I’ve been a fan of the Tony Hawk’s games since Neversoft’s first title, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (THPS) came to PlayStation back in 1999. The sequel THPS2 ranks as once of my favourite games of all time and probably rivals World of Warcraft for the amount of time I’ve spent with the game. After the fourth THPS title in 2002 the developers started to take the games in different directions.
As more complexity was added such as missions, realism and open world gameplay the games lost the spark that the original four THPS titles had. In 2008 Robomodo took over the Tony Hawk’s games and put out the truly dreadful spin-off titles Ride and Shred which introduced a skateboard peripheral. The last title they worked on was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD which was a remaster of parts of the first two games. Despite the upgraded graphics the game failed to live up to expectations due to missing features and glitchy gameplay.
For Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 (THPS5) the developers have tried to take the series back to its roots. The attempts at stories, realism and open world gameplay have gone. Instead the game focuses on arcade play across a series of levels each with their own objectives and missions to complete.
To start off the game lets you pick from one of 10 pro skaters. Each has their own unique tricks and styles. As you progress in the game you earn stat points which can be spent in upgrading stats such as Speed, Grind, Ollie and Manual. Ultimately you want to max out all the stats.
If you’re familiar with the THPS series then you’ll mostly feel right at home with the controls. All your favourite moves are present including grinds, wall-rides, manuals, reverts, spine-transfers, flip and grab tricks. Trying to grind leads you to discover the new Slam mechanic. When you ask your skater to perform a Slam move they will drop straight down to the ground. It takes some getting used to and can be useful but it feels like an addition that wasn’t really needed.
There’s also a change to the way your special meter works. In THPS5 performing tricks again fills your meter but once full it’s up to you to decide when to unleash the special. Doing so upgrades the tricks that you perform for a short length of time.
The levels act as multiplayer lobbies allowing up to 20 players to skate around and chat together. Each level comes with a set of objectives including the classic collect S-K-A-T-E, collect C-O-M-B-O as well as find the hidden VHS tape and DVD. Levels also have an objective unique to that level such as wall-riding the bells on the new school level. Disappointing is that these objectives can be completed at your leisure instead of against the clock like the older games.
There are eight official levels at launch but only one is available to you at the start. Two more official levels have been announced as free DLC along with 5 bonus skaters. Earning 15 stars on a level allows you to unlock the next one. Stars are obtained by completing missions.
Scattered around the levels are markers and skating up to them allows you to begin a mission. I found stopping on these to often be quite tricky and when I did manage it most of them tended not to work.
The game also features a mission list that you can call up at any time. Here you can jump straight to a mission of your choosing. However I found that many of these just seem to crash the game once you choose them. Certain missions I haven’t been able to attempt at all which is frustrating.
Extra frustrating is that starting a mission forces the level to reload. This is because missions take place in offline levels without other players around. Having to keep waiting for missions to load really spoils the flow of the game. When you are done with a mission you then have to wait again for the multi-player version of the level to reload.
There are 10 basic and 5 pro missions per level and each has a total of 3 stars to obtain. You need to complete all the basic missions before the pro missions are unlocked.
Much of this sounds great and it actually would be if the game wasn’t so broken in places. There are many things that just don’t work properly. Many of these seem to be caused by the physics engine glitching.
Occasionally when your skater hits something or bails from their skateboard then strange things happen. Fairly minor is when part of your skater clips into the environment. However some of these instances cause you to get stuck or fall through the world.
Bumping into things such as a rail at the wrong angle can also often send your skater sliding off across the floor or even up into the sky. The rag-doll physics on the models is also really odd and you’ll often find your skater left in a bizarre if not impossible pose.
The developers have announced that they are aware of the problems that players are facing and they are promising to create patches to fix these issues. They also say they are listening to player feedback and hope to improve the game.
In addition to the single player missions and objectives you can also kick off a multiplayer mode. Here you can compete with other players in a variety of modes for things like the highest score or combo as well as King of the Hill. These seem to work quite well but often I’ve struggled to find other players to face off against.
Once you’re done with the main game there is also the Create-a-Park editor to keep you busy. Here you can create your own dream levels and then share them with the community. You can also rate and play levels created by the community. The level editor is easy to use and quite powerful with a nice large selection of objects to use.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 sounds good in theory and can be a lot of fun when it works but in its current state it is sadly tough to recommend. Die-hard fans of the series who are prepared to put up with the bugs and glitches will still enjoy themselves. Everyone else would probably be best waiting until the developers get their promised fixes out first.
Publisher: Activision Developer: Robomodo / Disruptive Games Age Rating: 12 Release Date: October 2, 2015 Reviewed On: Xbox One Also available on: PS4