For the better part of two decades, the Tony Hawk franchise has been a mainstay within skater community. Since 1999, games like Tony Hawk’s Underground and Tony Hawk Pro Skater have been simultaneously curing boredom and inspiring skaters to improve their real-life skills. But 16 trips around the sun is a lifetime in skateboarding years, which means a whole new breed of potential skaters is picking up the controller for the first time. And it would be a shame for them to miss out on the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater experience. So, following 2012’s HD rerelease of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, the time was ripe for a legitimate sequel.
When I sat down to play the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 E3 demo, I was tempted to use words like “reboot” and “throwback,” and I suspect that long-time Hawk fans will have a similar reaction. But after spending a little quality time with the game, it's clear that Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 isn’t a sequel to Underground 2 or Tony Hawk's Proving Ground—it’s the next phase in the Pro Skater series. And even though we haven’t seen a Pro Skater title in nearly 13 years, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is definitely a step forward for the franchise. That being said, part of the title’s charm is the found in its simplicity. It only took a few minutes to get reacquainted with the control scheme, at which point I had access to the vestigial muscle memory from my former Pro Skater experiences. Suddenly, I was doing flips and grabs like a seasoned pro, and those simple maneuvers quickly evolved into long chains of experimental tricks.
As I improved, the special meter in my upper left-hand corner slowly filled. And when the meter finally hit the top, I was expecting to automatically become the super-skater that I’ve always secretly suspected I am. But that didn’t happen. This minor difference is one of the game’s most intelligent improvements. Unlike previous Pro Skater titles, the special mode isn’t auto-executed. Instead, Pro Skater 5 allows players to activate the mode with the touch of a button. This means that you can wait until you’re ready to throw down that big trick.
After pulling off a 900, one of Tony Hawk’s most iconic tricks, I threw my hands in the air and waited for the recognition I deserved. But no one was paying attention. I was alone in my excellence. During the hands-on portion of the E3 demo, I was able to play two levels: The Berrics and The Bunker. Each map had its own unique set of ramps and rails, which forced me to reevaluate my technique when I made the switch. But once I had made a psychic connection with the map, the flow became second nature.
Also, fans of the franchise will be happy to know that the sound track is on point. Music has always been a defining part of the Tony Hawk series, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5’s sound track it fits right in. After setting down my controller, the game’s familiarity finally sunk in. In 1999, Tony Hawk Pro Skater was popular because it was unique and innovative, but it was also charming and easily accessible. Pro Skater 5 is all of those things, but it doesn’t feel like a throwback. Like I said, it’s a sequel, not a reboot. I got the chance to sit down with Dino Verano, the producer behind Pro Skater 5 and he told me that this game was all about rediscovering that charm and accessibility:
“We’re trying to recapture the franchise’s magic,” Dino said. “We want it to feel like the original title, where you would hang out at a buddy’s place eating day-old pizza and playing Tony Hawk.”
And, even though, I was fresh out of day-old pizza, I think the rest of Dino’s vision is falling into place.