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Matt Keller
26 Oct, 2007

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground Review

360 Review | Prove yourself.
It may come as a surprise to some of you that Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground is the 11th game featuring the pro skater since Activision started the series in 1999. The hardest thing for developer Neversoft is trying to deliver fresh content each year for the series – let’s face it; they nailed it with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and 3, and it’s been something of a rollercoaster ride ever since. The series has come under fire in recent years for its ‘moon physics’ and an emphasis on Jackass--like pranks rather than skating. With Project 8, the series looked like it was headed in the right direction again, but then EA caught everyone off-guard with Skate. EA has raised the bar, and Neversoft didn’t have any time to respond, but that’s not Proving Ground’s only problem. While the game nails the basic formula of its predecessors, Proving Ground is a rather frustrating experience that lacks the refinement of the Tony Hawk games' past.

Proving Ground starts out in much the same way as its predecessors, forcing the player to create a skater and then setting him on the road to become a pro or whatever. Where Proving Ground differs from its predecessors is that its story mode does not follow one all-encompassing arc, rather breaking goals into a number of different categories, and letting the player loose. Basically, goals (or lifestyles, as the game refers to them) are split up into three categories – career goals, rigging goals and aggro goals. Career goals involve competitions, magazine and video shoots and so on – the sort of stuff that your skater can get involved in order to become a career skateboarder. Rigging goals involve using a sort of ‘create-a-park-on-the-fly’ interface in order to place objects around the world to do moves or combos off. Depending on the path you choose, you’ll meet the usual pros, a couple of whiney skegs that need a good beating, and (unfortunately) cause a bit of mischief. Of course, the game doesn’t force you to choose just one career – players essentially just skate up to a pro that represents one of the three lifestyles and get an objective.

Obviously not familiar with the laws of physics

Obviously not familiar with the laws of physics
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Rigging is quite an interesting concept in theory, but the execution in Proving Ground is quite poor. Essentially, rigging involves placing various things around the environment in order to make longer combos, or trick off things you could not previously have tricked off. Rigging quickly becomes a nuisance due to a fairly crumby interface and a lack of inspiring challenges – we’d have liked to have seen more improvisation in the materials used and the associated goals – lining a bunch of railing up and avoiding touching the ground is really pretty boring.

The game world is made up of a bunch of cities from the East Coast of the USA – Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC. It’s one big, open world, without the rather annoying transitions of recent Tony Hawk games, but it’s still annoying to navigate. Players can’t just jump between areas at will, they manually have to skate to each area, and the directional arrow is very vague when directing the player to the goal. On top of the lifestyle goals, each location has a number of one shot goals – photo shoots, videos, line challenges and so on. There are also arcade machines (labeled ‘Tony Hawk 2000’) distributed throughout the world that allow the player to activate a set of goals that must be completed in 2 minutes, much like the old style of play from the first three Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. The quality of these goals is quite variable – some just outright suck or are wrecked by lack of polish on behalf of the game’s mechanics, while others are fairly entertaining. Photo goals in particular are a real pain, requiring the player to get their skater doing the right move, in frame, keeping balance and taking the picture themselves – it almost requires a third arm to do it right.

Moments later, his mum was scraping his face off the pavement

Moments later, his mum was scraping his face off the pavement
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But what of the game’s skating? The ‘Nail a Trick’ system was introduced in Project 8 to much fanfare, and Neversoft has taken the opportunity to expand the system out further, introducing ‘Nail a Grab’ and ‘Nail a Manual’. ‘Nail a Grab’ is by far the most useful of the two – trigger the ‘Nail a Trick,’ hold the left trigger and point the stick in the direction you want to grab the board; from here you can execute a finger flip, move the grab around or switch to another grab. It’s not totally precise – sometimes the quarter circle movement for the finger flip isn’t picked up, or the game will go into a finger flip when the player just wants to switch to another grab. That said, it’s much tighter than the game’s ‘Nail a Manual’ move, which is triggered in much the same fashion but requires a lot more balancing on the player’s behalf – and you better believe it’s picky about it. The game also has a few other new moves, like carving, the aggro speed up and slash grinds, but players need to be aware that not a single one of Proving Ground’s new toys are available off the bat – you’ve got to unlock them in the career mode. A stark contrast from previous Tony Hawk games. These elements leave Proving Ground feeling like a much less refined experience than its predecessors.

