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Review: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 – Half-Pipe Dreams Destroyed

When I first heard that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 might actually be a thing, I had about eight minutes of joyous ecstasy before sitting down, putting my head in my hands and remembering that the game is coming from Activision. When I booted up my copy of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, I pretty much did the same thing. I yee-hawed, I skidded along my living room floor pretending to be on a skateboard, and then I sat down and played the game.

Ten minutes in and my child-like joy had evaporated while I was left sitting with my head in my hands. Again.

It’s not that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is an absolute bomb of a game – it’s actually alright in parts, but it’s the feeling that it could have been so much more with just a little bit more work. I’ve been a long-time fan of the franchise and I still boot up Tony Hawk’s Underground from time to time, but that requires me pulling out my old OG Xbox and setting it up, so the prospect of a fresh, HD, next-gen balls-to-the-wall Pro Skater game was enticing.

The gameplay sort of feels right, but the game just looks wrong. In still images that we saw before the game’s release it didn’t look too bad, but when it’s in motion the lack of polish really does show. That’s not a big deal for me though as the Tony Hawk games have never really been about A-grade presentation, it’s all about the gameplay.

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Robomodo has made a few changes to the tried and tested formula that made the previous Pro Skaters work so well. For one, the slam button is a pain in the neck and I genuinely felt my controller crack as I gripped it so hard out of frustration. See, you press the triangle/Y button to grind, but you also give it a press to defy gravity and slam down to the ground even faster. In all honesty, I couldn’t see the point in it and after 20 minutes of trying to get used to it, I just couldn’t. It was literally the most pointless addition and the game would have been a fraction better without it.

Everything else is pretty much on-par with the controls. You’ll hit the ramps and pull of grab tricks with the circle/B button. You’ll hit the ramps and pull off flip tricks with a tap of the square/X button. You’ll also hit the ramps and go flying 50 feet into the air before landing on poor Tony’s aged face. The game is riddled with bugs, glitches and other weird anomalies that make it a real challenge to play, and even harder to appreciate.

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There is some good in it though. When the game’s not dribbling along like a sack full of kittens (which isn’t often, unfortunately) you can pull off some sick combos and really feel like you’re back in the 90’s (the graphics help…) with your CRT TV. In the rare flashes of excellence, THPS5 does feel like an old memory that’s come back to haunt you as you mindlessly hit the buttons and rack up the scores while collecting SKATE, knocking over crap and hunting down the VHS. It reactivates a muscle memory that’s not been used in years and it feels pretty goo – aaaaaand you’ve hit the grind button to continue that awesome run, only to find that the game thinks you want to slam into the ground. Oh look, you’ve literally slammed into the game’s map. You’re now a part of the game’s floor. Christ al-bloody-mighty…

 

Activision has said that it and Robomodo are working on releasing fixes for the game’s many bugs and glitches, but despite their best intentions and promises, I can’t see this one getting any better. The online is pointless to the point that I couldn’t care less. The frame-rate is shoddy at best in single-player, but throw a few online riders together and you might as well call it a day, unless the game decides that for you by crashing. In my time with the game I’ve had to hard-reset my console at least ten times. Considering that I’ve played the game almost every other day since release, that’s bloody awful.

I’ve also not managed to finish the game, despite having been at it for almost a month. The sheer amount of problems with the game on a technical level have hindered my progress to the point that I’m no longer going to waste my time pushing forward with this endeavor. I know others have managed to find some fun with the game, but personally, I cannot recommend it. You can’t even create a digital version of yourself to subject to the game’s many glitches. Que?

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Disclaimer: This review was conducted using a retail copy purchased at the cost of the reviewer. He truly regrets paying the full RRP and will be gifting this game to a low-tier friend this Christmas.


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