Before I begin I just want to say that this is an upfront and honest review from a long time fan of the THPS series. I'm not going to pull any punches and it will most likely be very brutal for a game that Activision is attempting to charge a MSRP of $59.99 on initial release. The breakdown will be very simple in order to hit all bases of what the game has to offer overall. In no particular order we're going to cover graphics, sound, gameplay, and then hit with some final thoughts. Sound good ? Let's go.
Back in 1999 I think the only "skating game" I had ever played up until that time was Skate or Die 2 on the NES. I hesitate to say that Skate or Die 2 is an actual skating sim or a skating game due to limitations on the NES hardware at the time but I digress. I ended up being introduced to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series like many others with the demo of THPS being hidden on a PlayStation Magazine Demo Disc with one level and a handful of songs... and I played the ever living shit out of it. Since those early days the series has evolved from humble beginnings of just simple combos all the way to a peripheral skate board which let you actually perform skating motions instead of just button pushes. While most know that the skateboard peripheral that I'm speaking of is from Tony Hawk Ride (and was subsequently the game that buried the Tony Hawk franchise for a few years) some may not know that the developer of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is one in the same. Robomodo are again at the helm of another TH game, but after extremely poor outings with other titles can this developer turn things around for this once beloved franchise?Graphics
Throughout the PS1, PS2 and even the PS3 years the THPS has achieved many aspects of graphical achievements that other games failed to make with the games looking down right amazing on their respective system. Now fully integrated into "next gen" Tony Hawk 5's graphical engine leaves a lot to be desired. The game doesn’t have good textures, models, colors, or animations. Everything here is just sloppy in the presentation with an easy example of the fact that the characters don't look anything close to their human counterpart. I've heard people say that "It looks like something out of a PS2 game", but I will immediately dismiss that. You could take a screenshot of Hawk 5, place it next to one from Hawk 2, and immediately notice visually that they are completely different with Hawk 5 being the superior looking game. At this point it is just people being severely let down with the graphic and animation engine after playing a game like Metal Gear Solid 5 which makes them jump to these conclusions. Moving on... The colors / textures are muddy and lack polish with day / night levels taking on no real identity where you can point out saying "HEY THERE'S SCHOOL 2" or "THERE'S THE WAREHOUSE". The best comparison that I could make is to tell you to look at THPS HD in regards to the graphics. The engine is the same, but the noticeable muddiness in THPS 5 is what sets it apart from THPS HD.
The skaters have your general transition animations for combinations and those unavoidable bails which you are going to see from time to time depending on what you're doing in a level. While the THPS series has had many many levels with that odd glitchy spot in it I encountered straight bugs during my play through. Look at the following video from Eurogamer of some of the nonsense that others have endured on day one (after a day one patch mind you, but we'll get to that shortly). This video was taken from Eurogamer.net, as my capture set up would not cooperate to give you first hand video of my issues. Needless to say they were pretty much the same.
These glitches are just everywhere which leads me to believe that the game was only QA'ed to ensure that it could go out the door, and not to the level of polish that most games have. While the bugs are unfortunately present you are still going to see some decent trick animations in THPS 5. Each move looks exactly like it should in real life with some of the more goofy looking moves looking as goofy as you think they would when riding a skateboard. The camera angle is still a third-person fixed version which simply follows the skater around, staying behind him or her no matter what trick is pulled off. As with some of the bail animations or quick turns the camera may wig out a bit, but it usually fixes itself without issue as in previous versions of the game.
Finally we come to framerate of THPS 5 and it can be described in one word. Inconsistent. THPS games have always had an acceptable framerate but with the current generation of hardware being able to render other AAA game without dip in framerate and then to see THPS 5 drop to less than 30fps when going through a breakable box I'm just left speechless. Overall it's just very unsettling that the game just looks and performs this poor, and it's even worse that this is the second go around for Robomodo with this engine.Sound
A mainstay of the franchise is the amazing soundtrack which has been included in nearly every single THPS game since the start. The 32-song soundtrack includes songs from bands like Anti-Flag and Royal Blood, as well as artists like Skrillex and Atmosphere. Some of the artists aren't really my cup of tea to listen to but in general all the songs sound crisp and tend to flow with the game. Sound effects are also good with board clicks, jumps and slams all sounding like they should. Definitely a piece of the game that you don't want to get wrong I think Robomodo did a fine job capturing the THPS soundtrack feel even if a Skillrex song is playing in the background.Gameplay
As with any game it comes down to how it plays and while THPS 5 looks like a Tony Hawk game when you see it in motion it's the details that set it apart from others in the series.