Proving Ground’s long term value really depends on your level of skill. Veterans of recent Tony Hawk games will likely blast through the story mode in 6-8 hours, while the average gamer might take 10-12. Of course, that’s not taking into consideration the amount of time it would take to complete all of the extra goals, or achieve pro and sick ratings for every goal. The multiplayer mode of the game is once again pretty solid, if a little disposable – it does what it needs to without any major issues. The game has a pretty rough set of achievements much like Project 8 – though players will pick up something in the order of 150-200 points from the single player, many points are tied up with getting sick goals for everything or collecting all of the cash pickups. Some might be disappointed to hear that the game has some stupid achievements, like one that requires the player to participate in 1,000 online matches.

You wouldn't want those pants to rip while doing that now, would you?

You wouldn't want those pants to rip while doing that now, would you?
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The graphical fidelity of Proving Ground is somewhat increased over Project 8, but it’s not too noticeable at first. Player models and animation are at roughly the same level, but the game’s environments are much improved. The levels have a typical urban appearance with many distinct areas within. There are still a few minor frame rate issues, and model clipping issues are a real eye sore. On the other hand, the game’s soundtrack is of a pretty good quality, mixing a number of genres (though mainly focusing on rock). The voice acting from the pro skaters is extremely disappointing though, with the majority of them sounding like it’s a real inconvenience to be involved with a video game.

Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground has a lot going for it – Neversoft is committed to implementing new gameplay features year after year – but this year’s version of the game just seems to be lacking the polish of previous years’ entries. Many of the goals are frustrating, the ‘Nail a Manual’ system is finicky, there are a number of graphical issues and players have to get stuck into the game’s story mode to access most of the new content, rather than it just being available for evaluation right off the bat. Proving Ground might be worth a look to Hawk fans, but those seeking a new or refined experience might be better off checking out EA’s effort.
The Score
Tony Hawk's Proving Ground does many things right, but frustrating goals and unrefined gameplay mechanics seriously dampen the experience.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Tony Hawk's Proving Ground Content

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4 Comments
6 years ago
Just wondering about how long I would be playing the game:

Lifespan:
Big time fans will blast through the story mode in under 10 hours, but there is plenty of content if one wants to go for 100% completion, as well as a solid multiplayer component. 7

(sorry, not sure how to quote)

As you gave it a 7 I would expect that it would feel pretty short, is it about the same length of skate.? Just asking because I found Project 8 to be fairly short except for the more annoying achievements. Thanks for a well done review too.
6 years ago
Meh, I've racked up about 6-10 hours (havn't been keeping track) in it and I've barely started, I keep finding myself just skating around for no reason (by choice tho icon_smile.gif), I find it much more entertaining and less frustrating than skate icon_smile.gif.
But that's just personal opinion as I do think skate is the better game, just not my kind of game.
6 years ago
Skiller wrote
Meh, I've racked up about 6-10 hours (havn't been keeping track) in it and I've barely started, I keep finding myself just skating around for no reason (by choice tho icon_smile.gif), I find it much more entertaining and less frustrating than skate icon_smile.gif.
But that's just personal opinion as I do think skate is the better game, just not my kind of game.
How does it rate compared to Project 8? Just wondering because I really don't know if I can afford to buy this as I already have skate. and a heap of great games are coming up.
6 years ago
el_rezzo wrote
How does it rate compared to Project 8? Just wondering because I really don't know if I can afford to buy this as I already have skate. and a heap of great games are coming up.
Havn't got project 8, the last TH game I played before this was UG on PC and THPS 2&3. I figured it was time to get a console version of the game a while ago but proving ground was comming out so I just waited for that instead.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  17/10/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $109.95 AU
Publisher:
  Activision
Genre:
  Sports
Year Made:
  2007

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