Monday, November 30, 2015

"Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5" Post-Patch Assessment

Activision, as a publisher has seemingly lost touch with the fan base it has amassed over the years. Whether it be through series like "Call of Duty", games like Destiny", or even the recently released "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5" the development, and management direction they seem so intent on pushing is continuously so far out of touch with what the gamer wants that it's damn near heartbreaking. They seem to have forgotten what made the games, and series they have published so great. When it comes to THPS5 (Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5) the same holds true. The once fun arcade style skateboarding experience has become, and still remains after the patch the most shallow, and heartless entry in the series. The music selection is atrocious. Long gone are the hard hitting popular songs of yesteryear. Now all we have is repetitive songs full of teenage angst, and dulled lyrics tied to an annoying set of instrumentals. Most of the songs in the soundtrack are ones that I don't even know as a middle-aged gamer. Along with the uncomplimentary song selection comes scaled down skate parks in which said parks look more true-to-life than they ever have before in the series. The skate parks are nowhere near as large as the parks of the previous THPS titles, and in contrast to the larger character models they actually look like a skate park you'd encounter somewhere in the real world if it weren't for the arcade power-ups, special effects, and more fantastical add-ons.

When it comes to post-patch THPS5 things are still pretty much the same as they were when the game was first introduced. I did, however notice that the skating in-game actually seems to be more finely tuned though, and that skateboarding accidents are less frequent than they were before. Wiping out from a sloppy landing doesn't seem to happen as often as it first did. As far as the single tap stomp that everyone complained about goes it has been remedied with an option in the "OPTIONS" menu. All you have to do is check the "Double Tap" options box, and this will be fixed for you. I'll be honest in saying that the single tap stomp did not bother me all that much. It actually made grinding easier, and I can't for the life of me see why people were bitching, and moaning about that feature adjustment.

Where my complaints came in, as I've said before were with the park size, the shallow nature of the overall experience, the awful soundtrack, and the menu transitions that took you from the online portion of the game to the offline portion of it. The park size is still, in my opinion, an issue. It lacks the "Awesome" quality that THPS games of the PSOne, PS2, and Xbox 360 era contained. While it's not exactly the worst thing I've seen in the way of game design it still does not feel like the THPS games of old. Not only does the park size remain a problem in my eyes, but the accompanying soundtrack, and lifeless environments add to this effect. To me the THPS games (the good ones) were all about the atmosphere. This included the often times hard hitting songs that were popular back in the day, and the more unrealistic skating park structures which seemed larger than life. None of that is here. When it comes to the offline to online transitions all I can say for certain is that the menu system seems to have been adjusted. It does not seem like the chaotic mess it once was. That given there are still plenty of lengthy loading screens to wait through as you transition from game mode to challenges, and even into the competitive multiplayer.

When it comes to the character selection in THPS5 I think the available options still remain the lackluster presentation that they were. You do have the four 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' to select from with this patch, but previous extra additions like "Lil' Wayne", and "Arthur" from a King Arthur related indie game does fan service for only a select few gamers out there. Where are the Marvel superheroes? Were is the devil lady? Where are all the cool hidden characters!? Sure you'll find some nice character customization options in place with a decent amount of changeable parts along with all of these character offerings, but like everything else the roster of available skaters seems to be out of sync with everyone's "Popular" standards. At least in the sense of being relative to the gamers who grew up making the series as popular as it once was. It seems to me that the game is a lot like the song selection this THPS experience is tied to. It seems to be geared towards the newer generation of gamers, and them only. Sadly Activision is not the only one taking this low road of attention seeking in game development/publishing for a possible bigger payout. Other development studios are chasing the same wet dream that "Call of Duty" started not so long ago. They want so desperately to snag that younger crowd, who will beg to their parents to get the game despite it not being age appropriate. Developers like the one behind this recent Activision release definitely forsake the adult gaming audience that they won over in the past in this desperate attempt to appease the "Call of Duty" crowd which is made up of mostly elementary, middle school, and high school aged kids. They are seeking attention of the younger generation which is not only harming the integrity of gaming, but who are also changing the industry for the worst. It's like an old man trying to stay hip for his grandchildren. It just does not work.

For Activision, and other like-minded publishers to get back on track with winning releases they'd have to realize what made them who they are, and unfortunately I don't see that happening any time soon. Adult gamers still game, and still seek games that they grew up loving. Activision needs to realize this. To shove adult gamers out of the way to stay socially relevant with a younger crowd, especially a younger crowd that is damaging the industry with their online antics is a huge mistake. It's why Activision caught flack for THPS5, and it's why they continue catching flack for their 'Call of Duty', and 'Destiny' releases. Socially popular games like passing fads will fade with time. It's where you are standing when that time comes as a developer that will be a testament to your greatness, or your greatest failure. Do not forget who made you who you are Activision. You like so many other publishers, and developers will eventually come to realize that games geared toward the new generation of gamers will fail more often than not. The only real exception being, "Call of Duty". I'm going to close in saying that THPS5's biggest failure is that it attempted to reach the wrong crowd. It tried to impress the wrong generation of gamers. Sure the patch helped, but the game's shortcomings still prevail.

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