Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is a distant echo of what the series used to accomplish, and it’s inability to impress on any level is an embarrassment for what may be the return and swift exit for the iconic series. If you’re looking for a return to form, it isn’t here, and it’s a new low that is bad on nearly every level.
Pro Skater 5 has eliminated a lot of the clutter that made recent Tony Hawk games too saturated with gimmicks – and that’s a good thing. The bad thing is that what’s left is an uninspired skeleton of something that seemed like a step in the right direction. Levels are much smaller and similar to Tony Hawk 1-4.
Skating around feels fine, but performing tricks is somewhat clunky and doesn’t flow well at all. Controls are similar to Tony Hawk games of the past, but questionable mapping can turn a blip of fun into instant frustration with little effort. For example, the grind button is the same button as slamming down on the ground, and I’ve lost countless combos because of just this one issue that’s one of many.
Pro Skater 5 utilizes a cel shaded look to cover up the poorly rendered original models, but its cover-up won’t be fooling anyone. This game looks bad, and there’s nothing that saves it in the least bit. Environments that wouldn’t impress on a PlayStation 3 inhabit every level, and they feel completely lifeless. There aren’t any characters to interact with, and there’s an eerie sense of isolation rather than being loud and surrounded by a breathing world.
Inside of each level are challenges which can be located on the map or accessed directly through the pause menu. These challenges are the only motivation within each level. There isn’t a story, there aren’t characters and there’s nothing to really motivate playing for long periods of time. Most challenges are stale and what’s included is buggy and can be easily manipulated to complete. There are some modes that give a glimpse of promise, like a mode where your head continues to grow and explodes unless you complete tricks to deflate it. There are fun ideas here, but the level design and overall controls infect these ideas and ruin any fun that these ideas could’ve had.
When you complete challenges, you’ll unlock new levels after several stars and experience points to spend on upgrading the playable characters. When you do spend experience points, there’s a somewhat noticeable difference when you upgrade skills, but it’s not enough to really make it worth grinding for. There’s a slew of new up and coming skaters alongside Tony Hawk like his son, Riley and new stars like Chris Cole and Nyjah Huston – hell, even Lil’ Wayne is playable – but it’s a little disappointing to not see more classic skaters like Bob Burnquist or Chad Muska here to round out the skaters, but that’s more of a personal gripe.
Levels themselves don’t feel thought out in the least bit, and it seems like the layouts were put in randomly without any flow or connection. Tony Hawk games are about huge combos and bouncing around the entire level, but the pieces in each level feel so disconnected that these maps suck the life out of the gameplay.
Tracks like “Guerrilla Radio” may not be accompanying your skating, but Pro Skater 5 has a pretty solid soundtrack that fits the mix of hip hop and punk rock that have been series mainstays from the very beginning. Tracks from acts like New Politics, Skrillex and Death From Above 1979 are some highlights here, and it’s one of the only aspects that really nails what previous Tony Hawk titles have done so well.
When you enter Pro Skater 5, you can either enter a private match or you’ll be thrown into a public match with a handful of other skaters. There really isn’t a purpose for this, and other players can actually hit you – most times on mistake – and break up your combo. It seems like a half-baked idea that was implemented but not expanded on at all. Pro Skater 5 does allows you to complete some challenges in co-op, but it doesn’t add much to the experience.
It’s been ages since a great Tony Hawk game. Really, though – it’s been way too long – but the wait will have to continue, that is, if the brand name hasn’t been permanently damaged from this forgettable attempt. Simplifying the Tony Hawk formula in order to recapture it’s roots is a superb idea, but it should still offer modern graphics, intuitive control and creative level design – which it lacks completely. Don’t buy this $60 game. I wouldn’t recommend it if it was a $20 game. Well, even then, I’m not sure.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation 4 version of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 provided by Activision.
- Solid soundtrack
- Embarrassing visuals
- Incredibly glitchy
- Lifeless environments