Rejoice, children of the original PlayStation, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is back with a vengeance! Since 1999, a time before Sony started putting numbers on their systems, Pro Skater dominated the sales charts with its fresh take on extreme sport video games. Now, after a decade and several spin-off games, THPS is back with new levels, new challenges and a new roster of top talent that includes the likes of Chris Cole, David Gonzalez, and Nyjah Huston. If you grew up playing the Pro Skater series religiously then you more than likely bought the game without a second thought. Unfortunately, we all should have given it a second thought. While your experience is sure to vary from my own, I think any true fan of the series will feel the same way I did, ripped off. There is so much wrong with this game I don’t even know where to begin.
Let’s start with the tutorial, my first inkling that this game was different from its predecessors came in the form of movement. You don’t just simply push forward anymore with the directional pad, you can also push by holding R2, the left dual stick or you can simply hold down the X/A button until you’re ready to Ollie. Really, Tony? Four different ways to push the board around? I got used to using the R2 button, theoretically, you could hold down the R2 button the entire time you are in the game and never have to worry. Tricks are basic and held at the standard push up, down, left or right while pressing the square/X or circle/B buttons. The right stick is virtually useless. After getting spoiled on SKATE’s excellent brand of controls it took some time to realize “Oh wait, you don’t flick the stick to Ollie into a trick, you just push a button then push two more buttons”. The skill required for grinding has been reduced to “slamming” down with the triangle/Y button so long as you are directly over a rail. Regardless of which direction you are facing, you will slam down on an edge with the greatest of ease. It took all five tutorial trials for the feeling to come back but let me tell you it felt damn good once it did, if only for a moment.
Moving into the main gameplay, it was disheartening to find out there are only seven levels total (there may be a secret level but I doubt I will own this game long enough to find out). With the exception of The Berrics, all the levels are completely made up with a weird skate anywhere feeling that launches you from one end of a stage to the other. Fake stages are fine, in fact, some may say they are a hallmark of the series, but couldn’t we at least have one more real-life stage? Burnside or Tampa or anything other than a fake skate park built within a phony world. Each stage has a set of “missions” that you must complete. You get 15 objectives with each mission set, unfortunately, 5 of those are locked and will only unlock once you achieve a ‘sick!’ rating on all other objectives, which isn’t easy by any means. You must collect 15 stars from each stage before you are able to move on to the next. This sounds like fun, however, the missions are basic and follow you from level to level. That’s right, each mission set for each level is exactly the same! They have variations like high scores get even higher and races get even longer or you may get a grind objective instead of a manual objective, but overall, each stage has the same exact missions from the stage before it. You no longer race around under the gun of a 2-minute time limit trying to score as many points/objectives as possible. Instead, you skate around in a free world environment where you merely skate up to a mission, hold the square/X button and begin. Or, for the lazy skateboard aficionado, you can simply hit start, select missions and then choose from the list. While THPS4 introduced something similar with the free-skate mode, this feels awkward on an entirely different level. Collecting things like SKATE and COMBO are still present, however, they are considered “free world objectives” and have no bearing on your progression throughout the game.
Let’s talk about the “free world” for a moment. Much like the multiplayer found in SKATE, THPS5 utilizes the open area multiplayer connectivity to promote gameplay and comradery between players. Unfortunately, I have yet to take part in anything multiplayer since the game demands a seven-gig update as soon as you load the game. Seven gigs?! If this were memory being downloaded onto your hard drive I could understand, but this is a seven-gig update file released on launch day. How the hell do you expect customers to flock to your franchise when half of them are still waiting on the download to finish? If the free world is anything like an actual skate park, I foresee an endless amount of people getting pissed off at the overcrowded area chock full of posers, amateurs who get in the way of your lines and kids who think scooters are still in fashion. You can play in a single player session but you have to select it from the menu, otherwise, you are stuck in the free world with everyone else. Lame, thy name is multiplayer.
Finally, let’s talk customization… There isn’t any!! These days the phrase “You can customize your own character in-game” means something. I fully expected the same style of customization that we got in Tony Hawk’s Underground. By the time Underground was released, customizing your own character was a regular practice and you had many options to choose from. I remember creating myself right down to the black frame glasses accompanied by my favorite pair of DC shoes. THPS5 doesn’t just miss the mark on customization, they murder the unfortunate by-standard they accidentally hit trying to hit the mark. In custom mode, there are three categories you can choose from to create a player: Head, Body, and Board. Every option is set up like a card system in which you unlock various cards for heads, bodies, and boards by completing different missions or buying them outright. The worst part of all of this is, if you want to create a skater, you will have to sacrifice one of the pros within the roster. Instead of a skater with their own stats, you simply swap one of the pros for your custom character whose stats are identical to the pros. So far, I’ve turned David Gonzalez into a hipster cyborg, Lizzie Armanto into the lead singer of FallOutBoy and Riley Hawk into a dirtier hobo version of himself. On the plus side, the create-a-park option is unique and enjoyable but until we all download that seven gig update file, it’s pretty much a useless feature.
Overall, THPS5 isn’t worth it, period. It genuinely feels like Activision saw what EA did with SKATE and decided to copy everything except the control scheme while putting their own flair into the mix with a soundtrack that panders toward a generation that never played the game growing up. It doesn’t work on any level. When you strip a game of all the things that made it great, what you’re left with is a steaming pile of regret and false-heartedness. Whatever you do, don’t buy Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. If you already have, trade it in towards a game you know you will love (like Fallout 4, Black Ops 3 or Star Wars Battlefront). Until EA decides to produce SKATE 4, we have THPS 1 in HD to enjoy. It might not be much, but it’s infinitely better than the dreck that is the latest installment to a deeply fond memory.
– Dann D.