Your Weekly Kusoge
Just about anyone interested in skateboarding or video games has heard the name Tony Hawk. And cinephiles will of course remember his participation in the Christian Slater masterpiece Gleaming the Cube. Hawk retired from competitive skateboarding in 1999, the same year the first Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game was released on the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation. It was a massive hit for Activision and Neversoft Entertainment, keeping Tony Hawk in the eye of gamers over the years and spawning many sequels and spin offs on major game systems. The last numbered game in the series, however, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, was released thirteen years ago in 2002. Activision has published several Tony Hawk installments of varying quality since then, some earnest attempts at making a good game, others quick cash ins. The most brazen example of the latter is Tony Hawk: Underground. Released just a year after Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, it was a T rated attempt to cash in on the notoriety of Acclaim's ultra-crass BMX XXX (2002).
In 2009, however, Tony Hawk: Ride was released. A new developer by the name of Robomodo created it as at this point Activision had Neversoft exlusively working on content and new installments for the Guitar Hero series. The entire game is built around and requires the use of a skateboard shaped motion sensing controller players must stand and lean on to play. The controller was expensive, and buying one with the game included carried an MSRP of $119.99 at a time when, thanks to constant iterations of Activison's own Guitar Hero series among other games, players were beginning to get weary of buying another massive and expensive piece of plastic just to play one game.
According to a no longer present article on GameSpot, the game sold poorly, moving only 118,000 units in its first month despite a constant and expensive marketing campaign in which Hawk himself participated heavily. Those who did purchase the game, however, were not particularly thrilled. Tony Hawk: Ride received middling to low scores from critics, and just a few months after its release stores like GameStop were already heavily discounting it regularly, and less than a year later would not even accept the game or its board in trade. The reason for the disappointment was that the board simply lacked the precision needed to perform any of the moves it was advertised to be capable of consistently. The board controller's failure to deliver combined with an already skeptical audience after the game's appearance at E3 in 2009 guaranteed that it would be dead on arrival.
This wasn't the end of the Tony Hawk series or Robomodo, however, as due to contractual obligations a sequel was released the following year despite Ride's embarrassing reception. In 2010, Tony Hawk: Shred was released for $119.99, and owners of the first game could also purchase the game by itself for $49.99. According to GameIndustry.biz it managed to sell 3,000 units in the US during its launch, immediately preceeded by Robomodo laying off sixty members of their staff. After two flops in a row, the series effectively died in 2010. There was one more release, however, called Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD. Not just a conversion of the original, it's actually an amalgamation of some popular levels and content from the first three Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games. With this release completely ignoring any Tony Hawk games released since 2001, it would seem Activision wanted to forget the direction the franchise had gone in completely. Or, they wanted to forget until...
Robomodo and Activision have again collaborated for yet another outing with the franchise. However, despite the $59.99 price tag, there was a curious lack of marketing and confidence in the game from Activision. Activision is so indifferent about the game that even professional reviewers did not receive codes for it until the day of its release, typically a bad sign. Unfortunately everything implied about the game's release has turned out to be true, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is a pretty bad game. Like legendarily glitchy games such as O.D.T. (PC/N64), players will often find themselves falling through the floor more often than they can skate across it.
Similar to how Constantin/20th Century Fox will rush out yet another Fantastic Four film roughly every ten years (1994, 2005, 2015) solely so that they can continue to hold the film right for the characters, Activision's contract for publishing games bearing Tony Hawk's name was running out, and someone in the company decided they needed to squeeze out one final game from the long languishing series. It's been common for games in the US to be released for sale on a Tuesday, and Activision's fiscal year ended on Wednesday, 9/30/2015, today. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 shipped out to retailers throughout the previous week, and was released on Tuesday, 9/29/2015, literally the last possible day on which such a release could legally happen.
Suddenly, the game's lackluster graphics (bearing more of a resemblence to the 2012 HD game than anything availabe on the PlayStation 4 and XBox One), insulting content, and regularly malfunctioning skating action makes much more sense. The graphics underwent a last minute change from an attempt at realism like in previous installments to a cel-shaded style, possibly hoping to make the game visually distinctive at the last second similar to other games undergoing a last minute stylistic change like Borderlands. But more likely to hide that their similarity to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, a game from three years ago running on significantly less powerful hardware. It doesn't work, with the game still appearing lifeless and primitive when compared even to significantly older games in its own series.
That part about the content being insulting, however, is less about the lack of content and more about the delivery of it. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is 4.6 gigabytes in size. This is a welcome relief as several modern games will require upwards of 20GB to even 50GB of hard drive space to fully install. Players will quickly notice however, that the only thing they can actually do in the game is play through a tutorial to learn the basics and create a custom skate park. Even after installing the game to one's hard drive, no other game modes will function until a patch is also downloaded and installed.
That patch will take up 7.7GB of space. The patch for the game is nearly double the size of the game. This is a bit unusual, and only games released in an extremely broken state have received such huge patches so early in their life span like SiN's infamous 24MB and 37MB patches (in 1998!).
So one would be relieved that Activision has provided some hefty support for the game on day one, except that they haven't. That 7.7GB of "patch" is actually the entire rest of the game. This is how rushed Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is. Playable in its full form only via a patch almost twice the size of what's on the disk itself made available at the 11th hour before this Activision franchise dies forever.