Folks, this one hurts. When I think back to the defining moments of my life, playing the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater for the first time is one of them. I’d already ready been introduced to extreme sports thanks to Cool Boarders, but Tony Hawk meant so much more – it was not only my introduction to skating, but my first real taste of a culture that would shape me as a person, one that I’m still involved with and passionate about even to this day.

So, to see a once great series revived, some 13 years after the last game in the franchise’s mainline, only to see it limp its way to shelves like it just broke its leg attempting a 900, is incredibly depressing. My time with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 has been nothing but miserable, and I’m sure many others who grew up playing the series and found themselves wrapped up in skate culture as a result will be feeling about the same right now.

It started off about as poorly as you could imagine, after getting home from work on Friday morning with a copy of the game (I was the first customer my local GameStop had that morning), I put it in my Xbox, set it to install and patch, and went to bed, hoping to play it before work the next night. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the Activision logo, the game crashing each time. Polygon had published a workaround for this, but it didn’t work on my machine. Dejected, I took a deep breath, uninstalled the game and patch, and started afresh as I left for work.


I managed to get the game to run the following morning, but still, it wasn’t actually functional. You see, I didn’t have Xbox Live Gold, so, I could only start a “private” freeskate – the game puts you in a public multiplayer with up to 19 other players by default. I completed the freeskate objectives here, collecting the S-K-A-T-E & C-O-M-B-O letters, as well as smashing some boxes, and grabbing the DVD and tape, before activating a mission. After completing it, the game hung, leaving me unable to do anything. You see, after you finish a mission, the game kicks you back out into a public match, even if you were in private. Because I didn’t have Gold, the game couldn’t kick me to a public game. I couldn’t load any more missions, and lost my completed objectives, so I had to quit the game, buy Gold, and then restart from the beginning.

It’s an absolute mess of a system, and it only serves to further underline the problems at the core of THPS 5. When you’re in freeskate, you can activate timed missions by skating over to the relevant marker and holding X (or square on PS4) – although half the time the game doesn’t register this, and requires you to open the pause menu instead. The game then kicks you to a loading screen, where you’ll do the mission, in what’s essentially an offline environment. Once you’re done, the game kicks you back to another loading screen, and then back to your public game. There’s no way to do a sequence of missions without going back and manually starting a new one, so any sense of flow the game could otherwise have is virtually non-existent.

What’s even worse, is that the game is a buggy, glitchy mess, to a degree we haven’t seen in a game since Ride to Hell: Retribution came out a couple years ago. The problems are seemingly infinite – constant crashes, loss of saved progress (which happened to me three times!), skaters clipping through the world, or ragdolling into space every time you try to so much as ollie, and a frame rate that averages about 15 FPS, combine to make the entire experience thoroughly miserable. The framerate problem is only exacerbated in the user-created levels, where the game feels like it’s stuck in permanent slow-motion, but, thankfully, there’s no reason to play these, because the creation suite sucks.


The gameplay isn’t great either. The most egregious change to the formula comes in the form of a slam move, which is mapped to the grind button. In theory, the slam allows you to hit any rail you’re flying over, but the timing feels off, and since it automatically shoots you to the ground, longtime fans of the series are going to be frustrated by it. The slam also requires you to be pixel perfect when it comes to lining grinds up, and quite often, especially in the early going, I found myself getting really pissed off about the whole thing. Wall rides are now automatic, even when you don’t want to execute one, and there’s a weird sense of magnetism that comes with going vert – it feels like there’s a pre-designated landing spot for every point that you hit on a quarterpipe or halfpipe, and it really, really doesn’t feel good.

There’s been a lot of fuss made online about the way the game looks, but honestly, for the most part, I think it looks passable – just about – when it’s actually in motion. At least, it looks sorta okay when all the textures actually manage to load in, and provided you’re using one of the maybe three characters in the game – Leticia Bufoni, Chris Cole and Lil’ Wayne himself – that look like Robomodo actually spent any time on them. The character models are by far the worst looking part of the game; Hawk himself looks like he’s taken a few too many curbs to the face in his day, while Bufoni aside, all the long-haired skaters have that Triple H circa PS1 era wrestling game look.

The levels themselves look largely bland, empty, and soulless, and in many ways, it feels like the 19 other skaters glitching all over your freeskate – assuming you can actually find that many people playing – are there more to offer you some form of life and visual excitement than anything else. The levels are all unacceptably small for a current-gen game, and feel no bigger than their PS1 counterparts. In some cases, the Mega Park, for example, they feel even smaller. This would be something you could look past if there was a lot of them, but there isn’t, there’s only eight, and some, like School III and The Bunker (a renamed version of The Warehouse), are taken straight out of the previous games, with only slight alterations.

The missions lack variety too, there’s your typical high score tasks, as well as a rotating handful of others, requiring you to clear a pool full of balls, race through rings or get the highest score possible off a single ramp. The much-publicized projectile-based missions, however, are just the fucking worst. These missions require you to destroy targets by kickflipping to shoot wonky, unreliable projectiles. They’re an absolute bore, and I hated seeing them on my mission list.


Even the soundtrack, something the series has always been revered for, disappoints massively. It feels like it’s on a set order, because it seemed to me like I was constantly hearing the same two or three tracks, but even then, there’s not much that stands out. A good Tony Hawk soundtrack should get you pumped up, make you feel like grabbing your board and going and shredding yourself, but in THPS 5, it just kind of washes over you, and for the most part, doesn’t feel like it matches the tone of the game. That’s not to say the music is awful or anything, in fact I quite like some of it, but it feels more like something I’d listen to while driving, than I would while skating.

Things get even worse when it comes to customizing your own character. Your custom skater can be put together from a stock set of parts that you can unlock or buy using in-game currency, but what’s really weird is the way the game has you do this. To play as a custom character, you’ve got to go to the “Customize Skater” section of the main menu (which is also where you pick your skater, which the game never tells you), choose the pro whose moves you like – because you can’t edit the pros moves, and your custom skater is essentially just going to act as a reskin – press the X button to switch to custom skater, and then go back out. You’ve gotta go through the whole process again if you want to change back to the real-life pro or assign upgrade points, and the whole thing couldn’t be clunkier or less intuitive if they tried.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 isn’t just bad, it’s abhorrent. This isn’t Criminal Girls or Witch and the Hundred Knight level bad, it’s Big Rigs with a skateboard. It barely runs, and even when it does, it’s so broken that it’s borderline unplayable. There’s a certain element of bleak comedy to the whole thing, but once you’ve seen Weezy F. Baby skyrocket into the ionosphere for the tenth time in as many minutes, it loses even that. It’s a disgrace to the franchise and sport, and that Activision had the gall to charge $60 for it is outrageous – I could’ve bought one of those sweet Girl Glitch OG decks I’ve been eyeing up for less. Don’t play Tony Hawk 5. Not even if it winds up free on PS+ or Games With Gold. Fuck this game.

1 stars

Broken bones, broken dreams


Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is a disgrace to a once proud franchise, and should be avoided at all costs.

About Niall

Niall is the last remaining emo kid and can usually be found hiding from Michael Myers in Dead by Daylight or waiting in vain for fights in DOA6.

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