Friday, October 26, 2007

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground

Developer: Neversoft, Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Oct. 15, 2007
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii, PS2
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Because Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 9 sounds tired.

0:01 An intro. full of skater philosophy. "A skateboard is more than four wheels and a piece of wood." "Hardcore guys skate for only one guy... themselves. They skate until it hurts, and then they skate some more." They also knock over cops, apparently. Classy.

The narrator: "How you skate is who you are. It's that simple." Tony: "Remember, each choice you make defines a part of who you are." Wait, is it all of who you are or just a part?

0:03 Skating around now. I come upon an arcade machine just sitting on the side of the road. Through it you can play classic and high score modes. But this is just a demo, so they just show you a video. Lame.

0:04 "Mike V.'s Epic Episode" starts with a video of Mike V. doing some cool stuff. He tells my character that the huge gap I'm staring at doesn't look so bad. I disagree. I miss the gap in a cut scene. "Come on man, you telling me you can't make that?" I need more speed, and Mike tells me I can get it by kicking with R1 in a steady rhythm.

0:07 Tapping R1 in rhythm isn't very hard, but kind of annoying when you have to do it OVER AND OVER. Probably no more annoying than kicking in actual skating though.

0:11 I have to remember that I jump when I let go of the ollie button not when I first hit it. The little crouch when you hold down the ollie button is gone, so it's harder to remember. Anyway, some homeless-looking guy filmed my jumps, but he has to develop the film before we can watch it. Old school. I got $100, an octoskull tatoo, and some skill points. The demo tries to sell the "HARDCORE LIFESTYLE!" I'll be living in the full version.

0:13 In the full version, you can painstakingly set up a camera to take pictures when you go by. Seems a little bit too realistic... PGR4's photo mode was easier.

0:14 When you grind, the on-screen balance display now spans the entire width of the screen with a subtle white swoosh. Much easier to see and maintain your balance. I'm a fan.

0:15 On to "Bob's Competition Episode." "Well well well, if it isn't demo boy." Eric is talking trash because I'm only good on video, not in contest. Bob (the pro) comes in and tries to defend me with some incredibly bad voice acting. Some live action video of what Bob can do here... he is good at skating, if not voice acting.

0:17 "Nail the Grab" involves jumping, clicking in the analog sticks, holding L2, moving the left stick, then letting go before you land. Simple! Seems like a pretty minor innovation from the "Nail the Trick" mode from Tony Hawk's American Wasteland.

0:21 To finger flip, you do a quarter circle while holding L2 in "nail the trick" mode. What is this, Street Fighter II?

0:23 It's actually pretty easy to do this nail the grab thing when everything's in slow-motion for Nail the Trick mode. Nice to watch, but misses the point a little, eh? The game used to be about quick reflexes, now it's about showing off in slow-mo. Meh.

0:24 A quick video shows the full game has a "Nail the Manual" mode too. Gee, I wonder what that will be like. Now the game is selling the "CAREER LIFESTYLE!" Word.

0:26 "Create-a-Skater" is back, but not in the demo. A video shows 500 different items! It's like a Skater Barbie doll.

0:28 Now the create-a-skater/create-a-skatepark modes are in a "skate lounge." Really exciting... if this was Tony Hawk 3.

0:30 On to "Jeff's Rigging Episode." Another video of him being cool. Blah blah blah.

0:32 "Rubes" tells me we should build something to impress Jeff for an online contest. "We should raid my dad's shop for tools." "As long as he's cool with it, I'm down," I reply. Remember, skater dudes, always ask permission before stealing tools.

0:34 So the new "rig a kit" mode lets you place stuff around the world to complete goals. Here they ask me to place two quarter pipes around a car and spine transfer between them. I do it and the resulting video is... the lamest thing I've ever seen. Just me jumping like I've done a million times before.

0:39 I hope the rig a kit thing in the real game are more interesting than the lame goals here. Kick and grind over a car? Yawn. I like the general idea of it, but they have to make some goals that really make it worth the effort. Otherwise it's just create-a-skatepark mode dressed up.

0:42 So that seems to be all the actual goals in the demo. I guess I'll just skate around a bit.

0:45 In slow-mo Nail the Trick mode, I look a bit like a ballerina floating in the air.

0:46 Time runs out on the demo. Why is there a time limit at all? Are they afraid I'd have too much fun just skating around this one environment and not want to buy the full game?

0:47 I do like how fast everything is. There's no loading when restarting a goal, and you can even get up from bails quickly with a tap of square.

0:49 I lied before... there are a few lines to find while skating around, but not many. Still, just wandering around and pulling off combos is as fun as ever. The level is well designed and the environments really benefit from the power of the 360.

1:00 I spend the last ten minutes just skating around doing tricks. For a THPS veteran like me , but perhaps too much there for a newbie to the series to get into it now.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes
Why? I'm a sucker for Tony Hawk, so I'll probably play this even though the new stuff isn't that interesting. Actually, maybe I'll just break out my classic Hawk games.

This review based on a demo version downloaded from the PlayStation Network.

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