Tony Hawk's Project 8 PlayStation 3
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Neversoft
Release Date: Out Now
With the multitude of extreme sports titles that there is today it's difficult to imagine a time when there were practically none. The first one to really become popular was Tony Hawk's Pro Skater that appeared way back in 2000 (1999 in the US). The series proved to be hugely popular and opened the door for other extreme sports titles. Since then of course there have been many more additions to the Tony Hawk's line of skateboarding titles and all of them have proved to be very popular. The latest title in the series, Tony Hawk's Project 8, sees the series move into the 'next generation' of console gaming.
Tony Hawk's Project 8 offers a Career mode, a 2 Player mode (there are seven different two-player games including old favourites such as Trick Attack and H.O.R.S.E.) and a Free Skate mode. You also have access to a Create mode that allows you to create your own skateboarder and a Pro Tricks mode that allows you to view clips of tricks, performed by various pro skateboarders, so that you can see how they should be performed. However, the main mode is the Career mode and it's here that you'll be spending most of your time with the game. Tony is looking to create a team of the top eight amateur skaters in the world. He's just arrived in your city and it's up to you to impress him and his friends in an effort to get a place on the Project 8 team. To begin with, you're restricted to only a small part of the city but as you complete challenges and become a better skateboarder you'll gain access to the remaining parts of the city.
It was pleasing to see the developers didn't just put out a graphically superior version of their previous games. There are some major differences this time around. In the Career mode you'll notice that the challenges are tiered, so you'll be able to complete them to amateur, professional or sick levels. This does away with the need to have defined difficulty levels and allows you to excel at the tricks you're comfortable with. It's also worth mentioning that the ending to the Career mode will change according to the level you completed most of your challenges at. Perhaps the biggest new feature in the game is the Nail the Trick mode. Essentially when you're airborne you have to press the L3 and R3 buttons which triggers a slow-motion mode that zooms in on your skateboarder's feet. During this mode your analogue sticks control your skateboarder's feet and the idea is to flip and rotate the board in order to increase the amount of points you'll get for the trick. Simply releasing the sticks when the board is in the correct position will bring you out of the slow-motion mode. The Nail the Trick mode is a nice feature and it definitely adds to the experience. Another new feature is the Focus mode which allows you to go into slow-motion to enable greater control over your tricks. Unlike the Nail the Trick mode though, Focus mode requires that you fill your Special Meter before you can use the slow-motion.
The PlayStation 3 version of Project 8, as you have probably worked out when we mentioned the modes the game has, doesn't come with an online multiplayer option however, it does offer an alternate control scheme. To cater for the motion-sensing abilities of the Sixaxis you can use the tilt features of the controller to play the game, although this isn't enabled by default. You can enable tilt balance, tilt steering, tilt tricks and you can also adjust the tilt sensitivity. These tilt controls aren't too bad. I couldn't see myself playing through the career mode using these tilt controls but if you do have the patience to master them, it certainly makes for a very different way to play the game.
Whilst I was generally pleased with Tony Hawk's Project 8, there were some disappointments. Many will be disappointed that the PlayStation 3 version of Project 8 has no online mode. Given that online play has been included on the Xbox 360 version and that online play has featured in some of the PlayStation 2 Tony Hawk's games, it's rather baffling that no online mode has been included. I also found it strange that whilst you can create your own character outside of the Career mode, you can't then use them when you enter the Career mode. The opposite is also true, meaning your Career character can't be used outside of the Career mode which is a strange state of affairs. Given the capabilities of the PlayStation 3, it's disappointing that the frame rate isn't as smooth as it could be with dips being all too frequent. When you create your own skateboarder you'll also notice that the customisation options are very limited when compared with previous games in the series.
Graphically the game is a big step up from previous titles in the series. I wouldn't say the game was pushing the PlayStation 3 to any extent but even so, the game does look a lot better than previous games. The character models are mostly good. Some do have rather ghoulish facial features (including Tony himself) and it's fair to say they could certainly have looked better. However, the various city locations all look good. Whilst the game benefits from being played on a HD display, the game doesn't support the much vaunted 1080p with 720p being the only HD resolution offered. Even if you're limited to a standard TV, the game will look absolutely fine. Load times are acceptable although as we've already mentioned the frame rate leaves a lot to be desired at times. There are numerous clipping issues too, although it's certainly not problematic.
Subtitles are available in Tony Hawk's Project 8 but they are not enabled by default. You'll have to pop into the display options to enable them. Deaf gamers will be aware of all the main dialogue in the game. The tutorials are partially subtitled. The main instructions in the tutorial are shown in text but other comments and pieces of advice are not subtitled. During the career mode all of the objectives you are given are shown in text. Characters that have challenges for you have an orange glow around them (kind of reminiscent of those kids who had eaten their Ready Brek in the old adverts for the product). In addition, the game makes use of a variety of icons and visual markers and all of this is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. There is some speech that isn't subtitled during the career mode but this is all peripheral and isn't of any great importance.
Those looking for a 'next-gen' Tony Hawks Pro Skater experience will undoubtedly enjoy what Tony Hawk's Project 8 has to offer. The Career mode is satisfying and caters nicely to both novices and veterans alike. The two-player games are fun too. Whilst the game looks good, and represents quite a jump for the series, it's probably not as good as most would have expected. Of course had the frame rate remained smooth throughout then this would have been less of a disappointment. The lack of an online mode is probably the biggest problem and is sure to be corrected with the next title in the series. Niggles aside though, Project 8 is an enjoyable game that fans of the previous Tony Hawk's games are going to want to own.
Those looking for a 'next-generation' Tony Hawk's game will be pleased with Tony Hawk's Project 8. It's by no means a perfect experience however, as frame rate problems and the absence of an online mode take the shine off an otherwise enjoyable game.