I never thought I’d meet a game I couldn’t get through before putting it down. I pride myself on the very fact that I finish the main campaigns and get invested in the multi-player before rendering a verdict, and I’m under no delusion that my opinion currently carries any weight, but if you’re reading this Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 Review and you’re wondering whether or not to purchase Tony Hawk’s Pro Cash-In 5, then don’t.

I decided to finish it. Not in the Mortal Kombat-esque way that I feel the game should be finished, but I did indeed unlock every level visible and endure the mindless repetition that is the progression system. In case it wasn’t already unmistakably apparent, I dislike this game.

I wanted to enjoy it. I tried desperately, as it continued to push me away, to try and find a redeeming quality in its myriad of issues, but even after you clear your mind of the many bugs, collision detection issues and mass amounts of loading screens, you’re still left with a hugely underwhelming experience in a game that shouldn’t suffer on the current generation of consoles the way this one does.

Oh, and before we get down to the nitty gritty details, you should be made aware that this game will require a download that’s twice as big as the game’s size itself. That’s because the update IS the game, unless you consider the tutorial level enough for you.

Look and Feel

Low quality and rigid. As much as I’d like to leave it at that, I feel I owe you more as a critic to articulate my dislike of how Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 let me down.

Anybody that has followed the reveal of this game knows that it originally had a different art style. That art style was worse, granted, but not by a great deal. The cel-shading almost feels like a compensation rather than a touch of passion as it does in many Japanese titles.

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This game looks bad. The textures seem off, the levels are boring, the character models are bland and it simply just isn’t what I’d hoped to see for a numbered edition of the franchise. The pop-in is terrible too. How can such small areas need to render even beyond the ridiculous amount of loading screens? It boggles the mind.

If I were to say anything positive, I’d say that, despite the poor models, I did enjoy customising my skater. Shoe-horned upgrade system aside, the aesthetic unlocks are pretty cool. If only they looked better than they did, this would have been a step in the right direction.

See, here’s the thing with the look: all that seems different is pretty much the same. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in space or in a bunker; ultimately you’re looking at not much more than a palette swap. Why should your audience care about where they are if not much differs and even when it does, it negatively impacts the game?

But let’s not forget how the game feels. The graphics themselves never truly bothered me before playing the game. No, they’re not the criminal of this story. What’s metaphorically criminal in this game is how bad it feels to play. It’s just not fun. The wipe outs are funny once. Maybe twice. Some ridiculous things can occur as you handle your skater for completely inexplicable reasons that made me chuckle lightly at the poor state of the game.

And then the laughing stops. Swiftly. It quickly devolves from a light joke in to a living hell that is quite legitimately the first game ever to make me consider putting it down before being done. Perhaps that could somewhat be attributed to my belief that the game shouldn’t be as bad as it is, and that I wanted to believe in it, but nonetheless, playing the game literally brought on a headache.

Gameplay

I’m going to explain this very quickly: in this game, you select your skater from a variety of real-life skateboarding pros, and Lil’ Wayne. You select a level, provided you’ve unlocked it, and proceed to complete objectives by skating in the area. You can select your missions via a menu and you’ll be loaded in to a specific challenge such as “get a high score!” or “skate through the rings in time!”.

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You’re rated by AM, PRO or SICK, with a reward of one, two or three stars depending on how well you do. Once you’ve achieved 15 stars in a level, you’ll unlock the next level. You can also unlock a variety of skater customisation options, and you level up over time to get stat points to improve your skater.

Now that I’ve explained what it is, let me explain why it’s awful. The movement of your character feels stiff. To the point that it’s not even worth making a rude joke. The amount of times I’ve skated face-first in to a wall because I couldn’t be bothered to make a full-stop and rotate myself slowly in another direction, I’ve lost count. I don’t recall a game that handles as badly as this does, and I firmly believe previous games in the franchise have even handled better than this. Why can’t I hop off of my skateboard simply to gain a more advantageous start-up? I don’t need an open world or anything, just let me walk a little bit.

The tricks themselves are fine, but they can feel finicky at times, and the camera angle makes it difficult to see what’s ahead of your character, so you’ll often find yourself dropping down off of an important grind because you couldn’t see that the rails were disconnected. Speaking of grinding, most of my issues occurred whilst trying to pull off a grind thanks to the infuriating “Slam” feature. Slam allows you to drop down like a power-bomb from mid-air. That’s great, except it’s mapped to the Grind button, leading me to slam when I wanted to grind if I pressed it even a slither too early. It’s not rewarding precision, it’s simply poor design, and as of this moment, it cannot be remapped.

Whilst we’re on the subject of “poor design”, let me tell you about the progression system. As you collect stars, you unlock new levels. I’ve explained this before. So you’d be forgiven for believing that you could collect say, 25 stars in one level and 5 stars in the second to unlock the third. Except you can’t. You have to earn 15 stars in the level directly before the one you wish to unlock. This is a ridiculous issue, and there are some levels in this game that I truly despise. If I ever have to skate on those Skyscrapers again, I might just jump off of one myself.

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The biggest issue, however, is that it simply isn’t fun. There are points of nostalgia when it comes to collecting the S.K.A.T.E letters and chaining for the C.O.M.B.O, and there are levels with genuine potential for enjoyment, like the Bunker. They’re unfortunately buried beneath uninspired “missions” that make up the focus for most of the session, and the fear of falling over because your skateboard hit the rail perfectly but the game decided it didn’t makes high-score seeking a chore more than a joy. Even if it were a joy, what are you even working towards? Unlocking the Mountain level? Why? It just doesn’t matter. In an effort to return to simplicity, it has lost all sense of purpose, and I use the term “effort” in the loosest of ways

The multi-player is as basic as it comes, though I wouldn’t know what more to expect. You can set up a lobby-like situation for people to join for various skateboarding antics, including a death-match. By the point I’d decided to try any of that, I’d already lost all enthusiasm for the game. If the game’s not fun, the multi-player won’t make it so. Perhaps a more important thing to note is that, if you just head in to the game, you’ll have people dropping in and out of your main level (unless you’re in a mission), so feel free to collide with all of them and witness the pathetic rag-dolls flop around.

I almost feel sorry for developer RoboModo. I can’t imagine this is the game they wanted to make, but if they consider this an accomplishment, I’m lost for words. One can’t help but feel this has Activision’s decision making all over it, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever be told the tale.

Overall

I don’t want to waste any more time than I already have on this game, so I’ll end it with this: if you’re enjoying this game, I respect that, but I don’t understand it. I understand it almost as much as I understand why this game is such an utter mess, even beyond its technical issues. The problem isn’t the surface, it’s the core, and skateboarding games deserve better than this obvious cash-grab before the license expires. Where’s the competition when we need it?

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
Review Format: PS4

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