Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 Review (Xbox One)
The music, a generic, 2001-esque rock tune, cuts in and out on the loading screen, then restarts entirely when the level starts to load. Objects pop into view haphazardly, and most textures only start to think about showing up for work. Your character is last to appear, an undetailed blob that vaguely resembles Tony Hawk; you feel a vague unease to go along with his blurred features. The objective: using your skateboarding skills, knock 25 giant balls out of a pool. There are actually 26 balls, but whatever. You struggle with the controls, flailing and flopping on maneuvers you swore you landed, all while the timer counts down with a corporate logo hanging heavy above it. You've nearly gotten all of the balls out when you jump. Tony goes ragdoll for no reason and launches twenty feet into the air in grotesque slow-motion until he tumbles down, into the ground, and jams there like a twitchy tombstone. The textures of his clothes and face finally load; his face is an expressionless, joyless mass with eyes more dead than Gravelord Nito.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 has risen from its grave.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 attempts to revive the dying series by harkening back to its earliest entries. In the whopping eight stages, players will skate around, performing tricks to gain points, collecting letters to spell the word SKATE, find hidden DVDs (a still-outdated attempt to update the hidden VHSes of the originals), and complete challenges with varying objectives such as only using specific types of skating moves to get points, or snagging a certain number of collectibles within a time limit. Deft skating will generally lead to higher scores, pushing you to the top of the leaderboards and unlocking new levels and stat points to enhance your skater with, so learning to time your ollies, balance your grinds, and fast-flip those kickflips is key for success. Of course, succeeding at THPS5 is like finding the least-rotten piece of fruit in the garbage dump.
The basic gameplay crudely resembles the gameplay of previous Pro Skater titles, but lacks all of the sense of fun and flow that made them great. If you get lucky enough not to glitch out while trying to land a major combo, there's little sense of satisfaction to be found, as the combos just don't click together the way they should. Plus, unlocking everything can basically be brute-forced, so being good at the game doesn't really get you anything. Should you desire to play with a friend, you'll have to do it online, as THPS5 doesn't support split-screen gameplay— an element which was a large part of the series' past success.
Early entries in the long-running franchise always added new wrinkles to the core skate-n-score gameplay by allowing players to more easily connect long combos with things like manuals and reverts, or to go hog-wild and shift moves mid-grind. Well, only a handful of the improvements of games past made it to THPS5— newer additions like shifting grind tricks or hopping off your board aren't here, and it makes everything feel like an oblivious throwback. This matters little, anyway, as most of the challenges have such terrible, unfun objectives you wouldn't want to play them long enough to get a high score, and they're often laid out so unintuitively it'll make you wonder if they were playtested at all.
The skater selection has gone drastically downhill; gone are any skaters from early entries in the franchise other than the eponymous Hawk himself, and none of the skaters bothered to record any voice clips for their characters, so they're all creepy, mute mannequins. Create-a-skater, a groundbreaking feature at the time of its inclusion in the Playstation 2 Tony Hawk games, essentially doesn't exist here. No longer can you dress up a skater as a deranged clown, gothic vampire, or balding never-nude, and while the inclusion of create-a-skater isn't technically necessary, its omission is a huge step backwards, especially in an age where so many games have robust character creation.
While the Tony Hawk games have never shied away from in-game advertising, it was often in service of adding a bit of extra realism by giving boards and skater-related gear the correct brand names. Here, advertising is everywhere, with the most outrageous offender being the corporate-branded timers for each level. That's right, every time the clock is ticking, it's not just a clock, it's a clock, brought to you by a brand name, so you know it's timing is extreme-ly accurate. This is Michael Bay-level product advertising, and it feels like you're being thought of less as a player and more as a captive audience to these adverts.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 would have had awful graphics if it was an Xbox 360 launch title. Textures take an eternity to load, objects clip in and out of existence, and everything looks so hideous you'll wonder if the developers tried to make it look this ugly on purpose. Levels and missions take shockingly long times to load, stuttering the awful soundtrack and forcing you to listen to the openings of the same bland songs repeatedly. Things which should be easy, such as switching characters or exiting a challenge to go back to free skate mode, are made overly-complicated by forcing you to jump through several extra hoops to do them.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is a failure in almost every way a game can be a failure. Terrible level design, rampant glitches, minimal content, janky gameplay, and a complete lack of polish all mar what's (hopefully) the final entry in a previously great series. If this were a free fan game, it would be bad. If it were a $15 downloadable title, it'd be terrible. As a fully-priced game that Activision expects you to shell out a pile of your hard-earned money on, this is a video game hate crime. The Tony Hawk series used to be vibrant, fun, and full of life; Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 is a zombie that's been cracked in half, crawling around with its one good hand and occasionally letting out a twitch or a gurgle. Put a bullet in this pathetic, undead mess and move on.
This review was based on a digital copy of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 provided by the publisher for the Xbox One.