Although I’m much too clumsy and overweight to skateboard in real-life, many of my childhood hours were spent glued to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on Nintendo 64, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on the Game Boy Advance and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 on PlayStation 2. Those were my jams, if you will.
So, needless to say, I was elated when Activision and Robomodo unveiled Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, which is heading to Xbox One and PS4 at the end of September. After all, the series’ more recent outings left quite a bit to be desired, and like many, I’d been pining for a return to classic THPS gameplay, which is exactly what we’ll be getting with this numbered instalment.
Thirteen years may have passed, but at least it’s finally coming.
Instead of being featured in the main Activision booth at this year’s E3, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was nestled in the Concourse Hall, a small, cubicle-filled business area where smaller companies showed off their wares. The reason for this must’ve had something to do with keeping the game out of the hands of the general public, for now, and only allowing appointment-making media to demo it. Thankfully, we were able to go hands-on with it in LA last week and it’s by far one of my favourite games of E3 2015.
What’s so great about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is that it’s the game Tony has been wanting to make for years. It’s classic and old school, but also new school in that you’re always going to be connected to other players. This allows for seamless online play between up to twenty unique skaters. Gone are standard lobbies and we’re now presented with a more social experience with communal objectives to work towards.
However, while THPS 5 is a modern game, it retains the core gameplay that made us all fall in love with the series back in the nineties. Motion controls and other gimmicks are no more, and what’s left is a stripped down and incredibly addicting experience that screams classic Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. It’s something that longtime fans have been wishing for, and it’s finally here.
I know I’ve mentioned classic THPS gameplay a lot in this preview, but that really is what we’re getting here. It’s a gameplay experience that mixes unbeatable gameplay with modern technology, and is on its way towards delivering a potential masterpiece as a result. Everything feels so fluid and familiar, and that’s a great thing.
Reverbs, manuals and special tricks return, but the latter is handled differently this time around. As such, you can look forward to a meter-based system, which tasks you with working towards earning specials. Once the meter is full, however, you can choose when and where to unleash it. That way, there’s tons of player choice. On top of that, it also allows you to do the type of special trick you want to do, whether it’s a grind, flip or grab. It’s a bit different, but it works really well.
Another cool thing about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 happens to be its course design, because the developers actually melded fan favourites together to create large but familiar parks. For example, there’s a combination of three different School parks to enjoy, as well as one that combines the Warehouse levels from the first two games. It’s an awesome idea and one that works very well in practice, as I actually got to spend a large portion of my time inside of said warehouses.
Last, but certainly not least, is a game-changing slam mechanic, which makes things even more user friendly. How so? Well, skaters tend to slam their boards down onto things in real life, which is something that Robomodo wanted to capture in the game. It’s used in an awesome way, too, because if you feel like you’re going to overshoot a rail or fall on your face after an epic combo, all you’ll need to do to right yourself is press the slam button. Doing so will right your character and bring him (or her) downward.
Needless to say, it’s pretty freaking amazing and something that us longtime fans will take full advantage of.
Honestly, the only downside I noticed during my time with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 pertained to its visuals, which could be better. That’s not to say that this is a bad-looking game, it’s just a bit strange-looking in an odd old-meets-new kind of way. It’s artistic, but will take some time to get used to.
Look for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 on September 29th.