Fried Take - "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5" (2015)
I'm not entirely sure what compelled me to actually try playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5. It's been covered by every major outlet. We all know it's a bad game. But I've never been content just knowing a game is bad. I need to experience it for myself, especially when it comes to a franchise I care about. That's why I've suffered through Sonic The Hedgehog (the one everyone calls "Sonic '06") to the end: I love that series, and I'll follow it into the rankest bottoms of the video trash pile out of misguided obligation.
But the thing about Sonic The Hedgehog, another infamously bad game, is that... well, at least it was going places. At least it tried something. That's more than I can say for this game. Because honestly, the only place this was ever going was face-first into the pavement.
Yeah, I just said this game is worse than what's often considered the worst of the worst, and I mean it in full sincerity. After spending several hours with the damn thing, I'm just frustrated. Frustrated, confused, hurt, angry, jilted... all of the emotions one usually feels after a fight with a loved one. Except this time, it's a fight with the Hawkman himself. Why would you do this to me, Tony? Why would you hurt me like this?
That's what Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is: an embodiment of hurt and grief. It even starts off with a brief glimmer of hope, to draw you in, to make you feel comfortable. The first few tricks, the first halfpipe you hit, the first manual... it all starts coming back to you. Long weekends and late nights spent perfecting combos and trying to grind on everything back in the halcyon days of your youth, in the early 2000's. But it's a fleeting, brief sensation.
What follows can be described in multiple ways. Awful. Disgraceful. Broken. A dirty fucking disgrace to all of humanity that should grind itself right into a landfill. The overarching point, though, is that it's a truly wretched little fuckheap of a game, because those first few tricks are the only ones it knows. Everything else is layer upon layer upon fucking layer of padding. It just smacks of desperation and lack of ideas. You practically hear it shitting itself with fear as you keep playing. "Collect a thing! Do these tricks! Beat this time! Oh, you did? You're... you're serious? You played past the first level? Y-You're gonna keep going? Well, shit, I guess... I mean, just do it all again. Maybe knock some stuff over too? Uh, here's a power-up, I guess!"
That literally describes everything you do in Pro Skater 5. The objectives are recycled, regurgitated on half-finished maps, expecting to be lapped up by somebody, anybody, too stupid to see that you're doing the same damn thing with each passing hour of your life. It doesn't matter if the mission's name is some horrible pun related to the current stage. It's the same. It's all the damn same, and there's pretty much no variation past the first two stages, on top of the game being entirely unfun.
It's all just a very sad collection of depressing trash.
Even more depressing is that you can see the game attempting to end its own wretched existence the more you play. I mean, why else would it keep actively breaking itself when you try to do simple tasks, like ollying or grinding? See... Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is not only a very bad game, with copious amounts of repetition carried out across a handful of abhorrent stages with slippery controls, but it's a fundamentally broken one. During my time with the game, my character flew off their board, twenty or thirty feet through the air, for no particular reason. I ragdolled and clipped through a pole after falling off my skateboard, mid-trick, for no apparent reason. I nudged a wall and my board flew out of existence, into the ether, as my character fell to the bottom of a swimming pool, limp, numb, screaming internally as they cursed their fate for not being able to move like a normal fucking human being.
You've seen videos of this game by now, I'd assume, but it doesn't do justice to how bad it really, truly is. The framerate dips to sub-atomic levels. Wrecks will just occur with no rhyme or reason. Your character will fall through the world. Everything about this game is busted, from top to bottom.
What else is there to say, really? The soundtrack is terrible and repetitive. The graphics are a laughable orgy of jagged textures, muddy colors and egregious product placement. The online integration is pointless and barely works. It's pretty clear that, in every department, this was something squirted out, with minimal effort, because Activision is losing the Tony Hawk license this year. Nothing about it is redeeming. It's not a "diamond in the rough." It's not "underrated." It's not "misunderstood." No amount of patching can hide the plain and simple fact that this is, irrevocably, an abhorrent game that has no right to exist, let alone have an asking price of sixty dollars.
I'm quite aware that this isn't my normal review structure, and in many ways, is an unprofessional rant. But for a game like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5, an unprofessional temper tantrum of a game by a developer who has never cared about this franchise from day one, it seems appropriate. Don't waste your money, or time, or mental energy on this disemboweled carcus of a once-hallowed franchise.