Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 (Xbox One Review)
Amongst the remakes and remasters of current gen there lurks a reboot, a revitalisation of a once dead gaming giant and that giant’s name is Tony Hawk. Both large in leg and expectations Tony Hawk has idly pushed his way back in to the limelight with as much power as an ageing skater dragging with him the burden of stardom and arthritic knees. That is to say, there is a dead weight rolling onwards flipping their last trick.
Those familiar with Tony Hawk games will remember Robomodo as both the desecrater and saviour of the franchise with their peripheral based entries to the series and then more latterly the HD remake that received such acclaim. Robomodo’s HD remake was a shining beacon for all those 90s kids that had a penchant for extreme sports and arcade style controls. Needless to say THPS HD was an excellent return to form, but alas it was an accidental miracle that the developers once famed for trying to make you skate in your living room with plastic cheaper than the cards you undoubtedly forced your parents to use buying those horrible commodities.
It is with a heavy heart that I say Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 reminds me of the good old days, in fact it makes me pine for them. The fluid controls, excellent execution, and better graphics of the playstation 2 and even last gen’s games leave you questioning if THPS 5 was actually found in some dusty old cupboard in Activision and wiped down, spruced up, and touted as a next gen game. God knows it feels like it.
Graphically Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is an eye sore, jarring models flail incessantly as their textures fail to load, or even worse slowly focus in to show just how poorly aged our beloved lanky skater has become. As the release of THPS 5 drew closer there appeared to be a last minute change in direction for the art style, moving from terrible imitations of photo realistic skaters to terrible imitations of photo realistic skaters hidden behind an almost cell shaded coat of paint. To add insult to injury Robomodo have even added particle effects, as if flashy lights and quirky respawn sparks will detract from how truly awful the visual style turned out. Even the HUD is poorly designed and jarring, on occasion goals will not scale properly and text will overlap the required score for the mission you undertake or there obviously poorly scaled shoulder buttons will pop up and remind just how little effort went in to the visual fidelity of THPS 5.
When you managed to recover from the initial eye sore that THPS 5 calls graphics you can choose one of the remaining skaters from a long line of up and coming skaters and golden oldies; ranging from Tony Hawk to Riley Hawk and even Lil Wayne. Although there is no sign of Chad Muska, Mike V, Bam Margera, or Rodney Mullen. They have probably acted like rats fleeing a sinking ship and left those stupid enough to remain behind, drowning in stat points and sick combos. Fortunately there is a moderately decent amount of customisation available, so no matter who you are stuck with there is the ability to switch out their board, change their head, and dress as a caveman. Although there are countless other entries in the long history of Tony Hawk games that have done customisation way better, and that includes THUG. There is however King from King’s Quest as a guest character, you know how everyone loves King, right?
So you’ve forced yourself to pick a skater, customised them accordingly and now you are set to actually play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. As you progress in to the tutorial you will begin to realise there is most assuredly something off. The feeling is all wrong, mainly thanks to the new slamming mechanic which allows skaters to descend faster by tapping/holding the grind button in mid air. This new addition not only breaks the game at points but directly impacts on the game itself, instead of the quaint magnetic pull of rails the skater now slams down to earth upon pressing the grind button and in turn drastically messes with the games collision detection. At times you will hit a rail and the grind will abruptly stop and others will result in your skater ragdolling like those countless funny THPS 5 videos kicking about. Once you do get to grips with the game you will notice a distinct lack of grounded tricks and old school shenanigans, presumably Mike V and Rodney Mullen took that with them, leaving only manuals and wall plants/rides. That being said many of the old mechanics do remain and when the game isn’t dropping more frames than the Tony Hawk series will be sponsors there is a great sense of nostalgia in over the top combos and tricks.
Unfortunately Tony Hawk’s Pro skater 5 is more than just combos, there are also countless missions and levels to toy around in. Each of the 8 levels, levels that Robomodo were obviously aiming for your nostalgia with their rehashed versions of older levels and design. These levels have; items to collect or knockover, a hidden DVD, a hidden tape, 1 x S-K-A-T-E objective, countless missions, and one C-O-M-B-O objective. Unlike the older games all these are not bundled in to one concise 2 minute run, instead the missions are all individual placers that require activation and the rest all belong in a free play type mode inhabited by up to 20 equally let down skaters in funny outfits. The missions follow a very stale approach with countless forced quirky missions about knocking balls out of pools or picking up whatever item may be related to the stage while comboing alongside your usual high score and combo orientated goals. There are even race, but they pose little to no challenge. Once you have achieved a sick score in all of the missions you also unlock PRO goals in each level, but they are usually just more difficult versions of previous missions and by the time you unlock them – if you unlock them- you are so bored/heartbroken that to force another hour of gameplay in might genuinely ruin extreme sports games for the rest of your life. There isn’t even a simple way to navigate these maps, after you complete a level and unlock the next you are required to exit right back out to the main menu and go through all the screens again. There is also a map maker that works much like the older games, and bless you if you enjoy the game enough to spend countless hours to create levels to randomly bail on or make bowls shaped like cocks in.
The one saving grace of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is the soundtrack. Like all good Tony Hawk games there is an excellent blend of punk, rock, and hip hop. One moment you will have Royal Blood and the next you will find yourself swooning to the upbeat punk vibe of Cloud Nothings followed by the excellent flow of Connie Price and the Keystones. Even with a soundtrack this good there had to be a bit of taint there. For some unexplained reason some of the audio will skip and stutter as you play, on the Xbox One at least, it’s hard to replicate but it happens far too often to give this excellent collection the platform it needs. In fact this soundtrack is so good that I wrote the review to it while sitting in the THPS 5 menus. So there is that.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was meant to be a joyous release, it represented a time it was cool to say sick and rad. A time when you were younger and your biggest worry was if your jeans were too baggy and if your new vans matched that flannel shirt you love. Instead it reminds you of the harsh reality that nothing good lasts forever and you should have probably spent that hard earned £40 on something else. It is buggy, it has horrible frame rate issues, and worst of all it takes cherished childhood movies and pisses all over them. If you were looking for a fun extreme sports game then go to your local CeX or Game and pick up Amped 3 and an Xbox 360, it will probably cost the same.
This copy was received a day early in the post and was based off the day one patch of the game.