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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5: Pro or Poo?

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There have been a lot of adverse reviews floating around the internet in relation to the latest game in a long running series that a lot of people used to be very fond of. It has taken me a long time to get my hands on a copy of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 (THPS5) for various reasons, but finally I get to find out for myself whether or not these poor reviews are worth the time it took to read them.

For me, my obsession with the original THPS games came purely from my interest in the Punk Rock music scene. I was a fan of the ill-fated Blink 182 punk rock band and loved the music that went along with the skater scene. I was also an owner of a PSOne which made it very accessible to start playing the original THPS game which housed a plethora of Punk Rock music plonked over the top of a very competent skating video game. The competitive nature when playing with my friends or just simply boasting about high scores at school the next day after completing a flawless run with my favourite character was epic. Those were the days, but sadly, those days were short lived after the series started to take a dive with silly plastic skateboard controllers and strange unfriendly control schemes. I moved on, and I pretty much forgot about the times that I once enjoyed playing THPS.

Enter THPS5, when it was announced to be in production via a sweet little tweet by Tony Hawk himself. Even though the days where I would spend countless hours just skating around pulling off impossible moves to awesome music by Zebrahead (thanks TH for introducing me to a killer band) were gone, I felt a twinge inside that got me interested. Then THPS5 released in September of 2015 and the reviews started pouring in. It wasn't good for the game, which wasn't good for me.

Unfortunately for me, in 2015, the September through November period got super crazy with game releases. This is of course normally a busy period for games so if you want to release a game around this time, you need to make sure it's perfect and has a particular point of interest. Reviews flooded in about THPS5 which weren't flattering and sadly this game got pushed to the bottom of the pile for me. Reviewing games can be busy work at times.

Fast forward to now, July 2016 and a bug bit me. A punk rocker bug that has been lying dormant for many years has reared its head and took it upon itself to take a nice chunk out of my proverbial rear end. I had a hankering for some classic punk rock music and nothing goes better with punk rock music than a THPS game. I took to the online digital stores to see how much the game was going for at the present moment. It was to my pleasure that THPS5 was just added to the Winter Sale on the Playstation Network which made my decision an easy one. Before making the payment, I ran the idea past some friends to see what their thoughts were on the idea. I think a comment was made saying something about enjoying Jar Jar Binks more and that I should save my money. As per usual, I didn't listen to my friends and I went ahead and forked out the hard earned on my punk rock craving.

I booted up the game and went into the tutorial. It loaded me into the first part without choosing a character. Naturally the game set me up with Tony Hawk which is pretty okay (where is Bob Burnquist these days anyway?). Before the tutorial was able to explain the controls to me, I was already kick flipping into manuals into ollies and into grinds. All of the controls were in the same place that I left them back in 1999. All of the control knowledge that I had burned into my brain all those years ago were still there. I think I just might still be a pro. Maybe I will have what it takes to play a TH game again and actually enjoy it. I then realised a new feature that had been added into the game. The "slam" move that would essentially rocket your player down to the ground from the air. This is something that I remember from those horrid reviews from the internet. This was an apparently bad new feature that made grinding hard and often ruined combos. This is also something that wasn't able to be changed in the controller layout. Now maybe an update added the tick box, but you can now make it so that you need to double press the grind button to activate the slam, instead of just pressing grind for the slam. Now I beg to differ when it comes to this being a bad new feature. I found it quite useful after getting to know how it works. I now find it much easier to nail a grind while using the slam feature because it will slam me down onto the rails to grind, without sailing too far over the top of them. Shame on you bad reviews for lying to me.

Straight away it was obvious to me that THPS5 had definitely gone back to its roots to win back some of those old fans that felt betrayed by the last few TH games that were released. It felt like a TH game again and it felt good. I smashed through the tutorial and got into the first level of the game. They had done away with the time limit for runs and essentially just let you free roam around the map until you activated a little icon which would give you little missions to complete within the old school time limits. This although slightly different from the original, was still constructed using the same DNA from the original. I felt at home.

The punk rock music was filling the background like I thought it would, but this time around none of the songs are known to me. I don't know who the bands are, but I don't mind the tunes at all. After all, I had never heard of Zebrahead until I heard them in a THPS game. The only thing that isn't that great is that the set list would appear to be very limited because in a session of a couple of hours, I started to hear the same few songs quite a few times. For a game that would demand so many hours of a player, it would have been nicer to see a bigger selection of songs to pleasure my ears with. Even songs from the original game would have made me giggle a little like school girl. Now that's what the game made me think for some reason. I then hit up a secret little research tool that I know of called Google and I looked up the soundtrack for THPS5 and I was amazed that there were more songs than I realised there were. Here's the list:

