Here we are, nearly 16 years since the first Tony Hawk Pro Skater released. I played the game on my Playstation and it was the first time I had ever put a skateboard game on my top 10 games of that year (I am not forgetting Skate or Die, I just didn't make lists back then). I have always been a skater in real life until I got older and couldn't keep up with “those darn kids and their hover-boards”, but I never lost interest in the art of skateboarding and followed the series with every release it saw. And it is with a sad heart and a confused mind I type up this review with only really one question lingering in the back of my head this whole time, what the hell happened?
Tony Hawk Pro Skater first released back in the late 90s, since then it has seen numerous released, not only with a new number at the end of the title but also THPS titles such as, American Wasteland, T.H.UG, T.H.U.G. 2, Project 8 and Proving Ground the last being the final THPS game developed by Neversoft. After Neversoft was replaced by Robomodo the game started going downhill, literally, with lesser titles in the series such as Ride and Shred, it didn't even help when they re-released the classic in the form of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD back in 2012. Yet here we are, with another Robomodo developed THPS game, this time with the help of Disruptive Games, and it is probably the last time we will ever see a THPS game, at least on consoles.
If this is the direction the series is going I will join the lynch mob and agree with that decision as THPS 5 is a mess with a licences name slapped across it. I hate writing that, as a long time fan of the series, there was few people more excited for a numbered Tony Hawk game and about an hour in it started sinking in that this isn’t what I wanted at all. This isn’t even half of what I wanted, and I didn't hope they would reinvent the wheel with this release as it could have been a blueprint copy of the other THPS games and I would be satisfied, but all THPS 5 has left me feeling is, sad and confused, again, what happened?
When you take into consideration the developer that was the first warning right there, and this isn’t me trying to poke fun at Robomodo this is more me trying to understand the reason as to why they have been chosen once again to develop a Tony Hawk game when they seem to have released the least interesting once in the series, starting with Ride. But this might be a combination of less funding, a short development time or what I think is the real reason, the fact that Activisions license with Tony Hawk is running out and someone wanted to quickly cash in on the name before it was handed over to someone else. That’s not taking a dig at Activision either as most of the games I enjoyed this year has come from them, it is just my humble opinion on the matter as a long time fan of the series.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 goes back to the basics with the return of basic skating and tricks with no story mode or no plastic skateboards to go with it, I personally enjoyed the story modes in the games but I could do without the plastic gimmicks. You are set into a small confined space where numerous of arrows points you towards new goals. If you don't feel like skating up to them and holding down the square button you can just enter the options menu and pick a mission from there, simple, really simple.
The way the environments are structured also gives off warning signs and only increases my belief in the fact that this game has been rushed to get put out. The levels are put together in a way that seems more random than well thought out. Previous Tony Hawk games saw levels that you still remember to this day, and triggered events that called for hairpin precision while this release is more like a sandbox with a few jumps and some rails for you to try out, again disappointing and simple.
For some reason there is more loading in this game even though it doesn’t look like it would need it, at least not on a current-gen console. But the instant jumping into action is gone and is exchanged with waiting for a mission to start even though you just want to restart and try again which is weird.
Also different game mechanics have been tweaked and not for the better and the most stand-out one of them all in my mind is the fact that wall-rides are now automatically, no effort or challenge at all, you just run up to a wall, jump towards it in an angle and the game does the wall-ride for you. What is that? Why would you remove some of the gameplay elements that help made the franchise what it is today, Tony Hawk games used to be about skills and learning to master all of it if you wanted to have a chance to beat the game and now the game wants to do half the word for you. Also the special moves doesn’t require any skill at all because as soon as you fill up the special meter you click L1 and you can just go wild and the game helps you, holding your hand along the way. And whenever you slam there is a small standstill which if you have played a previous THPS game you know that speed and flow is what made those games so great. Why?
The customization option has to be unfinished as it took me forever to figure out how to customize a character. You have to go into the skater menu, pick a current skater and then mix and match faces, bodies and skateboards, that’s it. You start off with a few faces, some different body types and a slew of skateboards. One funny thing is however that the game doesn’t recognize if you put a male head on a female body so that’s what I did. I had a huge afro, a great moustache, a huge beard and a female tiny body. And when you go out of the customization option the picture of the dude/chick you customize doesn’t change and it still shows the picture and the skills of the pro skater. And Lil Wayne is in here.
The framerate is noticeable bad, the fact that you have to quit out to the main menu to change stages, the loading times, the lack of interesting scenarios and maps, the lack of interesting missions... I mean I could probably spend more time just digging into what is wrong with this game and if you have read any of my other reviews you know I always try to find something positive whenever I review what is considered a bad game but I cant seem to find anything at the moment, nothing. And as I have said numerous times during this review, I am a huge Tony Hawk Pro Skater fan and have been since the beginning but this is just sad. The only positive thing I can think of that Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 lets you do is put a male head on a tiny female body, that’s it.
I don't want this to be the last Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game as the series deserves something else, it cant go out like this. And Skate showed that there is room for skateboarding games to still be relevant today, skateboarding might not be as big as it was a few years back but it is still a huge industry and has a huge fan following, but nobody can tell a kid to buy this game and promise them they will enjoy it, I won't. But I want to show kids that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater used to have the best skateboard games out there, they used to be king of the hill, cream of the crop, and now we have Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 which is just a forgettable mess of a game, again, please do not let this be the last time we see a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Bring back Neversoft to life and lets make this happen for old time sake huh? Please.