Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground
For years now the Tony Hawk games have been dominating skateboard country. Some minimal exceptions not taken into account the successful, but after a while somewhat lazy, series by Neversoft really had nothing or no-one to fear. With the arrival of EA’s Skate this has (thankfully) finally changed and we may hope that the guys at Neversoft have finally woken up.
I honestly have to admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to playing the eleventh (!!) part of the series, Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground. As fan of the series I gave myself up as candidate to review the game, but actually I wanted to check out that other skating game. I too have fallen for the mini-hype called Skate and Neversoft has nobody but themselves to blame for that.
The American developer shits a new Tony Hawk game on a yearly basis without really innovating or surprising. I thought I would be completely finished with “Birdman” (in full Anthony Frank Hawk) and his sidejob, but after playing Proving Grounds nothing seems less true.
You still start as a nobody who need to make his way to the top and there are three directions to go: career, hardcore and rigger.
As career skater you make sure you get your head in the magazines, make videos and let your audience go crazy in one of the many games. Also the entire Nail the Trick part that we know from Project 8 is again prominently present. This is added with Nail the Grab and Nail the Manual. You can also use the three in one combo so that you can vary the fattest flips with manuals in slow motion.
In hardcore it’s all about extremes. Often this will mean crossing a gaping cliff at high speed while shoving a couple of people out of the way. Faster, harder, further and higher are the core words and some pro’s (including of course “Barbarian” Mike Vallely) will help you here. You’ll learn stuff like the Aggrokick which allows you to get enough speed, or skate checking where you can give people a good kick. Also the ins and outs of bowlskating are something you get to know here.
For the creative people amongst you there’s the rigger storyline. Here the world is your playing ground and you can move or add obstacles. You can compare it with the skatepark editor from the previous games but now you can use it anywhere. This way you can reach impossible places and make a fun skating spot from just about any empty area.
All in all these innovations are quite good and the dividing between the three styles is well done. The fun part is mostly that you can concentrate on one of the storylines but in the end the idea is to try them out all three as otherwise the game is really too short.
Again they’ve done it at Neversoft. They’ve added just enough things to keep the series successful but don’t be mistaken, the same old gameplay is what’s present under that different jacket.
Also in Proving Grounds it’s all about doing the most insane combos, do dozens of tricks, swirl around yourself and land on your wheels without a problem. Realism is something they’ve never heard of in this game and if that’s what you’re looking for then probably Skate will be your thing. PG is pure arcade madness where quick fingers seem to be your main ace during a lot of tricky trial and error missions.
These missions are a lot more varied and better dressed up compared to the previous Tony Hawk games. At photoshoots for instance you’ll have to place the camera and take the picture yourself. The sometimes foolish cut-scenes and boring comments from the pro’s is something you’ll just have to take along.
Also the graphics aren’t something to be lyric about. The three playable cities (Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington) look all but next-gen and look grey altogether. The old Xbox probably even managed to show this. Also the faces of the famous skaters are hardly animated and Tony Hawk may no longer be one of the youngest but in this game he looks like a recently deceased rockstar from the sixties. The different flips, grabs and grinds on the other hand do look beautiful and swift and luckily this makes up for a lot.
I still want to check out Skate but do again perfectly understand why the Tony Hawk games have been ruling the scene for years. Proving Grounds is the best part of the series and it will cost you plenty of hours if you want to squeeze everything out of it. Although it still often felt like a repetition exercise I again had a great time with this game!