Once all loaded up I attempted to play beyond the tutorial but ran into a little snafu when I tried to progress. I could not progress beyond the tutorial or set up a create a skate park otherwise my game would lock up. It was only until I jumped onto my phone and that I found out about this massive seven gigabyte day one patch that I needed to download I was able to actually progress. Even more unlucky for me was the fact that my main internet was being a pain this morning so I had to wait to download the patch. While my internet being down is not THPS's fault it does frustrate the hell out of me that I have to download a day one patch of this size. What exactly was in the patch? It's not as if it was only a few hundred megs or a gig of data mind you as this was seven freaking gigs. Was the majority of game in the patch itself? I will never know.
After the initial problems getting the game to load I was ready to play some THPS 5. I was able to pick from a variety of skaters (of which I picked Tony Hawk like I usually do), and immediately loaded up the first level in single player mode. Sing player or Career mode is set up with mission-based objectives (just like THPS 4), but I've never really been a of the mission type setup in my THPS games. Instead I would have preferred free skate levels that have objectives in them. Despite this while I was snagging COMBO or SKATE, finding the hidden tape or nabbing the high score it felt natural like a THPS game should. After a few minutes the nostalgia of playing the original THPS kicked in. I was actually having some fun with this Robomodo version, and it made me smile. The smiles quickly faded away though when some of the more questionable aspects of the game popped up. Specifically in regards to control is the new move set of being able to "ground pound" onto a grind (or stop some movements) by holding your grind button, and the auto wall ride mode. Being that I've played the series since its inception I didn't know why either of these aspects are now a control set in the game that I have zero control over. I found myself repeatedly wall riding (which is now done when you approach a wall at an angle) when I did not want to, or ground pounding early when I was expecting to do a grind. These are minor nitpicks by me, but stood out from the otherwise stellar controls that you have come to know the THPS series to have. All in all it's pretty standard stuff for a THPS game and doesn't take any real chances with the old formula.
Online play is available in the form of side modes but they're nothing to write home about. You'll have King of the Hill, Trick Attack and the bunch but there isn't any real reason to play them. Why? Well as you load up the single player levels you are taken to a free skate arena where people just jump in and out of your level at any given time. It's a very strange to see these people glitch in an out all the time with their user name taking up a huge portion of the screen which is very distracting when I'm trying to hit a long trick string. The online options are also buried in a lot of menus instead of just having a specific online mode that you could get into. I was also having issues getting people to actually connect to my games as well with more than ten games only having one other person present when I would have at least fifteen in my free skate single player level. It could be that people just wanted to free skate, but I at least wanted to mention it.
The ability to be able to create a skater is a fairly critical part of the series as is the ability to level up your character when you earn stat points in the game. Both of these are buried in menu problems which I previously mentioned while talking about the online portion of the game. The menus are a mess. Let's start with create-a-skater. You don't actually "create-a-skater" as you take an alternate version of a pro and modify their feature set. So, I would take Tony Hawk, and then I can change his head, clothes and board while keeping the move set. If it sounds weird it's because it is. I had to play around with the mode to understand it instead of being able to just jump in, create a skater's looks, give him moves, and then skate. Leveling up your character will force you to exit all the way back to the main menu in order to get to the create mode and then give that skater the point. Way back in the original game I could level up my skater right then and there, so why the menu set is like this is just beyond me.
Create-a-park mode is back but in limited form. There are only five themes (or backgrounds) at launch, but you can place literally hundreds of items in your world before the game taps you out. This would be great, but the more architecture that you add to the game causes the frame rate to dip significantly so it's not even worth the effort. At the time of this writing one of the highest rated levels is called "Bad Game" where the geometry in the level spells "Bad Game" and that's all that is present. Final Verdict
Back when Activision released a preview video of the gameplay a few months back I was immediately worried because it just looked so bad. After playing it top to bottom my worst fears have been realized and then some. There is nothing new in this game that hasn't already been done (or done better) in older versions in the series. From the load times, menus, graphics, and everything else it's a failure start to finish (despite some of the nostalgia that I felt after initially playing for the first time). Skate 3, a game released back in 2010 on old hardware, looks and plays better than THPS 5 which doesn't speak very well about ol' Tony's game. Finally, for full disclosure of this review, I was given this copy of THPS 5 for free as part of a semi promotion for the game. I put this not only for full disclosure but also to let you all know that you could easily waste $59.99 on a much better skating game or any other type of game out there. In short: Don't purchase this game. Make it so that Activision has to go back to the drawing board for the series, or so that it makes them finally bury this franchise for good.Editors note: I changed the last sentence because I didn't like the flow of it. You can read it here: "Don't purchase THPS 5 so that Activision has to go back to the drawing board or just makes them finally bury this franchise for good."