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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is a fascinating failure

Pro Skater 5.jpg

When the new Tony Hawk game was announced, it was surprising. After all, the last one by Neversoft was in 2007. There have been others loosely associated, like 2010’s Shred. But this year saw a new proper Tony Hawk game by developers Robomodo - who did an HD remaster of some early Tony Hawk game levels in 2012.  

But in every showcasing of the game, most of us wondered what we were looking at. For a current gen, fully-priced, AAA title (R711, $59) published by the great Activision, the game looked like a late PS2 or uninspired mobile port. The first articles were all about responses to the ugly graphics - of course, some asserted “graphics aren’t everything”, but visuals were all anyone had at the time!

The response was to show off that that the game was getting a “visual update”, but it didn’t change much - the game still looked like yesterday’s egg breakfast left in a bin. Eventually gameplay footage was released that only made matters worse: animations were clunky and character models still looked awful.

Everyone scratched their heads wondering how and why this was happening. Robomodo weren’t exactly renowned for chart-topping games that fans adored (quite the opposite). But here was the next big Numbered Tony Hawk game - and it looked abysmal.

And impressions and reviews agreed: a “mess”, “miserable game”. My friend Chris Plante called it “a dumpster fire on wheels”.

In his review, Simon Parkin notes that with that other big skating franchise, Skate, “[publisher] EA found itself an improbable pioneer as the publisher of a game whose success was founded upon failure.” Videos of glitches and bizarre animations have made many of us cry with laughter. This is the most famous one, nearing the 5 million view mark.

 

Parkin continues: “Activision may be hoping that Tony Hawks 5 repeats [Skate 3’s] trick. This, the fifth game in a series that debuted in 1999, is broken in similar kinds of ways. Bail from a grind and your skater might, on hitting the ground, disappear up to his neck in solid concrete. Strike a half-pipe at the wrong angle and your character's body may cartwheel through the air in majestic slow motion, before the game jump-cuts jarringly back to the action. It's as if the shot was directed by a mildly distracted editor who notices an awful accident occurring on-screen slightly too late to pan away, but just in time to save the audience from the distress of seeing someone break their neck.”

This is a game that had no review copies at launch and, when you searched for videos on launch day, you got this (also from Eurogamer).

 

At the time of writing, VG24/7 notes the reception from critics.

  • Eurogamer – Avoid
  • The Jimquisition – 2/10
  • Shacknews – 1/10
  • Hardcore Gamer – 2/5
  • Cheat Code Central – 1.5/5
  • Game Revolution – 2.0
  • US Gamer – 2.5/5
  • Destructoid – 5/10

The highest score was 5/10, from Destructoid’s Chris Carter. He said: “Like a meal of lukewarm water with white bread. It filled my time and my belly, but lacks any discernible flavor or nutritional value. A game that left me no different than it found me. Just passing through.”

The best thing that can be said about the game is that it’s unremarkable and uninspired. The worst thing is that it’s a broken, glitchy mess. Added to that, the patch for the game was larger than the install game (talk about being “unfinished at launch”).

There have been and are plenty of broken games; there are plenty of mediocre games. What gets me is that Activision slapped a full price on it. Activision are behind at least two of the biggest things in gaming - the Call of Duty franchise and Destiny. They’re doing phenomenally well. I don’t see how Tony Hawk fits.

And, indeed, Activision themselves are aware of their failure. In a statement to Shacknews, an Activision representative said.

"We are aware of the issues that players have experienced following the launch of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 and are working with the developer to address these so that we can continue to improve the gameplay experience for all of the Tony Hawk fans who have known and loved this franchise for more than 16 years."

Remember, this is a title asking for the same price (on current gen) as The Phantom Pain and Witcher 3. Every game, it seems, comes out broken - to a greater or lesser degree. But THPS 5 seemed doomed from the beginning. No one was excited for it; no one was particularly interested and the game delivered on the confused and cynical expectations of everyone.

Note, Activision issued that statement but still have players’ money. I’m not sure I’d be this concerned or fascinated if the game was cheaper; what fascinates me is what happened behind the scenes, how there’s a clear lack of passion, and how it went out regardless. That fascinates me more than this lukewarm or broken boring game.

Thankfully, it seems most players didn’t pre-order. Most waited for reviews. This, however, should be the norm - not exception. I think THPS 5 is notable for its terrible marketing - which, in fact, was just realistic portrayals of the game itself. Not bullshots or other trickery.

Ideally, all games would receive critical scrutiny before purchase instead of relying on hyped bullshots and carefully crafted gameplay that gets our wallets out. THPS5 is a fascinating but strange mess of a situation - and I wonder if we aren’t seeing the end of this franchise.

Tauriq: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook

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