Amer­i­can waste­land?


Yup, still got it. Within sec­onds of pick­ing up the pad, we’ve launched into a per­fectly an­gled wall­ride, ol­lied out of the peak of its arc and landed into a tail­slide on the ledge at the top, kick­flipped straight out of that and landed into an­other grind. Our thumbs and in­dex fin­gers cy­cle in­stinc­tively through the movelist – flip, grind, grab, grind – as we scan the pe­riph­ery for the next stop on our combo line. Long­dor­mant synapses crackle back into life as we in­put the up-down com­mand for a man­ual as a combo safety net, in­sur­ance for our hit­ting terra firma in­stead of a handrail. It’s been too long, but no mat­ter. This mus­cle mem­ory’s never go­ing to fade, and sud­denly it feels like an aw­ful lot like 1999 again.

Un­for­tu­nately, at the mo­ment at least, it looks a bit like it too. It would be too hasty to judge a game’s looks in its al­pha state, but even the of­fi­cial screen­shots, with their fire­cov­ered rails and hi-res sky­boxes, clearly show this is a game that hasn’t been built from the ground up for PS4 and Xbox One. While the re­turn of one of gam­ing’s great con­trol sys­tems is cause for cel­e­bra­tion, Robo­modo seems to be tak­ing the con­cept of re­turn­ing to the se­ries’ roots a lit­tle too lit­er­ally when it comes to the game’s vi­su­als.

The stu­dio is play­ing things faster and looser when it comes to the ac­tual de­sign. Ac­tivi­sion, per­haps mind­ful of po­ten­tial ac­cu­sa­tions that it is drag­ging a knack­ered old cash cow out of the sta­ble for a last, des­per­ate milk­ing, in­sists that this is no nos­tal­gia play like 2012 con­sole down­load mouth­ful Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD Re­make. At first, that seems hard to rec­on­cile with this demo, whose level-se­lect screen of­fers up stages that lean heav­ily on the look and lay­out of the first game’s Ware­house and Pro Skater 2’ s School.

The point of dif­fer­ence lies not in the lev­els them­selves, how­ever, but what awaits within them. While the clas­sic score, SKATE and COMBO chal­lenges are nat­u­rally present, many of the rest of the items on your to-do list have been built around THPS5’ s prin­ci­pal ad­di­tion to the se­ries’ time­worn for­mula: seam­less, drop-in, drop-out mul­ti­player for up to eight peo­ple. Start a combo chal­lenge and you’re not only com­pet­ing against scor­ing tiers, but seven other peo­ple. Mission-crit­i­cal ob­jects are shared among the group, too, so if an op­po­nent smashes a tar­get by mag­i­cally fir­ing a dodge­ball from the front of their skate­board be­fore you do, it’s gone for good. Yes. About that. Quite how it got out of the green­light meet­ing is any­one’s guess, but Pro Skater 5 fea­tures power-ups (skate­boards lit up by flick­er­ing flames or elec­tric sparks) and pro­jec­tiles (those dodge­balls, shot straight in front of you; fire­works, de­ployed in a shot­gun-like spread). It seems to us that there is a very good rea­son no one has ever made a skate­board death­match cen­tral to a game be­fore now, but here we all are. Hav­ing gone to the trou­ble of cod­ing up a ball physics sys­tem, Robo­modo has made use of it else­where: one chal­lenge in­volves push­ing two-dozen over­sized balls from the school sports hall’s pool. Out­side is a foot­ball and an open goal; around the cor­ner lies a pigskin and two sets of posts. What seems weirdly point­less in sin­gle­player risks be­ing sim­ply in­fu­ri­at­ing on­line: are we re­ally to be knocked out of a mil­lion-point combo by some un­in­vited wag fling­ing su­per-sized sports equip­ment about the place?

Hap­pily, much of this fluff will be avoid­able thanks to the skatepark edi­tor, which of­fers up 250 ob­jects – which may sound slen­der, per­haps, but the best Tony Hawk lev­els are de­fined by their lay­out, not va­ri­ety – and cre­ations from which can be shared on­line and ac­cessed from the main menu. While some will surely go heavy on the gim­micks in the main game, oth­ers will surely pare away all that; Robo­modo might have ex­pended plenty of en­ergy on things play­ers have never asked for, but at least it’s giv­ing them the tools to make the game they want.

Cre­ate or die

While Tony Hawk’s in­volve­ment nat­u­rally re­quires that play­ers will be able to se­lect from a ros­ter of pro skaters old and young, you can also cre­ate your own from a se­lec­tion of heads, body types and branded deck de­signs. Switch­able styles map dif­fer­ent flips and grabs to D-pad di­rec­tions, as well as defin­ing spe­cial moves – ac­cessed, as in ear­lier games, by fill­ing a me­ter by scor­ing big with long com­bos. Com­plet­ing chal­lenges in the main game earns points to spend on your skater’s stats, in­creas­ing speed, ollie height and sta­bil­ity dur­ing grinds and man­u­als. It’s lit­tle we haven’t seen be­fore, of course, but Oc­to­dad in a mech suit and Cap­tain Bird­s­eye with the body of a cheer­leader rid­ing boards are surely firsts for the se­ries.

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