We don't know about you, but when we think back to our teenage years and the games that defined it, one of the first games that springs to mind is the Tony Hawks Pro Skater series. A light-hearted, easy-to-pick-up-and-play take on the 'extreme sport' of skateboarding, it was a game we seriously played to death, with many a day spent mashing buttons randomly whilst flinging ourself off ramps, in the hope of racking up the biggest combo we could. For those of you that played it, the fact we ended up 100%ing it should give an indication of quite how much time we sunk into Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2. Getting all those bundles of cash hidden in every level required some serious perseverance - and lets not even talk about having to wall ride all those school bells, or trying to track down the final sleeping place of the magical bum. Yet, with the announcement of the next installment in the Tony Hawks series - the imaginatively named Tony Hawks Pro Skater 5 - we were a little bit apprehensive, especially given that Activision's previous attempt at rekindling the magic of the series, the Tony Hawks Pro Skater HD collection, seemed a little off. Our dread only increased when we remembered Activision's other recent attempt at making a Tony Hawks game ended with the peripheral-based Ride and it's follow-up Shred, two games we prefer to pretend never happened.
Fortunately though, it seems that Activision aren't willing to make the same mistake again (or at least, not three times in a row, anyway), as Tony Hawks 5 is very much a return to the series roots. With cel-shaded graphics giving it a bit of an old-school feel, fans and newcomers alike will be pleased to know the game has a much less realistic feel to it, with your skater able to take more than a slight knock before going head over heels and flying off his board. After getting our heads around the controls, before too long we were pulling off crazy grinds, jumps and tricks with ease - and still totally botching up manuals. Heading over to the nearest half-pipe, you can do all the same death-defying tricks as before, from kickflips and shove-its to the mid-air Judo kick and Tony Hawks' signature Madonna, by pressing the Square and Circle buttons in combination with different directional buttons, stringing tricks together with ease. To mix things up a bit, leaping onto a rail and holding the Triangle button sets your skateboarder grinding - and all you need to do is adjust your skater left and right to keep their balance on the bar and clock up the points. Manuals are still a bit of a mystery to us though, executed by some strange witchcraft (that we believe involves pressing up/down/up on the stick, or something like that), and almost always results in an instant wipe out whenever we try - although we have it on good authority that these skateboard wheelie-things are great ways to link combos together. Stringing tricks of various kinds together racks up more and more points, and increases your multiplier, but also increases your risk of faceplanting onto the tarmac, so the skill comes in balancing risk and rewards.
The level we were let loose with was known was known as 'Bunker' - an amalgamation of Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2's Hangar and the Warehouse level from the original game, complete with helicopter to do tricks off, half-pipe to crash into, and piles of boxes that need knocking over. In fact, just like the older games, each level comes with it's own list of a dozen or so different objectives to complete. From increasingly difficult score targets to meet, to finding the hidden SKATE letters, or more level-specific challenges (kickfliping over a specific rooftop, grinding a particularly long rail or ollie-ing over five fire hydrants), each stage also has a secret video tape (now DVDs, apparently) waiting to be found. The short, quick-fire challenges, coupled with a two minute time limit for each level, meant Tony Hawks had some serious replay value, and Tony Hawks 5 looks set to recapture that 'just one more go' feeling, leaving you playing for hours at a time...
Adding to the silly, over-the-top-ness of the series, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 5 promises a few funny modes too, should you tire of the standard levels. Big Head Mode sees your skater's head gradually inflate, and you need to keep doing tricks to reduce it's size - the speed it grows at increases as you play, so it gets harder and harder to last for longer, until poor Tony Hawk's bonce eventually pops. Kickflip mode meanwhile, plonks you in a playground surrounded by various targets. In a testament to how Tony Hawks is sticking close to reality for this game, it's up to you to leap into the air and perform a kickflips to fire a ball out the bottom of your skateboard at the targets - some of which are harder to reach than others, meaning you might need to grind to get yourself on the right level.
As fun as the game was, and as much as we enjoyed the blast from the past, there is one elephant in the room - or, we suppose, horse. You see, despite the original games being a bastion of local multiplayer nights, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 5 will apparently only do multiplayer online (20 players at once, apparently), without any support for the competitive couch sessions the original games were famed for. Whether it was a simple highest-score-the-winner, a competition to 'tag' the most objects by doing tricks on them or the legendary HORSE, a one-on-one trick contest for Tony Hawks supremacy, being beaten by your younger brother was where it was at back then - and we'll be sad to see it replaced by the more 'up to date' online-only multiplayer.
That aside, we're still suitably stoked to be getting a new Tony Hawks, and a much more traditional one at that - it's been too long. However, depending on the consoles you're going for, you might have to wait a little longer - Playstation 4 and Xbox One players will be able to get their hands on the game next week, when it hits stores on the 2nd October. Those who are still playing on the 'last generation' Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 a month and a half later, on the 13th November.