EDITOR'S NOTE- As you'll see from reading this review, our critic encountered some serious technical issues with the game and was not able to play as thoroughly as we normally like for a complete review. As of this writing there has been no hard announcement of a patch to fix these issues, so we will be running this review as is.
When Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5
was announced, there was a cautious air of excitement surrounding it. Going back to its Pro Skater
roots, we were promised the same game modes, controls and typical objectives from the original games, such as S-K-A-T-E and hidden VHS tapes. As the release got closer, and screenshots and a trailer emerged, alarm bells started ringing. People were asking if the graphics were up to scratch, and whether the game would in fact be all its cracked up to be. Unfortunately, the game only allowed me five hours of play time before it continuously stalled on start up, preventing me from playing it anymore.
Tony Hawk finally makes his way onto Xbox One
In the aim of "going back to basics", Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5
has no story mode, and instead focusing on a group of different levels that you can explore and which have objectives for you to complete. If you are unfamiliar with the game series, you have the opportunity to complete the tutorial, that will either introduce you to the moves of the game or re-familiarise you with the controls. The controls have not changed that much over the years, and whilst they may not be the exact same symbols as the earlier PlayStation versions, the buttons are still in the same places. The tutorial is split up into different sections to teach you all about each of these tricks step by step, so even someone completely new to the skateboarding genre will be able to pick up the basics by the end of the fairly lengthy lessons. Luckily these can be skipped - because the controls really haven't changed all the much and don't introduce anything new to grasp - one thing that was irritating though is that one tutorial tells you to do the special moves, and yet doesn't give you the buttons for these, despite doing so for all the earlier moves.
Once that is out of the way, you can enter the seven main levels in the game, which feels quite short for a full retail release. It is obvious that the game plays on the nostalgia factor to attract its players, and this nostalgia is strong as soon as you step on your board in the level. The feel and look of the levels both throw you back to the original game, and specific levels, such as School III, are a specific homage to the older games. You'll also be met with very familiar objectives to complete, such as collecting the S-K-A-T-E letters scattered about, and even a hidden VHS tape or CD will be there for you to find. Unfortunately, some of the levels are very small giving you little opportunity for exploration, and you will get fed up on seeing the same grinding fences, half pipes and generic objects over and over again. It feels and looks a little too similar to some of the older Tony Hawk
games, and does feel dated in that respect.
You start off with only the first level unlocked, and can unlock the rest as you complete the various missions, which is a sneaky way of making the levels seem longer and that there are more of them. Missions are scattered about the levels with markers, which are particularly difficult to stop at sometimes, but can also be started through a handy pop up menu. These missions can vary from the basic combo earning to something as bizarre as having to keep performing tricks so that your giant head doesn't explode. You will be marked on these using a three star system, and if when you manage to earn fifteen stars across the missions in one level, you will unlock the next. This is a nice idea as it encourages you to spend more time on one level before you move onto the next, instead of simply rushing through them all. The missions vary slightly from level to level, but are essentially the same and each can be completed to the three star standard by most people with a bit of practice. Having only gotten to play the first three levels, the missions seemed fun at first, but by the third level they were getting tedious to complete, even with the seemingly appropriate difficulty curve.
How long can you keep your balance?
If you manage to complete all the missions in a level, you unlock the opportunity for pro missions. These are quite a bit tougher, and give you more to do in a tighter time limit. Throw these in with free skate level objectives, which you can collect in your own free time, and you have everything that you can do per level. When you enter any level you won't be on your own, because chances are you'll be skating round with some fellow gamers. Whilst they have no real impact on your experience in the game, you can choose to co-op some of the missions and go head-to-head in others. You might crash into your fellow skateboarder every once in a while when you cross paths, but most of the time you'll be watching them fall about the place. You can pick to be in a session on your own or online, it feels like a trick has been missed with the online not really adding much of anything to the game.
