When Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was originally announced, any excitement quickly evaporated once people saw what the game actually looked like. It didn’t help that the lacklustre visuals were quite noticeable in the final few months before release, and there was a general feeling that the whole release has been rushed through to go on sale before Activision’s contract with Tony Hawk runs out at the end of the year. Going by the finished product, it is unlikely that contract will be renewed.
While the graphical change was met with resistance, it doesn’t actually look too bad. That isn’t to say THPS5 will wow you, but it isn’t the worst looking game out there. Each of the eight main stages do have unique aesthetics, and you can see what Robomodo was trying to do with them. A couple of levels have some pretty good trick setups too, allowing you to chain a large combo together – provided you don’t suddenly fall off your board for no apparent reason. However, there is pop in now and again, and if you’re playing the current generation version, it looks more like a ported game from the PS3 or Xbox 360 rather than a PS4 or Xbox One game.
The bugs in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 have already been well documented since release, but I didn’t actually encounter as many bugs as I expected there to be. However, when they do rear their head, the results can be either comical or infuriating. The more amusing ones see your character ragdoll across a map from the smallest of falls, while the anger inducing ones hit when you’re pulling off a decent combo only to fall through the map as if you’ve mastered the power to phase through solid matter.
The controls aren’t bad and they’re simple enough to follow, but sometimes the game will register one movement when you did something else with the directional pad. Getting around became incredibly annoying because of this, and the fact that sometimes the camera wouldn’t quite follow the right path only adds to the problems. The movement animations feel stilted too, which throws you off when you’re expecting a smoother transition, and often puts paid to any hope of high scoring combos.
Quite a big deal was made about there being up to twenty skaters online at the same time in the parks, but generally there is no interaction between players. There are multiplayer game modes like high score chases and a deathmatch-like mode where you shoot fireballs at each other, but even then these modes didn’t feel that competitive. You’ll earn experience to unlock new heads, boards, and costumes, as well as earn points to improve your skater, but that can be more effectively done when playing on your own.
Unfortunately, the missions are incredibly repetitive regardless of which stage you’re on. You’ll have to get a high combo score, collect a number of items, manage to pull off grinds, and on some occasions clear a pool full of balls in a set time. This lack of variety swiftly makes things stale and repetitive, and while there is some pull in trying to achieve three stars per challenge it quickly dissipates. You will have to achieve at least 15 mission stars per stage to unlock the next area too, which only adds to the grind.
The way that the game loads in each mode and mission is also rather rickety. Say, for example, that I go to the mission list and start a combo mission, I’m then loaded back into the arena, but all the collectibles are visible for a few moments before popping out of existence and letting you start. It simply doesn’t feel like a finished product, especially when the screen judders.
I will say that some of the unlockables are quite good, such as the Octodad skin, but that isn’t enough to salvage Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. The frustrating thing is that there are brief moments of brilliance when you do pull off a great combo of different tricks, and if Robomodo had been given more time and freedom to develop, we could have seen a game that would have been worthy of seeing off a fondly remembered franchise. Instead the studio has been forced to rush to a release and will have to fix things through patches.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 should be remembered not just as a bad game, but as an indicator of the industry’s hubris, where games are continuously released in a broken state. It’s a shame, because if there was more time then Robomodo’s efforts may have eventually led to a fantastic skateboarding game. Instead a classic franchise has been tarnished and an audience scorned.
Version tested: PS4