In 1999 Activision stole my youth by providing me with the first Tony Hawk game, which I played endlessly. The years went by loving the franchise and then Skate came along, I don’t have anything against Skate — it just wasn’t for me. If I wanted a realistic skateboard experience I could have just grabbed my board and went outside. On September 29 Robomondo took over for Neversoft and brought back the beloved title and hoped to steal my free time again. They claimed it was going back to its roots and would capture the essence of the original Tony Hawk games that made them so successful and I could not have been more excited. So did they?
In a word, sorta… The series takes a step back to its more basic controls and far less realistic skating that has been pushed aside by the immensely popular Skate series. They are back to single button tricks which gives old fans of the game a familiarity that allows them to just pick up a controller and play as if it hadn’t been 9 years since the last time they did. It also provides newcomers to the series the ability to easily pick up on the game and get into the fun of the Tony Hawk franchise.
The objectives are very reminiscent of original installments having players do things like collect S.K.A.T.E or C.O.M.B.O, as well as other things people may be familiar with like high score, do the trick that it shouts to you, ride through objectives and string together as many tricks as you can. Pretty straight forward classic Tony Hawk goals. The idea is the same, you select a level, complete the objectives and unlock the next level. If you are so inclined you can stay in the current level and try to better your scores or complete pro missions. So that all sounds like the typical classic Tony Hawk Experience right? So then why did I say “sorta”? Well lets talk about the details that are new.
Firstly and most obviously they added a new feature called Slam. It allows you to press a button and very quickly slam back to the ground. In theory this mechanic is great, it means when you fly off a ramp and are about to break your neck you can slam back down and keep on skating; The problem is — it’s also the grind button. Like I mentioned before, a lot of missions and your ability to gain high scores are heavily reliant on combos. So when you try to come up to a rail or ledge to grind, you end up smashing back down either losing your combo or being just plain annoyed. Another one of the game’s biggest new features is the online integration. The idea is great, you and 20 other skaters all fill up a skate-park and really bring the skate-park experience to your TV. It also gives you an easy way to find people to skate with and gives the hardcore players a leader-board to shout about their skills from the top of.
So with skaters getting in each others way, how can this not be the games best feature? Well the problem, is that it’s very limiting. It used to be that you could choose your location, skate and work on as many objectives as you wanted. If something needed to initiate a specific instance you just started it, skated and had fun. Now the only thing you can do is collect letters and a tape. Everything else has to be triggered by finding it on the map, stopping exactly where the marker is and holding down a button; assuming it’s not glitched and will actually let you start it. Now that doesn’t sound that bad but it comes paired with obnoxious loading times. You load a level into the online world, find your mission, load the mission, wait for it to let you accept it even tho you just said you wanted to do it, complete the timed event, load back into the online world and repeat over and over and over. You can start missions in a menu but that kind of defeats the purpose of creating a game that is supposed to fell like hanging out in a skate-park and avoiding menus. I noticed it was possible to start a solo player run but as soon as I would complete a mission I was thrown back into the online world.
So how about the game’s classic, less realistic skating? It’s pretty good, but just not as entertaining or engaging as I’d hoped. If you played the original 4 games you can expect it to be pretty much the same. The only real change I’ve noticed is that your spin has been drastically reduced. I used to be able to pull off a 720 Christ air with no problem, now I find myself pulling off mere 360s. Another one of the games new features is speed control, pressing the right trigger lets you push for speed and the left trigger puts the breaks on. They also made your special something you can turn on yourself so you always have it ready when the perfect moment comes along.
The levels are a good layout giving you lots of things to skate on no matter which direction you go and are modeled after real life locations and levels from previous games. One of my biggest issues with THPS5 is the lack of create-a-character. The game comes loaded with 10 Pro-Skaters that you can choose from and unlock skill points for but no option to create your own goofy skater. Robomondo have decided to go with a more cartoonish graphical approach which is fine and works well with the more silly approach to skating. I have not had much time with the build a park mode yet but from what I can tell its fairly standard and works pretty well.
Overall Tony Hawk 5 is a good classic skating game that still manages to find the perfect playlist of music to go along with your time in the skate-park. However, the objectives are highly repetitive and not overly thrilling.There is a distinct lack of character creation, but the park building mode is quite good. The controls are simple and easy to use and many of the new features are a nice addition, but some of them fall short or become a burden. The game is not really worth the price tag it comes with, I would have gladly paid half of what I did to play it but I don’t expect this game to have enough long-term draw or unique content to be worth more than $30 or $40. This game does a good job of going back to its roots but sadly I think sometimes things are better left as great memories which is a lesson I should have learned when I picked up the Tony Hawk HD remaster.
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