For those who grew up in the early 2000s, skateboarding rapidly rose from an underground culture to the masses, thanks to the digitised debut of Tony Hawk. Kids of all ages were introduced to the sport from the safety/comfort of their consoles. In 2015, as the initial deal was beginning to sunset, Activision returned to its roots to give the somewhat languishing franchise a final hurrah, in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5.
Tony Hawk comes with over 10 skaters to play from, including the Hawkman himself. If you’re confused about who anybody is, the game also comes with a brief bio that helps aluminate their respective career. They each have their own move sets, and you can level up the slots by earning skill points. It is an interesting alteration to how the series handled skill points and skaters in the past. Speaking of, the game also allows you to create your skater, which takes on the moves of that slot. You can earn money and complete to collect new skateboards and outfits for said customised skater. There are some unique cameos too, from The Ninja Turtles and Chance the Rapper making an appearance.
The game has the laudable goal of trying to be multi-generational, and it achieves this with a fresh-for-the-series cel-shaded look, that pops on levels. Even some sound effects have a nostalgic low-fidelity vibe However, the controls are as classic as ever, You still Ollie with the X button, flip tricks with the square and grabs with the circle button. The biggest alteration comes with the new Slam mechanic that sends you gravity-defying down towards the nearest surface. The results feel easy enough to rack up some big combos, but in a majority of the game modes that won’t matter as much. Create-a-park does return too, but with the server closure, this feature remains limited.
A lot of them do harken back to some of the most beloved parks of the franchise, (such as the bunker, evoking nostalgic memories of The Hanger and The Warehouse from 1 and 2). Each level will also have a power-up gimmick. Such as the flaming skateboard on the Bonfire Beach level, it would have been nice to be able to mix and match certain power-ups. Each level has a variety of collectables, but these do not count towards progression, to do that you must earn at least 15 stars (per level) in skating-themed mini-games. Such as a pacman-esque mode where you must do certain moves to grab certain pellets, or a game mode where you constantly have to land fresh tricks to stop your head from exploding. Variants of these do return in the upcoming levels, expect they progress increasingly harder, with higher targets.
Some work has gone in to mitigate some of the biggest concerns that faced Pro Skater 5 on launch day, and the closure of the servers affords the game a much smoother experience. If you can find yourself a disc copy, it might be worth your time to return to the ultimate conclusion of the franchise. While the results do feel remarkably different to the revered efforts of Nethersoft and Vicarious Visions, the kernel of what made those games so great remains. Although this game marks the end of Tony’s and Activation’s highly lucrative deal, the spirit of digital skateboarding will rise phoenix-like from the ashes.
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