Version tested: PS4
Also available On PS3, X360, XB1
Genre: Extreme Sports
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is not what you think it is. Even though the classic franchise has mostly returned to its roots, don’t expect to fall in love with THPS all over again — because chances are you’ll want to bail after an hour of playing it.
One of the most noticeable aspects about THPS 5 is the absence of developer Neversoft, who helped shape the skating game we all came to know and love. Neversoft was able to create a franchise that allowed gamers to feel that anyone could be a skateboarder. THPS offered a colorful twist to skateboarding that included exaggerated physics, colorful levels and single player game modes with a simple enough progression that didn’t make the entire experience feel like a grind.
Unlike its predecessors, THPS 5 is devoid of any sort of personality. Instead, you’re left in a big, empty warehouse with other gamers skating aimlessly around you. You don’t care about them. They don’t care about you. Developer Robomodo expects you to figure it all out.
When the game starts, players get access to skaters Tony Hawk, Riley Hawk, Andrew Reynolds, Nyjah Huston, Aaron Homoki, Ishod Wair, Lizzie Armanto, Chris Cole, David Gonzalez and Leticia Bufoni. Tony and Andrew are the only returning characters from the THPS franchise. Every skater has customizable stats and outfits. Players can acquire cash, stat points and level-ups by completing missions and map objectives. Once the skater is selected, players have access to THPS maps, which are based on eight real-world locations, or user-created maps. From there, players can progress through each map by playing single player or multiplayer.
Players have an online free mode where they can skate and compete with other skaters. The idea behind the free mode is to have an audience when players perform cool skateboarding tricks, but therein lies the problem: Robomodo assumes other people will care enough about your skateboarding prowess to stop playing the game and watch in awe. That’s not how Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 works at all. When playing online, the framerate drops significantly and the choppiness cannot be avoided — regardless of Internet connection quality.
The first thing I noticed about THPS 5 was the unusually drab graphics. In terms of hardware, we’ve come a long way since 1999 when the original THPS made its debut for the PlayStation. While it’s understandable that Robomodo wanted to go back to basics with their stages and character models, it appears they did so at the expense of quality. The levels are supposedly based on real-world locations, but there’s very little variety between locations. Every level feels like a desolate, empty sandbox that entices players to skate around aimlessly, searching for the letters that make up the word SKATE, and cursing loudly when they’re unable to spell out “KOMBO” with tricks.
There are a few quarter pipes here, few quarter pipes there; some railing to grind to and some walls to ride on. There are not many obstacles to overcome. Once the player completes all the level objectives and obtains all the stars for missions, there is no incentive to revisit the level. Robomodo assumes that level design is about meeting the bare minimum and that players aren’t interested in anything more than that.
I could not get past the glitches, whether I was playing online or offline. Fortunately, in the world of downloadable content and patch updates, the developers of THPS 5 were able to fix some of them in the form of a day one patch. However, the patch was noticeably larger than the game itself at seven gigs. Even after I downloaded the patch, my skater clipped through maps, fell into oblivion while a soundtrack of uninspiring punk rock played on. I watched as my skater’s face, which looked like it was hastily glued onto a character model rendered in the 1990s, turn into a chaotic pixel-riddled mess. When my skater character “slammed” down on the ground — something apparently marketed as a “feature” for this game — he would freeze and showed no signs of being defrosted unless I switched to another game mode. When I was lucky enough to complete a mission, the game would kick me back to online free mode and I would have to restart offline mode again. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I was playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 or a drunken fan-made remake of the original game that possessed none of Neversoft’s zany charm.
The actual gameplay is similar to THPS 5’s predecessors. Players can jump, flip their boards, hold their boards, spin, execute manuals, grind and ride the walls. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but there’s no innovation behind those mechanics. Unlike the previous THPS titles, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 severely lacks gameplay that flows from one trick to the next. When players were first introduced to the series, there was a consistency that made executing high-scoring combos seem like a breeze. Robomodo has made THPS’ simple mechanics more complicated. Jumps feel rigid. Jumping to a rail feels more strenuous than it should be. Players feel obligated to slam down on the rail instead of merely jumping onto it, which repeatedly disrupts the flow of the game. I remember stopping so much to slam down that I completely lost any motivation to finish any objective I was aiming for.
I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this game to anyone. I was left with the impression that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is an unfinished, if not rushed game. More could have been done to improve the game’s overall quality, level design, and fluidity between game modes. It’s like Tony Hawk told Robomodo, “Look, I’m tired of these video games. Let’s wrap it up, pack our bags, and never speak of this again.” Once you realize THPS 5 is being sold for $60, you’ll come to the conclusion that $60 for pre-roasted fire kindling is outrageously expensive.