It’s been a long, long time since a Tony Hawks’ Pro Skater game has arrived on the scene, with the last installment showing up over a decade ago. It’s been a long time coming, but Tony Hawk is ready to get the old band back together to bring the long-running series back to its roots. The series’ journey beyond the Pro Skater games has been a bumpy ride to say the least, but maybe this one can bring us all back to the good ‘ol days?
Well, not quite.
At its core, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is the game that anyone familiar with previous games in the franchise would expect. You are dropped into a series of different courses that are filled with all sorts of crazy obstacles for you to ollie, grind, manual and spin over. As always, you will also have to collect S-K-A-T-E and C-O-M-B-O letters, while also searching for hidden DVD and VHS tapes. However, the big difference this time is that the area you drop into contains live skaters who will occasionally slam into you and challenge you to a match. It’s basically this series’ answer to what From Software has been doing with the Souls series, but obviously not done as well.
Speaking of slam, Pro Skater 5 introduces a brand new mechanic to the series called Slamming. Slamming essentially allows you to quickly descend while being airborne, speeding up the gameplay a bit and also saving you from situations where you miss your jump and are spiraling towards a splat on the pavement. It’s pretty cool in the right situation, but there is a fatal flaw that has pissed off me and many other gamers. The slam mechanic is mapped to the triangle button, which is the same button that is used to grind. During times when you are zipping around at high speeds and are gearing up your next grind, you may sometimes slam instead and miss the rail you were aiming for. With some practice I was able to get used to this and avoid it from happening too often, but it’s still a pretty big annoyance that will be harder to deal with for some people.
Prior to the game’s release, several screenshots made the rounds that showed off some seriously unimpressive graphics, and I’m here to report that the game certainly isn’t up to snuff in the graphics department. The courses themselves are well-designed and look well enough in-motion, but it’s when you get up close and personal when you finally see the grim reality. Texture details are extremely poor, and the character models… oh my dear God. The skaters themselves all look like they’re in some sort of hypnotic state of suffering, and developer Robomodo’s attempt to mask their poor designs with more cartoon-ish graphics hasn’t really done anything to mask that.
It also doesn’t help that the game is pretty buggy. When I booted up my copy of the game I had to install a patch that was nearly 8GBs in size. This seems pretty big in its own right, but when considering the game itself is around 6-and-a-half GBs you suddenly realize that something is definitely wrong here. I’m not sure what exactly this humongous patch fixed, but lets just say there is a heck of a lot more that needs addressing. Load times pop up frequently, your skater will go flying in slow motion or pop through obstacles and textures will sometimes fail to load properly. A lot of this stuff can seem minor on the surface, but it all adds up and really takes away from the experience.
The courses themselves each feature a mission-based list of objectives for you to accomplish, which takes you out of the free-roam world with other skaters into your own little mission area. These missions will ask you to do things like reach a high score, grind a certain distance to get to a certain amount of points, destroy a certain amount of items and so on. A lot of it is very silly and has that Tony Hawk charm that we would all come to expect, but this mission structure does have some annoyances. Once you start a mission you can’t quit it directly, as you must instead wait for the time to run out. Also, the progress that you were making in the free roam area is erased each time you enter a new mission, which can be really friggin’ annoying when you were only one item away from breaking all of a particular level’s pizza boxes.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is the online mechanic, as the series is trying to take what games like Dark Souls and the like have been doing by incorporating a world that feels more alive. It’s pretty cool to skate around and have others right there with you and occasionally bumping into them for some pretty funny results. It’s a fun little diversion, but the full course meal is definitely the ability to compete with other skaters in various different modes. You can hop into the menu and select from a variety of different modes featured in the main missions, only this time you’ll be taking on real players. There are definitely still some connection issues with this aspect of the game, but when you can get a good match going against other skilled skaters it’s a lot of fun.
For those who like to create their own adventures, create-a-park mode has returned to allow you to make the skate park of your dreams. This is definitely the most robust version of the mode that the series has ever had, allowing gamers to place hundreds of different objects into parks of varying sizes. In my time playing around with this mode I was able to create a couple of pretty cool courses, though I admit that I’m not exactly all that skilled when it comes to designing courses. Thankfully, the game allows you to try out other skaters’ creations, and checking out what other people have come up with is a lot more fun. I can see this mode giving the game a lot of staying power going forward, as long as the community’s creative juices keep flowing.
While the customization with skate parks is impressive, it’s in the character customization where the game is a bit of a mixed bag. You can choose from a variety of different heads, bodies, boards and symbols and you’ll unlock a lot more to play around with, which allows you to create some pretty sweet skaters. You have everything from aliens, angry paper bags and skeletons to choose from, and even Octodad himself is unlockable. Where the problems with character customization comes into play is the stat progression, as it really doesn’t work at all. As you complete more challenges you’ll get points to increase you skaters stats; such as his speed, ollie height and balance. However, I dumped all of my stat points into a single category and did not see any change in at all. This makes the character progression aspect of the game completely broken, which is ridiculous.
For all of the things that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 gets right, there’s about an equal amount of things that it gets wrong. The level designs themselves are pretty cool and allow for some great skating action, but they are rendered with some pretty ugly graphics. The online mode is a nice new addition to the series, but the clumsy and inconsistent matchmaking gets in the way too often. The core Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater gameplay is alive and well, but there are so many little bugs that add up to annoyances that pop up more often than they should. It’s aggravating because there is a really good game somewhere in all of this code, but there are too many problems that slow this skating game down too much for me to recommend it.