If you’ve glanced at video game news on the Internet lately, you might be under the impression that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is an unplayable mess of bugs and glitches. That’s certainly what it looks like in the video above, which was assembled from only 60 minutes of gameplay. Surely Activision wouldn’t have released a game in such a shoddy state, right?
It kind of did, actually. But if you download the sizable patch released at launch, your experience will be much, much better.
Unfortunately for the makers of the game, that patch didn’t stop the flood of negative Internet chatter. Because the publisher opted not to send early review copies to the press — which, as we’ve noted before, is a bad sign — gaming sites had to rush to post information about the game online, which they did with unusual vitriol. Eurogamer released the silly montage above, calling the game a “glitchy mess.” The Verge said the game looked like “a dumpster fire on wheels,” and Polygon called it “a broken, heartbreakingly bad game.”
Activision sent us a review code, so I booted it up, wondering if it could really be that bad. My Xbox One downloaded the patch automatically, so I didn’t have a chance to try it in its raw, super-buggy state. The nearly 8GB update, which is actually bigger than the game itself, seems to contain a whole lot of code that fixes most of what was broken in the game.
In fact, the game isn’t bad at all. It may be a little uninspired, but it’s totally playable and even fun. Some minor bugs and glitches remain, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the early reports would have you believe.
Each level in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is a skate park with collectibles and mission pins strewn throughout. You can seek out and grab things like VHS tapes and DVDs, as well as boxes you can smash by skating into them. You’ll also find the letters of the word “COMBO” placed along an enticing series of curbs, rails, and ramps. To collect these, you have to skate through them in order while maintaining a string of tricks like grinds and manuals; mess up once and you have a start over. Most of these ideas have appeared in previous games in the series, and they’re just as fun to grab here as they’ve always been.
But the bulk of your time is spent doing missions. Each level comes with a set of tasks that ask you to do things like reach a certain score within a time limit or skate through a series of rings. Just like in Angry Birds, you’re awarded up to three stars for your performance in each mission. To unlock the next skate park, you have to accrue 15 stars in the previous level.
Beyond that, you can make your own skate park or play in parks created by others. You can whip up your own skaters using a character creation mechanism, and you can pump points into various skills to improve their stats as you complete missions and level up.
That’s about all there is to the game, really. None of these ideas are revolutionary, but the game is fun enough without bringing anything new to the table.
Some bugs and glitches do remain even after installing the big update. Each skate park is an online hub, so you’ll see a few other skaters doing tricks around you between missions. This is a fine idea in theory, but when I played the skaters would often flicker or lag out, which I found distracting. The game also has awkward loading screens when you enter and leave missions.
But as for the physics mishaps from the video, those didn’t happen to me. Some people have reported occasional game crashes even after installing the update, so your mileage may vary.
Overall, it felt great to play a Tony Hawk game for the first time in over a decade. The skating feels just right, and after about 30 minutes I was stringing together tricks and combos like a seasoned pro. Even though the game feels uninspired in a lot of ways, the skating is as solid as ever.
So is it worth buying? That depends on a number of factors. If you don’t have a reliable Internet connection, or you don’t want to download the giant update, you shouldn’t buy the game. It also doesn’t quite feel like a $60 game because there’s not a lot of meat on the bones. Unless you’re a super-fan, you might want to wait for a sale.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 still has a few bugs to work out, but the core skating mechanic is solid, and it runs smoothly enough that it’s possible to look past its faults. It’s not destined to be a classic like the early Tony Hawk games, but it has the same spark at its core. That’s something.