Tony Hawk's Proving Ground Review
Considered to be the 9th game in the Tony Hawk series of games, Tony Hawk's Proving Ground right off the bat shows little innovation. But this leads one to wonder whether this is a problem with the genre itself, after all how many skateboard based games can you make before you have experienced everything there is to experience about skateboarding. Grinding every rail, jumping every staircase and skitching every car you come across can only go so far, right? Well, mostly.
The main draws to Proving Ground are twofold: The story mode has been much improved this time around and the video editor is a great toy to play with. I will get to both of these in turn.
While the past few Hawk games have tried to throw some story into their skateboarding none of the games have been as successful as this one. That isn't to say that the story is all that particularly interesting but it is told in an interesting manner. You will create a skateboarding legend-to-be using a plethora of options in Create a Skater mode, even going so far as to customize your board, and then you will be thrown into the game. From here you will have three paths to take through the game: Hardcore, Rigger or Career.
Hardcore are your typical skateboarding tough guys, they skate because they love it and they're always looking for the next thrill. They take no crap from anyone who gets in their way and are rather good at knocking people out of their way. Riggers are your local skateboarding lunatics. These guys go around, building their own obstacles out of whatever they can get their hands on and then skate it. If it can be jumped they will build the ramp to do so. Lastly are the career skaters. These are the guys who skate for fame and fortune, making magazine covers and going on tours their life.
You aren't shoehorned into one of these paths so you can pick how you proceed in the freeform world you explore, where you go and how you get there is up to you. So you can choose to do a skate to Inner-City Philly to do a Rigger mission, go to Downtown Philly to do a Career mission there and then do three Hardcore missions in the Harbor area afterwards. Heck, if you don't feel like doing any of those missions at the moment just go skate around the city, gain points, raise your stats and do some random missions for money. It is nice and freeform while still providing you with a fair bit of structure. This is the last innovation you can really expect to see in this game though. Everything else follows formula.
Skateboarding itself is controlled by using the left analog stick and the face buttons. While you will initially start off knowing only a few tricks, executed by directional presses and button taps, you will learn how to do more by completing missions. These include Aggro kick, which let you kick your foot to speed up your skating although timing is crucial, and Nail the Trick. Nail the Trick is one of the more innovative things introduced in the Tony Hawk games. When activated you can use the analog sticks to control your feet while in the air. So tapping down on the left analog will kick your board and make it spin horizontally, for example. By mixing directions on both sticks you can create your own tricks that can score you a very high amount of points.
The other two "Nail the" features introduced in this game don't work nearly as well as they could. Nail the Grab has you using your hands on your skateboard and moving it around, much like you do with your feet in Nail the Trick. I never really found this all that useful especially when Nail the Trick is far easier to control. After all, who really wants to focus on using their hands when playing a game about skateboarding. The other one is Nail the Manual, this one is useless. With this you can choose how you land from a jump into a manual. Problem here is that the camera is totally insufficient for doing something like this when you really, desperately need to see where you're going to land it right. The camera, that normally does a great job of following you, blows it here.