In August of 1999, Activision released a skateboarding game with an arcade-like experience endorsed by professional skater Tony Hawk. The game was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, which became an absolute hit and quickly considered an instant classic that still resonates with gamers today. Not only did the game spawn many equally amazing sequels, it also spawned a whole sub-genre of extreme sports titles that flooded the market in the 5th and 6th generation of gaming. Once we reached the 7th generation with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, the genre started to fizzle out and Tony Hawk’s annualized releases were increasingly becoming worse and worse until Activision closed shop on the series after 2010’s poorly received Tony Hawk Shred. Five years later, Activision gives the series another go by returning to the series’ classic arcadey roots with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5.
I was personally thrilled when I caught wind of a new game in the Pro Skater series that would return to the classic gameplay of the original 4 titles. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 is easily one of my top ten favorite games of all-time that I still pop in and play to this day. I stuck with the series up until Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland (released on the Xbox, PS2, Gamecube and Xbox 360) and gave up once the series’ quality started to roll faster downhill. A return to form was exciting for me and I was ready to jump back in and pull off massive combos in goofy stages all over again.
Unfortunately for fans of the series, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 isn’t quite the game that we were hoping for. Developer Robomondo who created the two hated Tony Hawk Ride titles were at the helm this time around, so fans were already stressing over the quality of this title. Once gameplay and screenshots were revealed, Pro Skater fans began to sweat a bit more over the poor graphics and art style assigned to the game for a set of new generation consoles. The dreams of how amazing this series would look running on a PS4 or Xbox One were quickly shot down once we caught a glimpse of this game. As soon as we received gameplay footage from the finished build, gamers began to write the game off altogether due to poor performance and an over abundance of glitches.
Since I’m such a fan of the series, the outrage over Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 didn’t stop me from giving the game a try. I was eager to pop the game into my console and give it a fair shot. From what I found personally, the outrage is a little over exaggerated but overall the game is in pretty poor quality.
Let’s start by going into what Robomondo achieved with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. First off, the game’s mechanics feel very natural to those of us who played the original games. Unlike the HD remake that released digitally a few years ago, the controls, physics and movement are just as I remembered. I jumped right into the first level and my skills instantly returned as I began playing the game; it felt as if I never left the series. The only negative with the controls is a new move that makes your skater stomp on the ground while in the air. Stomping is achieved by tapping the grind button while in the air. I felt this move was fairly useless and would mess up my combos while I attempted to hit grind rails.
The soundtracks were always a strength of the Pro Skater which actually introduced me to several bands that I love today — THPS5 is no exception. I really enjoyed the majority of the tracks included in the game and every tune that came through my speakers fit the series like a glove.
Robomondo threw in a lot of Pro Skater elements into the stages that fans will instantly recognize. Collecting five S-K-A-T-E letters makes a return along with collecting the C-O-M-B-O letters in one combo, seeking out and collecting multiple objects and finding the hidden tapes. Score attacks in a 2 minute time limit also makes its return to Pro Skater 5. Players will feel right at home once they’re dropped into the game for the first time and will know exactly what needs to be done.
Now let’s look into what went wrong with Pro Skater 5, which is sadly a much larger list than the elements that Robomondo knocked out of the park (pun totally intended). One of my favorite features out of the Pro Skater series is the ability to create your own skater. I would spend hours coming up with cool characters that resembled myself and my friends in each game. Naturally, I was excited to do the same in Pro Skater 5. Welp, unfortunately for me, a create-a-skater feature was completely omitted from this game. The only thing players can do that even resembles this lost feature is to pick a pro skater, change out the head and torso, and you’re done. This style of creating a skater is less than ideal, boring and ultimately makes Pro Skater 5 lose a lot of its fun, appeal and replay value.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was always known for its wacky, imaginative level design that resembled real life locations but with a bit more humor thrown into the mix. Developer Robomondo attempts this same style of level design but fails miserably. Each level is small, boring and lacks imagination. All of the stages feel like a shells of former stages found in previous titles but with all of the fun sucked out of them. There isn’t an ounce of creativity in these levels and as a result each one of them just isn’t particularly fun or interesting to explore.
The missions included in each stage also drag Pro Skater 5 down. A list of missions are included in each stage that requires the player to complete in order to unlock the next stage. Each mission has three goals that must be achieved that will each earn the player a star. The goal is to get three stars in each mission in order to complete 100% of the stage. Completing each of these missions is a huge chore since most of them are repetitive and boring. All of this makes sloging through Pro Skater 5 not nearly as enjoyable as previous titles.
One thing Robomondo tried to do is to use the strengths of the console’s online networks to populate other players into the game while the player is progressing through the stages. Each time the player jumps into a stage, other online players will be added to a freeskate mode along with you. Once the player is dropped in with random skaters, you can take on missions co-operatively with other players or hop into competitive multiplayer modes. The online integration sounds great in theory, but unfortunately the online skaters are kind of useless in freeskate mode and include no real way to interact with one another. Attempting to join missions or multiplayer games with players in your lobby will require you to keep exiting and entering back into the lobby with long load times that disjoint the whole experience. The biggest bummer is that the two best multiplayer modes, Horse and Graffiti, are completely absent. I would much rather just play by myself instead.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 includes eight stages along with a return of the create-a-park feature that lets players design their own skateparks and share them online. All eight stages are short and unsatisfying while the create-a-park mode is full of glitches. The majority of the goofy glitches you may see online are a result of players playing in a custom skatepark. Create-a-park is an unfinished mess that many players will abandon once they try it, so jumping online and playing other created parks instantly loses its appeal. Aside from completing all eight stages with every pro skater and maxing out their stats, the replay value crashes and burns in this game which decreases the value of Pro Skater 5 greatly. Don’t forget that this game retails at $60; a poor decision by Activision.
Performance is typically solid with a framerate of 60fps… most of the time. There are moments in a few stages where the framerate drops dramatically once the player reaches certain points of the map. Luckily these performance drops didn’t hurt the gameplay too much for me. Due to the overly glitchy create-a-park mode, performance ruins the entire experience. The audio quality, while decent, lacks the punch that games like EA’s Skate series includes. Thankfully the soundtrack still works well. Menus are slow and many actions that players may want to swap to quickly, like upgrading a skater or switching a level, requires the player to completely exit the game back into the main menu in order to accomplish. Don’t forget to set aside a good amount of time once you first pop the disc into your console; an 8GB day one patch is required in order to get the game in any sort of playable state.
I guess the ultimate question is this: Is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 an enjoyable experience? Sort of. The game still plays well and feels familiar. The ability to have fun is still there. What kills the experience is the poor level design, lack of a create-a-skater mode, the undercooked park creator tools and the bland mission design. The $60 price point is far too much to ask for a game that lacks so much of what made the series special. I could easily see this game being buried at the bottom of the bargain bin by the time Christmas rolls around.
Veterans of the series may still get some enjoyment out of the game, but it depends on how strong your love and nostalgia for the series really is. I would say that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is better than the crap we received in the series during the last generation, but putting the game next to the original THPS all the way up to American Wasteland — Pro Skater 5 is easily the worst of the bunch. Be leary of a purchase and rent this game if possible. If you must own it, wait until it hits $20 or less and maybe fans can scratch the Pro Skater itch without feeling too much remorse.
Final Score: 5/10
- Physics are controls are just as you remembered.
- Soundtrack is fairly solid.
- Lack of a real create-a-skater hurts.
- Glitchy park creator is annoying.
- Online integration feels rather useless.
- Level and mission design is boring.
(Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was reviewed with a copy of the Playstation 4 version)