Gaming

GammaSquad Review: ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5’

The Tony Hawk series is beloved, and for excellent reason. Less a sports game and more of an oddball physics platformer with a snotty sense of humor, the franchise was more or less an annual event for 10 years before it petered out five years ago. So, why not go back to the franchise’s roots? After all, nothing has changed in gaming since the late ’90s!

Right?

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 (PS4 and Xbox One; PS3 and Xbox 360 Arriving Nov. 10)

Artistic Achievement

This series has never been noted for its stunning graphics, and that trend continues here. It looks okay, I guess, but this isn’t going to strain your console and it mostly looks like an HD upgrade of a PS2 game, which makes the relentless loading screens less and less forgiveable as you play.

A trend that thankfully continues, though, is the top-notch music curation: This soundtrack has songs ranging from classic punk rock to new stuff worth listening to. It’s well worth a flip through the tracks, as always.

Innovation

The entire idea is to be a throwback, so don’t expect them to take the skating game to new places. This is still the goofy, cartoony game you remember, where you break walls, kick around giant balls, and turn your skater into the most ridiculous character possible.

Execution

Give Robomodo this: They wanted to make a Tony Hawk game as if nothing have changed, and that’s exactly what they did. It was very strange to pick this franchise up after nearly a decade away and feel like I’d never left, but the controls were all the same, the moves all made sense… everything just clicked. In the gameplay, it’s a smooth, fun game.

The problem is, the gameplay is all there is. There’s not even the pretension of a plot this time around, you just need to finish enough of the missions to get your 15 stars and unlock the next level. Similarly, the design and ideas of later entries in the series, like the somewhat flawed but ambitious American Wasteland, is thrown out the window. And just like the old days, a lot of the missions repeat across levels, only increasing the point totals or throwing in a minor extra wrinkle or two.

There’s little stuff, too, that’s kind of sad. When you eat pavement in the game, you no longer get up and climb back on your board; the game just restarts with you already standing. There are fewer crash animations, and between the loading screens and the resets, it feels less smooth than games from the same franchise a decade ago.

When it does decide to get modern, though, it’s awful. The game defaults to treating each level as a “lobby”, so other players are constantly in your game even if you just want to free skate to find collectibles and explore the level, and likely aggravates the loading screen issue that plagues every play session. Even “private” sessions have this annoyance.

That said, Create-A-Park, a beloved feature, yearned for online access and now has it. Even a brief poke through the uploads has shown that there are some pretty good parks to skate, and that’s great news.

Staying Power

How much fun you have with this game is dependent on how much you enjoy the gameplay mechanics across the nine admittedly creative levels. If you’re a huge fan, you’ll spend hours on this, especially as players start building and uploading parks; I’ve already seen some good ones. If you’re a casual fan, I can’t see it taking up more than 10 hours of your time if you want to unlock all the levels, maybe more if you find some good parks to skate online.

Bullsh*t Factor

So far, there’s no DLC or microtransactions, although the day one patch is nearly twice the size of the actual freaking game. But I do think the price is a little inflated: $60 is a lot of money for a game lacking polish in a few crucial technical areas.

Final Thoughts

I’m of two minds on this game. On one level, stripping the series down to its mechanics is smart in the sense that the mechanics are damn near perfect. On another, though, at this point a $60 game tends to need more than that, and there are enough issues here that I’m forced to wonder what the point was. Even Nintendo evolves their games from entry to entry and system to system; why isn’t Tony Hawk doing the same?

Verdict: Worth A Chance

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