Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 25.10.2015

Review for Tony Hawk

It's hard not to feel sorry for Tony Hawk. Despite all the kudos that comes with representing skateboarding at the highest possible level, the one thing he'll likely be remembered for most is for ending a hugely successful series with an absolute stinker of a game. The original Pro Skater kick-flipped its way onto the scene just over 15 years ago and felt like a breath of fresh air at the time, but - as is the way with most games that fall into an annual release pattern - the series lacked variance with each successive iteration. (A particular low was the release of Ride and Shred, two titles made by Robomodo that came bundled with an expensive, unwieldy, and unresponsive plastic skateboard controller.) After a few years in the wilderness, the time does indeed feel right for the Hawkman's triumphant return to the limelight, and with nostalgia levels running high - and license deals no doubt on the verge of expiration - there is seemingly no better time for Activision to unleash Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 to the eager public.

It has at times felt like Pro Skater 5 was doomed from the start, with the usual gallery of internet naysayers collectively shaking their heads and tutting loudly whenever new footage or snippets of information were released to the public. It probably didn't help matters that Robomodo were once again on development duties, having already lost the trust of series regulars in previous iterations. It's unfortunate that those fears weren't proven to be unfounded, but for whatever the reason - be it lack of budget, ridiculously tight deadlines, or even Robomodo just being slightly out of their depth - it's unlikely that this is the game that Tony Hawk fans have been hankering for.

For those blissfully unaware of the franchise, or just simply not old enough to have any remaining shreds of nostalgia smashed into tiny pieces, the premise is fairly simple. Mr. Hawk and his board riding buddies are thrown wheels-first into a skate park or similarly urban setting, and charged with fulfilling a shopping list of tasks against the clock while simultaneously chaining a combo of moves together. Success brings with it stars, which can be used to unlock new areas to skate in, points to level up the skaters' skills and items to customise appearance. Given that there are ten professional skaters (plus rapper Lil Wayne) to choose from, each of which looks equally dead behind the eyes, there's potentially a lot of play in maxing out all the stats.

Screenshot for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 on PlayStation 4

For the most part, Pro Skater 5 handles in a very similar fashion to its predecessors by retaining the series' familiar core mechanics and button layout. It's a wise move that ensures veterans of the series should be able to tap into long dormant muscle memory and chain together lengthy combos with relative ease. That said, there has been the slightly irritating addition of the 'slam' move - a forceful downward motion for the benefit of the few people that are too impatient to wait for gravity to do its job. Oddly, this functionality has been mapped to the same button used for grinding, meaning that more often than not, it gets activated unintentionally with the adverse effect of breaking up the flow of the combo in play. It's a superfluous mechanic somewhat akin to giving Sonic the Hedgehog the ability to stomp on the ground at the cost of losing momentum.

Previous games in the series have given each round a two minute time restriction, meaning that all objectives were available to be tackled at once within the round, adding a sense of urgency and unpredictability to the task at hand. This time, however, Robomodo have switched up the format slightly: each objective now has to be selected individually, with the level itself acting as a Free Skate hub between activities. There are a number of minor tasks that can only be done in this Free Skate mode, and this is further enhanced by the presence of other skaters controlled by real people. Turning this into a shared experience gives the impression of an active park full of boarders and, while it's a nice idea in theory, it can also feel like a missed opportunity, as there is absolutely no interaction between the assembled participants whatsoever. All skaters spawn in exactly the same area, so most of the time there'll be a handful of players stood motionless in the same spot, while two or three others skate around until they get bored and attempt a mission or simply leave the game. Selecting a mission should be a seamless transition but in reality it's an unnecessarily cumbersome procedure filled with loading screens that totally detract from the experience. There is also the facility to create, upload and download custom skate parks, which is again a nice idea but, given that no objectives can be tied to these areas, it's of fairly limited appeal.

Screenshot for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 on PlayStation 4

The multiplayer aspect of Pro Skater 5 has been adapted to meet the demands of the current generation of networked gamers, although it's unfortunately not without its problems and feels slightly half-baked in practice. Long gone is the local split-screen mode - one of the main selling points early on in the series; in its place is a selection of online mini-games accessed through a sub-menu that will more often than not result in setting up and starting a game with no other participants present. It can be safely assumed that few others in the park hub are aware that the online competition is available, so finding sparring partners is entirely reliant on somebody searching for opponents at that precise moment in time. Classic game modes such as 'Graffiti' and 'Horse' are conspicuous in their absence and are instead replaced by the likes of 'King of the Hill' (in which best tricks earn the right to wear a crown), 'Deathmatch' (fire projectiles at other skaters by kick flipping towards them) and 'Big Head' (in which the player must continuously perform tricks in order to stop their head exploding). It's fair to say that none of these modes are particularly compelling, and the entire multiplayer section feels ill-conceived and forced.

One of the many gripes that was levelled at Pro Skater 5 on the run up to release was that visually, it didn't look like a massive step up from any of the earlier PS2 Pro Skaters. This is doing the game a slight disservice, though it's also fair to say that it's far from handsome, making its recurrent bad performance all the more puzzling: pop-in is a fairly frequent occurrence and the frame rate can fluctuate wildly when other skaters are present. The eight skate parks included don't really push the boat out from a design standpoint and some could even be deemed quite bland in appearance, though the inclusion of the classic 'School' and 'Bunker' levels are welcome reminders of the good old days. It would have been nice to see a heavy duty Tony Hawk game that really taxed the graphical prowess of the PS4 - alas, this is not it.

With regards to the soundtrack, there is actually a decent selection of music included (though the majority of the tracks are from some very obscure bands). However, there's actually no way of finding out which song is playing, due to the fact there doesn't seem to be any reference to the music in any of the menus, which seems like a slight oversight. However, this is far from the game's biggest problem.

Screenshot for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 on PlayStation 4

Indeed, the most vital issue here is that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is a buggy, glitch-ridden mess of a game. Sadly, the 'release now, patch later' model seems to be a worrying pattern that's becoming all too familiar in modern gaming and it really is heart breaking to see Hawk's legacy end on such a bum note. If there was ever a game that needed a few more months in the oven prior to release then this is it, and the fact that it's a fully priced retail game serves only to make it all the more painful. While immediate first impressions might be favourable, these quickly wear off as the cracks start to appear as early as the tutorial section. Watching Tony fly towards the ceiling at high speed in a contorted ragdoll effect after landing a slow motion kick flip is just plain disturbing, and that's before the annoyingly high risk of getting caught up in the scenery, objective markers that just don't work, and an infinite hand plant (which in reality would take Herculean strength to pull off, but in the game can only be ended by jumping out of the session entirely). This all happened on our very first sitting and sadly it's just the tip of the iceberg.

It's hard not to feel some disappointment with the finished product (if it can even be called that), as motivation to progress through the game is squashed at nearly every turn by an interface that sucks all of the fun out of proceedings. Activision have at least acknowledged there are issues with Pro Skater 5 and have promised free DLC to make amends, but it's incredibly hard to recommend this game given its current state. Continued play reveals an increasingly diverse collection of issues that affect everything from performance to sound and it's going to take more than a few sticking plasters to repair the damage here.

Screenshot for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 3 out of 10


There's absolutely no joy in declaring this game a disaster. There are occasional fleeting moments that serve to remind that skating around a virtual skate park was once an enjoyable pastime, but these are few and far between, and even the most diehard of fans will struggle to find much to enjoy in this package. After a lifetime of flips, nollies and grinds, the Hawkman deserves far better than this.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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