Prepare yourself to impulsively buy THPS 4
Raise your hand if any of the original Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater games had some kind of impact on your gaming life. Good, most of you. So why do we think that is? Because they were anarchic stunt-fests with loads of personality, but which under that surface offered skill-based games of technique and timing. With over a decade since Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater 4, the reasonable expectation is that a lot of evolution would occur in that time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater 5 is more than just a technical and uncreative mess?it?s also an insult to the fans who eagerly awaited another venerable addition to the franchise.
The problems with THPS 5 begin right at the outset. The user interface is a disjointed, unintuitive mess that makes accessing basic features and options a guessing game. Why do scrolling menus all have arrows on either end, suggesting more content, when there is none? Why aren?t you prompted to choose a skater when you join a level, rather than having to back out to the main menu and find a separate, confusingly labelled ?Skater Customization? option? Why is this screen also the only place to assign the new stat points you earn, when previous games let you make tweaks from the pause menu mid-session? (The word ?customization? may be an over exaggeration, too. There are only two outfits for each skater?even after beating every map with them?and no way to alter their move lists at all.)
But isn?t Create-A-Skater back? Why, yes, I?m glad you asked. Allow me to direct you to the feature?s location, which took literal days to discover. On the seemingly innocuous screen that allows you to switch between each skater?s two available outfits, pressing the grind button will bring you to an entirely different menu for building custom skaters, who will then override the original skater and inherit all of their moves and stats. The actual creation only involves selecting between custom heads, bodies, and boards, all of which can be earned through gameplay challenges or purchased with currency earned by playing.
The situation doesn?t improve once you?d deciphered the process of picking your skater, either. Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater 5?s primary experience consists, in its entirety, of eight painfully small and uninspired maps holding but a handful of challenges on each. Apart from several easy collectables, the list of goals are literally the extent of what each map has to offer. Every area has ten challenges from which players earn stars that are required in a certain quantity to proceed to the next map. Earning the maximum number of stars on a map unlocks a small selection of pro challenges which are just arbitrarily more difficult clones of the first objectives. The most simple form of enjoyment could be derived from these if it weren?t for the fact that all the challenges are fundamentally identical on every map. Whether it is collecting some random object in a specific amount of time or sequence, beating a high score in a confined space, or just grinding in circles for as long as you can, the tedium and repetition of your objectives will become painfully obvious before you even leave the first park.
When gamers inevitably get tired of running the same eight small maps over and over, they can turn to the Create-A-Park feature. On five preset terrains, a reasonably large number of objects can be placed and adjusted, but like with everything else available to you, your freedom is far more limited than it has been in the past. While your item selection is large, your control over their placement is restrictive, forcing the design of any map to be rigidly linear. Almost every campaign park hosts a unique pick-up item that will augment the experience in some inconsequential way, making you giant or setting your board on fire or something equally ?quirky.? These pick-ups can be added to the custom maps as well, but they?re just as ineffectual in Create-A-Park as they are in the main session.
When a map is finished, players can post their creations online. User-created maps are accessed of the same menu as the campaign park selection, and choosing to play one of these is the worst choice someone could make in this game?apart from picking it up in the first place, that is. These maps don?t work, period. Falling through objects, grinding on flat surfaces, getting immovably stuck in geometry, the list goes on. Don?t do it. Just don?t.
At the end of the day, tricks and combos have always been the saving grace of any Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater. This could have been the case here if these options weren?t also striped down to the bone. As previously mentioned, every skater has a pre-defined selection of tricks that cannot be affected in any way, and this includes special tricks. The reformatting of specials is especially heinous, as each character is limited to one special for each trick type: grabs, flips, grinds and manuals. The simplicity could reasonably cause one to think they are more difficult to pull off now, but wrong again. Doing normal moves builds up a special meter that, when full, can be activated with one button. From then on, any trick you do will input the corresponding special of that move for a limited amount of time. It is the most simple derivative of something that once felt rewarding and mildly complex. What hasn?t been watered down has been outright removed: No more flatland tricks, nor more getting off your board, no more grind transitions, no more trick depth in general.
If only being repetitive and bland was the least of this title?s worries. Following a day one patch that was larger in file size than the game itself, no one was expecting a smooth ride?and dammit, we were right on the money. From the moment you take control, you?ll realize something is wrong. Turning the skater can be a seconds-long process both on ground and in air, and commanding them to stop would probably happen faster if you asked them via text message. Certain areas of multiple maps feature janky collision detection, making it feel like your character is skating across gravel, and numerous times grinding animations will be stunted for no reason, ending the combo that could have just completed your challenge. If none of this screws you up, clipping in objects or falling through the floor will be sure to top it off. These two don?t necessarily affect the active gameplay, but are appropriate indicators of the game?s general quality.
The insubstantial list of new adjustments brought to the table only includes one real novel mechanic. Designated as the ?slam,? pressing triangle mid-air shoots you toward the ground, starting a grind if you land on a rail. On a few rare occasions, this proves an effective tool for coordinating a combo. The rest of the time, it?s a disruptive obstacle that alters fundamental strategies of the series. In older titles, it would be common to hold grind as long as you were airborne in order to grab your preferred rail, but now the slam ability forces you to adjust your positioning well before trajectory. If you?re not lined up perfectly, say goodbye to your combo as your character whiffs the rail and is pulled to the ground.
The most trumpeted feature for the game has been its 20-person multiplayer lobbies, but this ultimately adds very little. Entering a map automatically syncs you with a multiplayer lobby unless otherwise designated. Skating around with random online players serves no clear purpose for adding any enjoyment to the experience, instead just providing further obstacles to be avoided. Multiplayer and cooperative challenges are admittedly some of the most redeeming qualities of Pro Skater 5, but they are most easily activated through private lobbies and direct invitation. Multiplayer modes consist mainly of basics like high score and combo objectives, but fan favorite King of the Hill also makes a return. This mode?where competitors fight for control of a crown that grants the exclusive ability to score points?provides a rare respite of fun via competitive shenanigans.
Despite this manifesto of almost constant criticism, a more objective person than I could argue things could be worse. It is dysfunctional, but that is not to say it is unplayable. At its core, Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater 5 still retains some of the competitive drive that is generated by a desire to get the highest combo you can, a hook that is more than some games can say. Where this brutal critique originates from is a sense of nostalgic betrayal. If you have played and connected with any of the Tony Hawk games before this, avoid this game and retain those memories. If you have never experienced the series, don?t allow this installment to be your induction.
|Developer: Robomodo ? Publisher: Activision ? ESRB: T – Teen ? Release Date: 09.29.15|
Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater 5 does a disservice to returning fans and newcomers alike by removing most of what gave the original games flare while being simultaneously riddled with glitches.
|The Good||Any moment that reminds the player of the unquantifiably superior predecessors.|
|The Bad||…Any moment that reminds the player of the unquantifiably superior predecessors.|
|The Ugly||Oh please do not make me choose one.|
|Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is available on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. The review copy was purchased by the reviewer for the sake of this review.|