Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 Review - Disappointment Incarnate
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 isn’t the buggy trainwreck that many say it is. It is just your typical trainwreck. Terrible performance and atrocious game design combine to make one of the most egregious instances of a loved game series falling from greatness. THPS5 isn’t just disappointing given the series legacy. It is just a really bad game. The bland and soulless experience is a sad bookend in a line of games that was received so well by the public. Given the public outcry over this game, it is possible that this will be the final installment in the series, and what a way to go out.
Where to start with this game? The THPS games have generally had a tone and dollop of attitude to them. While the 90’s skater attitude was overbearing and dated, I prefer it to the vacant void that is THPS5. This installment feels like the most bare-bones and disconnected game in the series. There is no sense of tone or heart in this game. All of the stages in the game seem like bland skateparks with a dry theme shoehorned into them. At no point did stages make me feel like I was in a different locale or setting from the previous stage. Cringeworthy homages to iconic stages in the series don’t evoke nostalgic feeling from the classic games. These references instead make us realize how hard this game fails in capturing the essence that made previous games so special.
Design makes good games good. Unfortunately, terrible game design is what makes this game so bad. Character progression feels meaningless and mundane. There never really feels like there is a difference in gameplay when stats are increased. In previous installments, a maxed out character gave the player a feeling of power, skill, and fluidity. In THPS5, the changes are hardly noticeable. Possibly the most notable flaw with the game design is the game’s mission system. Each map offers the player a list of missions to complete before advancing to the next stage. Veterans of the series will be familiar with this concept. However, the variation of mission objectives in THPS5 is absolutely atrocious. Are you done with the first set of missions in the game? Well, congratulations. You now know how every stage will play out. THPS5 takes recycling content to an obnoxious level. What is potentially more offensive is that every new stage tries to trick the player into thinking the objectives are different. Adding a different coat of paint onto objectives I did 15 minutes ago doesn’t classify as new content. Oh. And character customization is laughable. While you can customize how a character looks to a very limited extent, creating one’s own character is not an option. This is further made ridiculous for the fact that you can alter the way a character looks drastically. There was a moment when I was playing as Tony Hawk with a female body and the head of Octodad. But again, making my own character was out of the question.
Now, let me address the supposed broken status of the game. At the time of review, I have put ample time into the PS4 version of the game. During the course of my entire playthrough, I have seen one or two glitches or bugs. One of these hiccups sent me flying off of my skateboard in a comedic fashion. The other one had me falling through the bar that I intended to grind on. Other than that, I saw no noticeable bugs. However, on the topic of performance, the game doesn’t run particularly well. Frame rate takes noticeable plunges when the game presents its poorly designed assets crowd the screen. Frame rate becomes even more of an issue when playing online. In fact, avoid playing online at all. It only makes this game look and play even more terrible which is a feat in itself. Online play also increases the time it takes to repeat an objective by a staggering amount. When your run can fail in the first 5 seconds of an attempt, it is crucial to be able to restart quickly. By stretching that to around 15 seconds while online, the game becomes almost unplayable.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is a missed opportunity. Many have speculated of the game’s tumultuous development process. However, these unconfirmed ideas do not change the fact that this game is a bad one. The game’s soundtrack is one of the few good things about it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the rudimentary game design that plagues this debacle.