There’s few things I loved more on the PS2 than the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series (although Burnout probably came very close). From THPS3 to THUG , the series thrived on that platform as well as the previous generation. However, once the PS3 and 360 came around, the series failed to find its footing and a new direction to go in, before finally crashing and burning with the poorly performing peripheral based Tony Hawk’s RIDE. However, Activision are starting to recommit to bringing back some of their best loved franchises at this year’s E3, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 on PS4 and XB1 is returning to the original series numbering in the hopes of filling the rather large shoes of its predecessors.
The structure, format and controls of the game are in line with the original THPS series, along with all the additions those games made as they went along, including manuals and reverts. There will be 9 levels, mostly homages and amalgamations of classic levels. One of the levels on display was a hybrid of the hanger from THPS2 and the warehouse from THPS3. There are also some taken from real life location, such as The Berrics in Los Angeles, which was actually where the playable demo was set.
I only had a short time to get my hands on the game, but the game felt pretty similar to the THPS games of old. There are some differences – a new ‘push’ mechanic with the R2 button allows you to push off to gain momentum, rather than just hopping up and down like you used to have to do. Walking mechanics introduced in other games in the series, by the way, have been eliminated. The special meter is back, but now you can bank it and activate it when you choose rather than having to use it up as soon as it is filled.
Playing this demo, the framerate was a little choppy and not as silky smooth as you would hope, but this is hopefully an issue that can be resolved before launch. It definitely was reminiscent of the original series, and I was able to string together some smooth grinding and manual combos pretty easily. There’s not a lot else ‘new’ about the game, as it simply promises a return to form for the series, after the mis-steps on the previous generation.
The game is looking to include 20 player online multiplayer, with a ‘skate park’ vibe. You can drop into a level with people hanging out skating around, and then choose to skate against other people or even take on some co-op challenges. All missions and objectives in the game can be completed in either single player or co-op, and the multiplayer park mode can be accessed at any time. Activision are also promising dedicated servers. Create-a-Park is also back, and was shown off with a new easy-to-use interface where you can drop in and out of testing your design at any point. You could grind along a rail, jump off, then instantly hop into the design interface where you could drop another rail or platform, then hop back out and keep skating on your newly-created object.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD showed that Activision understood they needed to return to the fun combo-driven gameplay that the series was known for, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is another step in the right direction. It remains to be seen whether it can live up to the greatest entries (THPS3 and THPS4) or whether skate culture and popularity has changed so much since the series’ heyday whether it can still be as successful. I’ll just be happy to be getting a chance to grind infinitely around an aircraft hangar or high school.