Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 (PS4) - ReviewChris Matulich , posted on 13 October 2015 / 5,942 Views
Tony and his skating buddies were a huge part of my formative years. Countless hours were spent in my basement with a couple of friends playing split screen, trying to pull those million point tricks off in the warehouse of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 & 2. THPS 3 was one of my first obsessions with online multiplayer on consoles, where munchkin-sized skaters ruled the parks and pulled off impossible combos.
Then the series took a tremendous plunge down the toilet, with each subsequent release being exponentially worse, culminating in the abysmal peripheral-based titles Ride and Shred. Enter a much-welcomed hiatus that was briefly interrupted by the HD remake of THPS 1 & 2. Now, just a couple months before Activision's license on the Tony Hawk brand is due to expire, Robomodo has brought the Tony Hawk namesake to the current generation of consoles with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5, hoping for a return to form as well as popularity for the series. It's unfortunate, then, that Robomodo is incredibly off the mark for the third time in as many games.
In the past, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was always known to have a great soundtrack, but when I first popped THPS 5 into my PS4 I knew right away that something was off. Instead of being serenaded by the awesome Superman by Goldfinger or Ace of Spades by Motorhead (just two selections from the fantastic soundtracks of previous titles), I heard screaming. I heard whining. I heard dubstep. I don't mind any of those genres of music, but these songs aren't exactly shining examples of a great soundtrack - quite the opposite with their overly generic sound.
From a total of 32 different bands/artists I only recognize five, and even then not all five are even decent songs. The music doesn't help to fuel the skateboarding action, instead it detracts from the experience since you can't even skip tracks to find the select few that actually feel like they belong in a Tony Hawk game. I know THPS has always exhibited new or upcoming artists, but the ones included this time around just don't do the series justice, even in its current hollow form.
When THPS 5 was initially released, it came with a day one update that was bigger than the game itself. The game was a mess and looked as though it was months from an official release. Glitches happened fairly frequently when hitting corners or walls, and worst of all skateboards didn't even come close to touching the ground. The update made necessary improvements so that the makings of a decent game started to take shape.
THPS 5 forgoes many of the changes that took place when the “Pro Skater” term was dropped from the series. Instead the game sticks with the skateboarding basics - grinding, kickflipping, manualing, and air grabbing. In order to get more points or complete certain objectives, comboing tricks is necessary so that you can get the point multiplier as high as possible.
While the game - post-patch - is adequate in its mechanics for the most part, some oddities remain. When using the grind button in the air, it begins to slam you down to the ground, rather than causing your skater to gracefully ride a rail. Pressing the button too early in the air can ruin a giant combo, rather than allowing you to prepare for the next grind so that you can keep the combo going. It becomes overly frustrating during later levels, as trying to reach scores upwards of two or three million without an extremely large part point multiplier is impossible, and the grinding shenanigans can frequently cause problems.
There are also occasional hiccups when inputting tricks in quick succession, particularly after the special meter is activated, where the trick won’t register or it’ll happen too late and make you fall. While these problems definitely cause some frustration, the game can still be fun and pulling off huge combos is very satisfying, even if it does become overly repetitive
THPS 5 comes with eight levels created by Robomodo, as well as a create-a-level editor and the ability to play levels created by other players. Besides a couple of the later stages by Robomodo, the base levels are generally boring, feeling more like rehashes of those found in previous games. Most stages consist of a single one giant room, and it doesn't help that four of the eight stages are also the templates for the level editor, so even when someone comes up with a unique grinding or ramp section, It doesn't feel all that different.
The official levels, like the rest of the game, are simply rushed, no matter how Robomodo or Activision want to spin it. If you announce a game at E3 to be released just four months later, and your initial test footage looks archaic, you should expect a problematic game. I know the license was due to expire at the end of the year but pushing a game out because of this only further tarnishes the Tony Hawk franchise.
At first glance, the missions for each level seem to be varied, as there are numerous different types of objectives. However, rather than getting creative and making missions more intuitive, each level showcases basically the same eight missions that focus on performing combos for points or performing combos to collect items around the stage. One mission actually allows you to shoot lasers from the skateboard when you kickflip, but this has a gimmicky vibe.
The first impression of the mission structure is good, but once you need to move around more and the time limits decrease, it becomes more frustrating than enjoyable. While this isn't much different from other Tony Hawk games, those other Tony Hawk games - least the first three ones - were much more enjoyable, and skating around each level getting as many points as possible didn't feel boring.
The level editor is one of the better parts of the game, but it’s not without its own problems. Within each template you can choose to create a small, medium, or large map, which gives access to more areas within each map. This allows for more complex levels with a vast amount of options, so it's possible to create levels than are better than Robomodo's offerings, but the search system for player creations is atrocious and is based on a “Like” system that is highly ambiguous.
After finishing someone else's level, you’ll be able to say if you Liked or Disliked it, as well as say if it’s Boring or Complex, and so on. Clearly not many people bother to rate levels, as I couldn’t find any with more than a couple of likes. Awful sorting system and dull templates aside, however, the level editors is one of the game's highlights and allows you to get really creative.
Though there are problems all round, THPS 5's most glaring issue may be its visuals. Character models hold very little detail, the textures are bland, and lighting causes shadows to create a slight ice skating affect between the skateboard and pavement. It's as though you're skating through Rock Band the universe - some of the characters are almost spitting images of the instrument-playing avatars, complete with all the same proportions and that elongated art style.
There are only eight skaters to choose from, however you can customise the appearance of any skater, including with much of the funky apparel from previous games. I liked being able to play as Tarzan wearing an astronaut helmet or an alien with hideously long arms as much as the next Tony Hawk fan, but the appeal doesn't last very long and I wish there were some more interesting options.
If anyone thought that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 was going to be any good they were wearing some serious nostalgia glasses. The E3 reveal was downright awful, and the game hasn't improved much since, even with a gigantic day one patch. If you really need some THPS action, wait a couple of months until the price drops even further, as it already has been cut to $50. Seriously, don't spend more than $30 on this game.
This review is based on a retail copy of Tony Hawk\'s Pro Skater 5 for the PS4