16 years ago, Tony Hawk’s made his debut in the gaming world, introducing a brand new and dynamic skateboarding title to the masses. I remember waiting eagerly for its launch, and ran to the shops the moment it was released, playing its fresh and exciting take on the extreme sport. Over the next 15 years, Tony Hawk and Activision pumped out game after game, trying to improve on the standard set before, and setting itself as the skateboarding game for the bedroom skater.
Then in 2007, EA Blackbox came along and wiped the floor with the Tony Hawk’s franchise, with a realistic take on the genre. Since then, the skateboarding king has been playing catch up… Can Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 put the franchise back on track, and take back its skateboarding crown?
Well… No, not really.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 goes back to its roots, resurrecting the original formula which made the series so great to start with. The campaign mode, if you wish to call it that, places the player in a series of fixed areas, in which you must complete a set of challenges to unlock the next area. Some original favourites return, such as the schoolyard, the factory, and the beach, but brings nothing new to the table.
Each area feels tiny, so tiny that it takes mere seconds to go from one end to the other. This wouldn’t be so bad if it was packed full of funboxes and grind rails, but it’s not. Each one feels empty and poorly designed, and with the limited size, doesn’t take advantage of the power of the new generation. There are collectables scattered throughout the levels, such as DVDs, video tapes, S.K.A.T.E. and C.O.M.B.O. letters, which are fun to work out how to obtain, but soon become nothing more than a distraction the longer you play.
Littered throughout the levels are mission markers, which when activated, pull up a list of activities you must complete to unlock the next area. Each mission rewards one to three stars, depending on how you perform, and a minimum number of stars must be obtained to unlock the next level. Each mission follows a similar theme for each area, score a certain number of points, collect a certain number of items, and so forth, with only the theme of each level adding variation. Once you have earned the required amount of stars, there’s very little to entice you back to play the missions again.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 does have an online element to it, but this only involves you sharing the space with other skaters. It has a nice feel of being down your local skatepark, but more often than not, you will find yourself accidentally bumping into other players just to reach the next mission marker. There is an option to create a private instance, as such, once I had completed a mission and returned to the open park, I often found myself being joined by other skaters, as if the game forgot my choices.
As well as the eight environments offered to you, there is a skatepark creation mode which allows you to create your ultimate skatepark. With rails, halfpipes, funboxes, and more on offer, you can truly create the skatepark you want. However, the return of the level limit hampers this somewhat, and results in you creating your dream skatepark, minus a few pieces. After placing around 15 halfpipes, and a couple of rails, I had already hit half of my allocation for that park, and that wasn’t using one of the larger templates. Once you have created the slightly less ultimate skatepark, you can then share them online with other Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater players, and try out other creations as well.
Tony Hawk’s titles have always prided themselves on featuring the best professional skaters of the time, and 5 is no different. With a roster of 10 of the best skaters out there, including Nyjah Huston, Aaron “Jaws” Homoki, and Tony Hawk himself, you can choose to take any of them out into the park. As you complete missions, you can unlock skill points, allowing you to upgrade a variety of stats from manual balance, grind balance, ollie height, and much more. You are also able to customise each professional by either selecting from two predetermined styles, or using heads, bodies, and boards you unlock through play. It’s not as detailed and deep as previous Tony Hawk titles, but the unlockable items allow for some interesting skater designs.
Overall, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 just doesn’t deliver on the name. Visually the game is mediocre at best, and doesn’t feel polished in any way. Textures pop in and out, and collision detection on objects throughout the level is hit and miss; I often found that I was knee-deep in the floor. Visual glitches are common throughout, as are physics-based bugs, resulting in some hilarious ragdolling after bailing out of a grab or grind.
For £49.99, this doesn’t deliver as a top-tier title. It feels like a reskinned version of an older Tony Hawk’s title, and doesn’t bring anything particularly new or exciting to the skateboarding genre. It’s great to see that they are trying to do away with the gimmicks, especially after the flop Tony Hawk’s Shred was in 2010, and are attempting to bring the series back to its roots, but it just doesn’t feel enough this time round. After the monumental success of the Skate series, it’s time for Tony Hawk and Activision to think of where the series should be going, and introduce something which will revolutionise the skateboarding scene for the new generation.
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