  1. Anti-Flag - “Stars and Stripes”
  2. Atmosphere - “Southsiders”
  3. Black Pistol Fire - “Hipster Shakes”
  4. Bully  - “Milkman”
  5. Cloud Nothings - “I’m Not Part of Me”
  6. Cold Cave - “A Little Death to Laugh”
  7. Connie Price and the Keystones - “International Hustler”
  8. Crass Mammoth - “All 149”
  9. Deaf Poets - “Degenerate Mind”
  10. Death - "Keep On Knocking"
  11. Death From Above 1979 - "Virgins"
  12. Deer Mother - "When The Wolves Come Out"
  13. Doomtree - “Mini Brute"
  14. Fake P - “Rorschach”
  15. Family Force 5 -"Raised By Wolves"
  16. Four Year Strong -"Go Down In History"
  17. Harlan - "Moment To Myself"
  18. Hundred Visions - "Our Ritual"
  19. Hungry Hands - “Highline”
  20. Icon For Hire -"Cynics and Critics"
  21. Killer Be Killed -"Wings of Feather and Wax"
  22. New Politics -"Everywhere I Go"
  23. Plague Vendor - “Black Sap Scriptures”
  24. Ratatat -"Cream on Chrome"
  25. RattBlack - "Skate Rock"
  26. Royal Blood - "Little Monster"
  27. State Champs - "Secrets"
  28. Temples - "Shelter Song"
  29. The Orwells - "Who Needs You"
  30. The Schitzophonics  - “Rat Trap”
  31. The Sheds - "Bad Things are Bad"
  32. Yogi & Skrillex - "Burial"
Now if I had to guess how many songs there were before seeing this list, I would have been wrong by about three times under. I don't know why, but the randomising of the play order is horrid and I heard so many songs multiple times when I should have rarely had this issue in the first couple of hours. 

The graphics of THPS5 have also come under some fire. Some claiming that these graphics aren't what the current generation of gaming deserves. Well for that I have to say, remember that a great game, graphics do not make. If graphics were the be all and end all, then games like Minecraft would have died a horrible and early death a long time before the world ate it up which ended up with it being available on just about every platform that exists. The graphics are fine. They're like a cell shaded Telltale game except due to numerous smacks to the head (with no helmet I might add), there is no character in the game that can say "Clementine will remember that".

There's a decent character roster in there too. Granted I don't really know any of the pro skaters these days, but did you know that Tony Hawk's son Riley is a killer skater too? Well he is, and he's in the game. Even though there are some really well established skaters to choose from, I couldn't help but be amazed by the inclusion of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles straight out of the box...or from the download. I didn't have to get to level ONE BILLION to unlock the Turtles, they were there for me to use straight away. So there I went and Raphael is my go to skater in green. 

Okay, so realistically, it's not all sugarplums and fairies, and I don't for a minute want you to be thinking that I am looking at THPS5 through rose coloured glasses from the 90's. There are some things that are a little disappointing. While I was downloading THPS5, I was speaking with a friend who is very supportive, who stated that he looked forward to getting a bit competitive with this game when he comes to visit me next. I was also in the same boat here and I started wishing for game modes like the old "HORSE" or "Tag" modes that the older games had. I would love to give them ago with a two player adversarial style game. Unfortunately there is no local multiplayer to be seen anywhere. There is an online presence which pretty much serves to give the illusion of multiplayer without really having anything to do with the actual game play. Yeah there are some challenges that offer to play the game in co-op but that's only for people that are online. We have forgotten the fun times when we all ordered pizzas and gathered around the same house and played games all night. We are being pushed towards staying in our own homes and laughing at each other over a chat party, rather than an actual party. So in saying that, no we won't be challenging each other over some "HORSE". We will have to stick to catching Pokémon down the road from my house at the local gym.

THPS5 isn't a perfect game, but it's a rarity that one of those comes along these days. There's one thing for certain and that is that THPS5 does not deserve the bashing it received from reviewers on release. Now, nearly a year on, maybe there has been some patches that have rescued it from development hell, or maybe those initial reviewers were in it for the click bait. Who knows for sure? but there is one thing for sure, I am pretty much done with what I have to say here so without further ado, I will disappear back down the back end of my couch to continue ripping some mighty air and busting open my head (because there are no helmets) while playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5.

SCORE: 7.5 out of 10

Positives:
  • Excellent controller layout
  • Good punk rock sound track
  • Great character selection from Activision
  • User created maps are a plenty
Negatives:
  • No local multiplayer
  • Music playlist doesn't randomise very well
  • Gaps to jump and other objectives aren't explained very well
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Skating action
Initial Release: 29th September 2015
Developer:  Robomodo, Fun Labs, Disruptive Games
Publisher: Activision

Lucas Aurelius
Aussie Gamers Express.
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