Activision and Neversoft still has something to prove to gamers with their latest Tony Hawk instalment, Proving Ground. Proving Ground is an appropriate name for their third next-generation offering as EA walks into this virtual skate park to challenge Tony Hawks near ten years of dominance. Starting in Philly, we’re going to see if the Birdman can still fly.
Proving Ground takes the Tony Hawk series into another direction focusing on skate classes with a more realistic vibe following last years offering Project 8. Typically Tony Hawk games are really easy to pick and play and this remains true with Proving Ground. Tony Hawk still has one of the most addictive and natural feeling controls in a game. If you’re an old pro with the Hawk franchise, or enjoy the new features like ‘nail the trick’ you’ll fall into place easily with Proving Ground. This follows through with the general gameplay including objectives, impressing other skaters while hitting harder and more difficult tricks along the way. In this respect Proving Ground is like all the other Tony Hawk games, so don’t expect a new Hawk, more like another revamped trick added to the bag.
For changes, the immediate difference in Proving Ground is that you will be limited by level restrictions and game features until you unlock them. Locking locations is a typical trick within Tony Hawk, however this time around the developers push the gamer to explore the story mode right away. This introduces the player to the three new skater classifications and the new features included in Proving Ground. The three new skater classes which also branch into separate storyline arch’s that have their unique features and skills that are unlocked as you progress in the game.
The first class I investigated was the Rigger Skaters. “Riggers” as skaters who use the environment to their advantage turning everyday objects into their own skate park. As a Rigger you can instantly drop ramps and rails and other objects into the game world to find hidden areas, obtain certain goals, or just to have fun. This Rig-A-Kit feature is a pretty cool and feels better than other Hawk games that tried aspects like climbing. If you’re into the skating world a few known riggers are featured including skater turned MTV reality star, Bam Margera.
After I learnt about the Riggers I turned to Mike Vallely in the class Hardcore Skater. The hardcore are skaters who love skating and skate for the joy of the sport and not for being famous or impressing others. As a hardcore skater year learn Aggro moves which start with kicking your feet on time to gain more speed and go up to aggressive behaviour like skate-checking pedestrians. The last class falls into the Career Skaters, the ones who are lucky enough to skate for a living. This obviously includes Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Ryan Sheckler and a few other known skaters. The bonus to following the career path is the granted ability to use the nail tricks which includes grabs, tricks, and manuals.
One problem with Proving Ground is related to the different classes which cause you to have to wait to skate to your potential. It would be cool to be able to let loose right from the beginning, however Proving Ground restricts players which hurts the overall feeling of the product. I understand gamers need goals, but this just seems like Neversoft took the easy way out and the games features the objective rather than an engaging storyline, or revolutionary feature. Over the years Tony Hawk games have been fairly creative given the restrictions and reality of the sport and unfortunately Proving Ground is the first time in a while that I didn’t feel at one with the storyline or gameplay. The follow your own destiny deal didn’t really grab me this time around feeling a tired wheel that can’t stop spinning.
Along with the games progression the reward challenges have also been tampered with. Proving Ground isn’t Father Christmas, it's a real stickler when it comes to rewarding the player. The challenges have no real bonus to achieving a Pro rating over a Sick rating. Besides a personal feeling of accomplishment and a few extra in game credits, being good at Tony Hawk doesn’t feel rewarding. This partially is because the rewards are the same if you get an armature rating or anything higher. A few credits to spend in the Skate Lounge don’t equal extra skill points or any other type of reward. Plus Tony Hawk takes away the challenge of scoring bigger scores to prove yourself, now we have a lengthened trick path to score a higher rank which is nagging and not as fun as the try and try formula.
In what seems like a new next-generation feature Proving Ground also sports a video editor. The editor records the last 30 seconds of gameplay which can be edited to showcase you’re skills. In a game like Tony Hawk this is very cool given some moves are so cool and hard to pull off that you want proof that you landed something near impossible. The editor gives newbie editors the ability to use special features like filters and lenses to make a fully complete production. Now you just have to go online and spread the word and get rated as the online community looks through the already impressive amount of clips online.
Proving Ground offers gamers more choices concerning their character appearance then Project 8 which is refreshing. At its core the graphics stay close to last year’s game with a few improvements to the skater’s appearance including clothing animation and deck detail. Project 8 had a larger impact with the graphics coming up from American Wasteland, so Proving Ground has less of a visual impact even though its still a step above the series norm. Although adequate, I hope Proving Ground isn’t going to be the standard Tony Hawk gets trapped into for the length of new consoles life. I’d like to see a little improvement in the environments including more detail, weather effects and other small things which could really push Tony Hawk ahead.
The in game soundtrack like pervious years boast a huge selection of rock, punk, classic rock and other cool groves including major bands like The Rolling Stones, Beastie Boys, Nirvana and the Foo Fighters. If you’re not totally sold on the 56 songs Proving Ground provides you can make a custom soundtrack with your favourites from the list. Tony Hawk is what you'd expect right down to the Faux Hawk and Punk Rock tunage.
Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground doesn’t have the impactful and feel it once had. Last years Project 8 seemed like the right path for the next-generation Tony Hawk franchise to follow instead of this year’s fragmented version. Proving Ground is still a lot of fun if you can hang through the games slow release process, its Tony Hawk after all. However, if you’ve haven’t touched a Tony Hawk game in a while, I would revisit the vast library of version before you invest in the ninth edition. With Skate hot for a piece of Tony’s money pit, Neversoft will have to prove itself more next year than 2007's Proving Ground.
Gameplay: 7, Graphics/Sound:7, Innovation: 6, Mojo: 6 Final: 6.5 / 10
- Play your way: You now have unprecedented control of your skating experience. Mold and shape your character however you choose—the choices you make and the paths you travel determine how you evolve as a skater. As you progress, you develop into any combination of three skater classes, acquiring attributes and skills of a contest-winning Career Athlete, a fast and furious Hardcore Skater or a creative maverick Rigger, who alters and modifies the world as a giant skatepark.
- Create epic skate videos: Capture all of your sickest tricks and bails with Neversoft's new video editor to make your very own skate videos. Command the footage using a full-suite of video editing tools, lens modes, camera angles, and effects to cut clips and combine clips, add a personal soundtrack, and even showcase online to share with others or simply move up the leaderboard rankings.
- Go from single- to multiplayer: Join online multiplayer action anytime directly from the single player story mode and take all of your character's skills, attributes, and stats online.
- Experience unprecedented control: Tony Hawk's Proving Ground introduces eight all new gameplay mechanics empowering you to play the way you want: Expanded Nail-the-Trick moves such as Nail-the-Grab and Nail-the Manual, Bowl Carving, Aggro Push, Skate Checking, Climbing/Exploration, Environment Altering and Rig-a-Kit.
- Create your legacy: As you define your character, learn new tricks and mechanics from your favorite skateboarding stars. Tony Hawk's Proving Ground features a diverse roster of the sport's hottest athletes, including Tony Hawk, Ryan Sheckler, Arto Saari, Jereme Rogers, Daewon Song, Jeff King and more.
- Customize your game: At any time you want, use the Rig-a-Kit and Environment Altering mechanics to transform any locale into your own personal skate park. Personalize your Skate Lounge with items such as furniture, plasma TVs, and more