TONY HAWK’S PRO SKATER 5
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.