The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series is one that most of us old-time gamers hold dear to our hearts. For it was the first game to really capture the rush of an extreme sport in a video game. As time went on, and up against the likes of EA’s SSX snowboarding games, poor old Tony and his skateboard became yesterday’s news.
The franchise’s decline can also be attributed to Neversoft’s departure to work on the Guitar Hero games leaving Robomodo, responsible for the awful Tony Hawk’s Ride and the so-so Pro Skater HD remake, at the helm.
It’s been thirteen years since the last game in the main Pro Skater franchise. It that time, EA stole some of the series’ thunder with their excellent Skate games.
Activision has teamed up, once again, with the now 47 year old skateboarding pioneer, to bring us Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5.
The gameplay feels identical to the last Tony Hawk game that I played, which is at once comforting, but at the same time a bit disappointing. It’s exactly the same way I felt playing Pro Skater HD, which isn’t that surprising as they were both developed by Robomodo.
THPS5 dumps you into a generic-looking skate park with internal and external areas featuring pool areas, ramps and rails. There are a number of other maps that unlock as you progress.
The missions are the type that you would have seen before- achieving trick scores within time limits, performing combos. A few more novel challenges like picking up ice cream cones added interest, but still didn’t really cream anything different than that which has gone before.
THPS5 is by default an online game, the free-skate mode being an on-line lobby which you share with a number of other players. It’s a good idea, giving the game a proper skate park feel. It truth though, you don’t really interact with anyone and, when you go to do mission, unless you are in a party, you are on your own.
There are multiplayer games such as trick attack- get as many trick points in two minutes, king of the hill- take out the king to earn trick points, big head- perform tricks to stop your head from exploding, deathmatch- which has you tossing balls at your opponents with every trick and combo mambo- perform the highest scoring combo to win.
The visuals are a strange meld of pretty average graphics and a jarring mild cell-shaded cartoon look for the boarders. It looks OK and almost passable, were it not for the odd way that the textures take a few moments to load at the beginning of each session.
The controls are pretty much identical to the previous games and thus pretty easy to pick up, unlike EA’s Skate. The game will have you performing some pretty exhilarating tricks in no time, but after a while they all roll into one as you frantically press buttons to add a quick heel flip to your 180 indy.
The soundtrack is pretty awesome and not just the usual thrash metal stuff that usually grace this sort of game. It’s not going to be for everyone, but I’m in my forties and I went hunting for a few of the tracks after hearing them in the game.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this is Tony Hawk Pro Skater, is just the gameplay and to some extent the visual style belong in the last decade. Is it fun, why yes, of course, and very much in the flavour of the original games, but that’s it. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 adds nothing to the mix and as a result feels a bit tired.
With Activision’s licencing contract with Tony Hawk expiring this year, I don’t think that that it is too cynical to believe THPS5 is a bit of a cash-grab, a last-ditch attempt at coaxing funds from nostalgic fans wanting some Pro Skater magic for one last time.
With Tony Hawk likely to be on the lookout for a new video game partner next year, here’s hoping that he and EA Games work something out to give us a new-gen Tony Hawk’s Skate…before he puts his hip out.