Where the other players do come in handy though is with the Create-a-Park mode, where you can design and upload your own parks. You can pick one of the game's level environments to start your building on, whether that be by the beach or in the school, and then you have the freedom to play about with and design your level as you please. All the basic items are there for you, including various pipes, fences, slopes, jumps and most other items you'd want to see in a skateboarding level. You can even add in the S-K-A-T-E or C-O-M-B-O letters and scatter them about at your own free will, making them as easy or difficult to collect as you like. Once your level is named and uploaded, it is out into the world for others to experience. At the end of any of these levels, you have the opportunity to like or dislike it, and then choose a word or phrase to describe what you thought of it. While this seems like a good rating system, there is no doubt that it will be taken advantage of and ratings may not reflect the levels themselves.
You'll need a skater with which to experience these levels, and you have a basic bunch of skaters to pick from. You can switch between these at any time, but as you earn stat points from missions, you will most likely want to focus them on one person so you have a better skater. These stat points can be put into the different categories for your skater, and improve everything from ollies, to grinding, to your special moves. If you get fed up of seeing Tony Hawk's face, once you pick you character, you can then go into a customisation type screen and change them completely. You have a group of heads and bodies to choose from, which can be anything from a guy with an afro and dungarees, to a monkey head with a caveman's body. These different heads and bodies are unlocked during your level exploration too, but the customisation overall feels fairly limited, and it is a shame that you can't create your own skater from scratch. It feels like the customisation options have definitely been shortened, and you cannot pick individual clothes, hair, shoes, or anywhere near as much as you used to be able to.
My flip trick is better than yours
The game's two biggest problems seem to come in the form of its graphics and the glitches. The graphics don't feel up to scratch for an Xbox One game, and the game wouldn't feel out of place if it were to be on a console a couple of generations back. The faces of the characters look distorted, and the sullen surroundings of the levels don't do anything to flatter the basic designs. Where you would want a game to look bright and vibrant, it falls short and looks dull, and consequently feels dull to play. The game's camera is also awkward to control and never seems to be in quite the right position. It is too easy to accidentally skate into a corner and then be stuck there because the camera won't spin and you can't jump around. In terms of glitching, its unlikely you will go a session without falling through a floor or a wall, get stuck on mid grind, or even fly off up into the air when you bail off your board. We've come to expect a few glitches in our new releases nowadays, but for you to meet a glitch around nearly every corner is too much, and it turns a game that could pass as "ok" into a game that needs a lot of improvement. One part that they do seem to have gotten right is the music. The soundtrack is another throwback to the style of music you would be hearing in one of the older games and is perfect to skate and trick around to.
In terms of the game's achievements, you have 45 to get for your 1000G. You'll be wanting to complete all the tutorials, even if you are familiar with the mechanics of the Tony Hawk's
games. You'll be spending a lot of time doing manuals and grinding
about in order to hit the big metre targets. You will probably unlock the different levels
along the way as you complete missions, and then you will want to rate some levels
that other people have designed too (at least up to 25). You'll also want to unlock emblems, heads, decks and bodies to customise your skater, as well as get your skater to level 50, which will probably keep you busy for quite a while.
It is a shame I didn't get to spend as much time with Tony Hawks Pro Skater 5
as I would have liked or needed. Despite the massive amount of bugs and fatal crashes, there is some fun to be had here. Anyone who played the older Tony Hawks
games will feel right at home. Unfortunately, it is impossible to look past the constant problems and bugs. Most of these don't make the game unplayable, but still cause a lot of bother along the way. With only seven levels to explore and play through, your time with this game might be short (and made shorter with the frustration of its problems), but the addition of the player created levels mean there is a little something extra, even if it's nothing we haven't seen before. It is sad that the game turned out this way, because it really should, and could, have been the sequel that the series deserved, and instead has fallen so short. For a full priced retail game, these bugs and design flaws can't be forgiven, and being unable to play the game after only five hours was the final nail in the coffin. Should the game become playable for me again, I will happily play through the rest of the levels, explore the game a bit more, hopefully form a fuller opinion, and write an addendum to this original review, but for now it's not skating by.
- Old fashioned Tony Hawks gameplay and soundtrack
- Nostalgic levels such as School III are fun to play through
- Game breaking bug which meant it stalled on start up
- Constant collision bugs
- Graphics are not up to scratch for Xbox One
- Frame rate often drops
The reviewer could unfortunately only spend approximately five hours flipping, grinding and performing fancy tricks before the game became unplayable. In this time, 16 of the game's 45 achievements were unlocked. A physical copy of this game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.