A punch to the left eye. A long soak in a bath filled with fire ants. Finding a spoon mixed in with the forks. Watching in horror as a Xenomorph bursts through your ribcage before systematically hunting down and devouring your entire crew.
What do all these scenarios have in common? They're all things I'd happily endure if it meant I'd never have to play Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 again.
An insult to the franchise
Just in case I wasn't clear enough on this already, the latest entry in Activision's once great series isn't worth your time or your money. Don't even think about buying it. Push aside the nostalgic craving that's compelling you to ignore my every word, and go and revisit one of the other Pro Skaters instead.
At best, Pro Skater 5 is a laughably bad example of game design. At worst, it's an insult to the once-loved franchise. No studio should release a game as glitchy as this.
From the second Pro Skater 5 first compelled my PlayStation 4 into making an incessant whirring noise to the minute I finally gave up on it, my experience with the first numbered Tony Hawk title in 13 years was repetitive, joyless and downright tepid.
A hollow reminder of days gone by, Pro Skater 5 is an exercise in torment
Aside from its thumping soundtrack, featuring raucous noise from the likes of Bully and Death From Above 1979, the majority of Pro Skater 5 is an exercise in torment.
Textures regularly pop into view and then disappear, adding little to the game when they do show up, while the levels themselves are pedestrian affairs that do nothing to encourage fun or experimentation. Gone are the days when you'd be inspired to grind up a fire hydrant or ollie off the tallest building possible. Just for the hell of it.
Worse still, for a game that relies on a functioning physics engine, impassive character models will often clip through objects and be sent hurtling into the stratosphere. It's as though they're Wile E. Coyote and have charged into a box of TNT.
Boredom on repeat
Skate through rings. Collect stars. Grind on rails to set a new high score
If you've seen its trailers already, you'll know that Pro Skater 5 isn't a looker. But at least those decade-old visuals will ensure the game runs like clockwork, right? Wrong.
Those lacklustre cel-shaded graphics were changed inexplicably halfway through the development cycle, meaning the game looks terrible as the frame rate lurches forward. This usually happens when you're in the middle of a record-breaking combo or trying to design a stage that's actually worth someone's time in the new level editor.
Now, I'd be willing to forgive some seriously shoddy design work if Pro Skater 5's gameplay was up to scratch. After all, if a flawed game manages to entertain players it surely deserves some forgiveness. Alas, PS 5 revolves around a series of repetitive, mind-numbing challenges.
Skate through rings. Collect stars. Grind on rails to set a new high score. Collect stars. Stop your head exploding by grinding on even more rails. Collect stars. Use those stars to unlock another humdrum level and repeat.
Did you get bored reading that? Did it sound like something you'd want to spend any amount of time doing? Because that's Pro Skater 5. That's literally it.
As if Pro Skater 5 wasn't wasting enough of your time as it is
The few gameplay tweaks the RoboModo team have made in a bid to bring the franchise into the present fall flat on their face. The new slam feature, which sends players hurtling downwards so they can grind on rails, will often betray you, causing you to miss out on yet another high score.
The always-online nature of Pro Skater 5 is also one of those additions that sounds better on paper. In practice, it means forcing players to sit through load screen after load screen as the game hops between single-player challenges and multiplayer skate parks. As if Pro Skater 5 wasn't wasting enough of your time as it is.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 verdict
At the end of the day, I could rant about Pro Skater 5 for an eternity
I could rant about Pro Skater 5 for an eternity. But because I'd hate to flog a dead horse, something that clearly doesn't bother Activision, I'm going to end this review on a positive note.
Unlike its physics engine, graphics, gameplay, always-online mode and general sense of decency, Pro Skater 5's box art is spot on. It's got a picture of Tony Hawk doing tricks and everything. Just like the old days, when this franchise was still worth caring about.