, but fingers crossed that any outstanding issues will be resolved sooner rather than later because whether you're gaming on PS5, Series X or Series S, the improvements are palpable.
At the core, THPS1+2 brings performance and fidelity modes to the table for all three consoles. I began by looking at Xbox Series S, stacking it up against Xbox One X. Graphics improvements are incorporated and that starts with improved temporal anti-aliasing, giving a much more stable image in motion and fewer untreated edges. Post-processing also gets a small revamp: some have noted black crush in the new version, but to my eyes, it seems to be a new colour grading set-up designed to give a punchier image. Bloom effects are heightened, light beams have higher visibility and shadow quality is also markedly improved.
In fidelity mode, THPS1+2 targets a 4K presentation on Series X and PS5 consoles, with only slight evidence of any dynamic resolution scaling. It is there, but it's not particularly noticeable in motion. The game is effectively identical on both consoles, and I only noted some curious changes to shadow distance on both machines - neither of which can be said to have any kind of real advantage. Xbox Series S operates at a dynamic 1440p and shifts in resolution are a touch more noticeable: it seems to operate in a circa 1260p to 1440p DRS window. Performance is basically a locked 60fps on all platforms, with just the odd single frame dip recorded (but not exactly noticeable in play) on the Xbox consoles. It's a superb experience overall, though the only upgrade that really makes a genuine difference in play is the improved anti-aliasing. I'd say that Xbox Series S looks better than Xbox One X here, despite the notionally less powerful GPU.
Performance mode is the star attraction though, allowing all three of the new machines to run the game at 120 frames per second. Looking at PS5 and Series X, both target dynamic 1440p (even though some marketing from Activision pegs the PS5 rendition at 1080p120) with a 4K HUD. I don't actually own an HDMI 2.1 screen, so system level differences between Xbox and PlayStation manifest for me - on my Samsung NU8000, I can play at 1440p120 on Series X, but the output of PlayStation 5 takes a very similar image but downscales it to 1080p120. While DRS is apparently confirmed for the performance mode, 1440p does seem to be the output resolution for the majority of play. Xbox Series S? Again, DRS is in play but the visual adjustments are noticeable - we seem to be looking at a 720p to 900p resolution window here.
The good news is that performance is basically just as solid at 120Hz as it is at 60fps, apart from some very minor issues on PlayStation 5 and to a lesser extent on Series S. Xbox Series X provided the most consistent 120 frames per second experience in my testing - it's essentially locked. PlayStation 5 has very minor frame drops when select visual effects are in play (such as the rewind effect on the character after a fail) but it's very hard to spot in motion. I did test out the New York level for some time, as John noted some minor issues here on last-gen consoles. Series X passed with flying colours, while PlayStation 5 presented some minor issues - not a big deal, but noticeable. Series S essentially sits between the two consoles in performance terms.
All told, these minor dips are the exceptions that prove the rule. Whether you're choosing to play at 60fps and 120fps, it's a solid experience overall and I've got to say that the improvement in switching to performance mode is tremendous - I highly recommend it on all three consoles. My only real regret here is the lack of 1440p120 display support on PlayStation 5 - a system level feature that Microsoft has embraced, but Sony has not. Plenty of 1440p120 HDMI 2.0 screens are out there, while many 120Hz titles on consoles aren't running at native 4K anyway, meaning that a full-on upgrade to an HDMI 2.1 display isn't a must right now - I really hope to see some movement from Sony there.
The final point to raise concerns loading times. These weren't exactly problematic to begin with, but they're definitely improved significantly on the new wave of consoles. A level that took 14.5 seconds on Xbox One X takes four to five seconds on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles - the Sony machine is faster but only by less than a second. Interestingly, I found the new Xbox consoles to be virtually on par with my Core i9 10900K-powered PC running an NVMe drive with 3.5GB/s transfer speeds. Not exactly an essential upgrade then, but certainly nice to have. But really, the star of the show here is the new performance mode. THPS1+2 at 120 frames per second is simply brilliant. Hopefully the issues people are having in getting the game running correctly can be resolved quickly because the experience delivered by all of the next-gen consoles is simply first class.
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