Tony Hawk's Proving Ground Xbox 360
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Neversoft
Release Date: Out Now
The Tony Hawk’s skateboarding titles have always been popular titles that surprisingly managed to appeal to those who, in real life, aren’t interested in skateboarding. The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series debuted in the US back in 1999 (and in 2000 here in Europe) and since then we’ve had another seven titles. By my reckoning (and it could be wrong) Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground is the ninth major title in the series and it’s the first title in the series to have some real competition. EA’s Skate has taken a more realistic approach to skateboarding and as such is very much the antithesis of the Tony Hawk’s series. Let’s take a look at how the latest in the Tony Hawk’s series stands up to the competition.
Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground gives you the ability to shape your skater by customising your own skill set and by taking the objectives that suit you. In Proving Ground you can develop your skater as a Career, Rigger or Hardcore skater type and there are plenty of objectives for each. The Career skater shoots videos, and photos, seeks sponsorship and focuses on the pure athleticism of it all. The Rigger skater has objectives to complete and using the level editor feature, you have the ability to place rails, ramps and other objects to help you achieve your objectives. Finally the Hardcore skater is the path for those who want to skateboard aggressively. They dress rather crudely in ripped attire, incur the wrath of security guards and knock down pedestrians. The game plays out in a series of episodes that are introduced by real-life pro-skateboarders. In addition to the Career, Rigger and Hardcore objectives you’ll also find the classic challenges that are pretty much the same as you would have found in previous Tony Hawk titles.
If you have played any of the previous Tony Hawk titles you’ll be instantly at home with Proving Ground. The core mechanics haven’t changed that much at all over the years. Whether this is a good thing or not depends on the individual and whether changes were expected. The ‘Nail a trick’ feature (where you have to press down the two analogue sticks whilst airborne to send the action into slow motion at which point you’ll control your skater’s feet with the left and right analogue sticks in order to string together elaborate combos) has returned and this time around it’s been enhanced a fair bit. You can also make use of the Aggro Kick by pressing the RB button and this essentially gives you extra thrust when trying to pick up speed.
The game now allows you to play online straight from the single-player game and up to eight players can take part in an online game. Two-player offline multiplayer is also supported. You’ll begin by picking an area (DC, Baltimore or Philly) and picking a game type. The game types will be familiar to anyone who’s played a multiplayer mode in a previous Tony Hawk’s game. There’s Free Skate, Trick Attack, Graffiti, Score Challenge, Combo Challenge, Combo Mambo and the old favourite, Horse. The game also features a video editor. You can record yourself in action and then apply effects to the recording. Initially you won’t have any effects but you can purchase many effects such as noise, fisheye lens, coloured filters and trails, and film noir. The video editor is a solid addition but it’s probably a feature that only some will bother with.
Graphically, Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground looks OK but you can’t help but be a little disappointed with the character models and various objects in the game. The character models essentially look like high resolution versions of what you'd find on the Xbox or PlayStation 2. Given that we are approaching the third Christmas in the Xbox 360’s lifespan you would have expected the character models to have looked much better. The various vehicles that you see on the roads all look like they have been taken from a PlayStation 2 game. There are numerous clipping issues, which is unfortunate. At least the various environments you skate in all look quite good and there doesn’t appear to be any performance issues with the frame rate remaining pretty solid throughout.
Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground does offer subtitles but you will have to enable them. The game isn’t fully subtitled but all of the important dialogue is. All of the tutorial information is shown in text. The conversations your character has with the characters that set the objectives are all shown in text too. Comments from passersby are not subtitled (which is hardly a problem). The video clips that introduce the pro skateboarders aren’t subtitled but some of these contain no speech and in truth they contain no important information. You’ll receive text prompts when you’ve left a zone in which an objective must be completed and you’ll also be shown a timer indicating how long you have left to get back into the zone. The game also makes good use of icons. Despite some omissions then, Proving Ground won’t give deaf gamers any real problems.
It would be wrong to say that Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground isn’t any different from previous games in the series because it is. However, when you really get down to the game-play basics you can’t help but feel that not much has changed and it definitely feels like you’re playing a game that’s very similar to previous titles in the series. For some this won’t be a problem. After all, the Tony Hawk’s games are accessible and have proved to be enjoyable games for around eight years now. The real question has to be whether Proving Ground does enough to freshen up the series and the answer has to be a resounding no. That’s not to say that it isn’t a good game, because it is, but those who were expecting the series to take a big step forward or to reinvent itself will be slightly disappointed.