Review: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 (PS4)

tony-hawks-pro-skater-5-review-banner

Title: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (14.94 GB)
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Robomodo / Disruptive Games
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is also available on PlayStation 3 (November 10), Xbox One, and Xbox 360 (November 10).
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise is one that is important to a lot of gamers, or it was, back in the glory days of the PlayStation and PlayStation 2. Sadly, since then the franchise has been through the ringer as it tried whatever it could to stay relevant.

Now after years of open worlds, storylines, and plastic pheripherials, Tony Hawk has returned to its roots in a last ditch effort to latch onto the nostalgia of its fans. The result is a mess of a game that has the feel of what made the franchise fun, but it is all buried under head scratching design choices.

Gameplay:
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 controls pretty similar to the previous four Pro Skater games which is one of the few redeeming qualities it has. You have your ollie, your grind and grabs on the face buttons, and it is easy to get in the groove of things just like the good old days.

If you have played the franchise before it feels like you want the game to feel. Combos are easily linked together for high scores and can be linked together with manuals and grinding rails. So in terms of the core mechanics nothing has changed and it is for the better.

A new addition to the gameplay mechanics is the “Slam” button which is oddly the same button as the grind. What this allows is for the skater to immediately slam the board down when in the air. The advantage is the ability to prevent a bail when your skater is going to miss a ramp or gap thus preventing any loss of points.

Tony Hawk's® Pro Skater™ 5_20151008202712 Tony Hawk's® Pro Skater™ 5_20150930022727

While this new mechanic has some value, mapping it to the grind button is an odd choice and sometimes it does not feel responsive. In the end it just feels like an addition for the sake of adding something. I could see value in it if it worked properly and was mapped to another button.

The gameplay is natural for veterans of the franchise and easy for first timers to pick up, but it cannot be fully enjoyed due to the many issues plaguing the game. One of the biggest is the mission structure which is cumbersome and annoying.

In previous games each level had a set number of goals to accomplish and you completed as many as you could in two minutes. This time, missions can only be done one at a time and it is an unnecessarily drawn out process.

… absolutely no flow to anything in the mission structure …
Once a level is selected, you are thrown into an online freeskate mode and from there you pick a mission which has no description till after you enter it. The bothersome aspect comes from the game loading you out of the freeskate mode into that mission in a private server. Once loaded, it will hang for a couple seconds to tell you the rules of the mission and then you can attempt it.

On top of that, the game even makes retrying a mission bothersome because instead of the a quick retry like previous games it now it involves more button presses and extra loading. Lastly, as far as I could tell, the only way to stop mid-mission is to quit completely out to the main menu. There is absolutely no flow to anything in the mission structure and the way it is set up drains any chance of fun.

Speaking of missions, most of them are boring and after a few levels it is easy to find yourself just wanting to do the bare minimum to unlock the next level. An example is one where a pool is filled with oversized sports balls and you have to knock them out of the pool within a set time… very exciting.

Tony Hawk's® Pro Skater™ 5_20150930025142 Tony Hawk's® Pro Skater™ 5_20151005032239

Another consists of collecting items and bringing them to a drop off point. From ice cream cones to lunch boxes, it does not matter what the item is because it is not fun. The only ones that I enjoyed were the high score missions on each level and that’s because it was the most standard Pro Skater mission while everything else felt like a chore.

Now the whole point of doing missions is to unlock the levels and this is another aspect that Pro Skater 5 fumbles. With the power of today’s consoles the levels are large for a Pro Skater game, but at the same time they just felt empty and lifeless.

There are a few good levels, but a majority of them lack the flair of older games. There did not appear to be any cool secrets to find leaving you to focus on just how bland the environments are. The mechanics are the only thing this game has going for it and what’s the point of them if the levels are boring?

… too much going against it to truly enjoy anything …
Create A Park is back, but it is limited to five themes and those feature immovable structures from the core levels. I created a couple of parks and each one, much like the core levels, felt empty with huge gaps of space due to the the complexity meter filling up with ease.

Playing user created levels in general was not a pleasant experience mostly because the levels are pretty glitchy and suffering from all sorts of technical issues. In user created levels it is easy to fall through the world or clip the environment.

The frame rate is actually worse in the user created levels and there is texture flickering plaguing parks. The templates are limiting and there are too many issues preventing the create a park modes to be worthwhile. In the end it is just another strike against this game.

Overall, the game may feel familiar in how it plays but there is too much going against it to truly enjoy anything. The only fun I found was in the high score missions on the few levels that are worth playing.

Tony Hawk's® Pro Skater™ 5_20151008202724 Tony Hawk's® Pro Skater™ 5_20151008202643

Visuals:
When Pro Skater 5 was first announced the screenshots for it were muddy and it looked low quality. In the final version of the game everything has been brightened up, but the quality still is not up there with other PlayStation 4 games let alone some PlayStation 3 games.

For the most part the visuals are fine enough for a skating game when the frame rate is holding up. When the game is running smoothly some fun can be had, but too many times in more “complex” levels the frame rate will take a dive. In one level in particular the frame rate would drop if your skater passed a torch or portal.

… like it’s poorly optimized …
It is frustrating when the frame rate randomly drops in levels that are not complicated enough in design. It really makes the drops baffling. As mentioned before, the levels are big, but also pretty empty, so there is a lot of space between ramps and rails which makes seeing the game’s struggles feel like it’s poorly optimized.

It’s a real shame because I do not think anyone expected a technical masterpiece from this title. The bar was set low and the game actually struggles to reach it.

Audio:
The soundtracks for Pro Skater games have always been consistent and memorable. Everyone that has any relationship with this franchise has their favorite soundtrack and luckily, in my opinion, there is a good soundtrack here.

It is a nice blend of pop, punk, and hip hop that one would expect from a Tony Hawk game. The soundtrack features songs from bands such as Death, Ratatat, and a bunch of others that fit in the style of music associated with skating and the Tony Hawk brand.

Tony Hawk's® Pro Skater™ 5_20150930033019 Tony Hawk's® Pro Skater™ 5_20151008202948

Online/Multiplayer:
When a level is selected the game loads you into a freeskate mode with twenty other players. In this mode you can voice chat and skate around. This “feature” adds nothing to the experience of the game.

Most players will seem to be glitching and often will just be standing still. Thankfully there is no collision when bumping into other players and the only penalty is an on screen mention of hitting another player.

… as lackluster as the offline game …
One thing that is noticeable throughout is constant flow of on screen messages indicating players joining and leaving the server, which is absolutely aggravating. You can attempt to bypass all of this by joining a private server, but sometimes after leaving a mission I would end up being put into a public server without notice.

Online modes like King of the Hill and score chases can be selected using the touch pad menu. The invite system works, but funnels you into another server and then after completing the session you are dropped back into another freeskate mode.

The whole experience and structure of the online is as lackluster as the offline game. There is no offline multiplayer which is a bummer, but at least in my experience the online worked consistently.

Conclusion:
As a long time fan of the Tony Hawk series this is yet another disappointment from the once loved and respected brand. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 lacks the flow, style, and attention to detail one would want and expect from a Pro Skater game.

It’s buried under poor design choices and the core gameplay cannot save the experience from being worthwhile. Gameplay can only take you so far when the levels are lackluster and mission structures prevent any flow from being possible. There is not much redeemable here and if this is the last Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game we see it will be a damn shame to see it go out like this.

Score:
5.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg

 

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook