Neversoft has developed another great Tony Hawk title, and it’s for the 256-bit consoles. With the transition to HD, are we getting revolutionary content? Not quite but the succeeding label, Tony Hawk’s Project 8, dazzle us with a few gameplay spectacles such as “Nail the Trick” mode, daring spot challenges, interaction with pro skaters, and fun mini-games. The same basic trick principles still drives the over-the-top skateboarding action here, but the routines have been restructured to better take advantage of the hardware behind Xbox 360 and PS3. You would think that these crucial changes would have damaged the underlying player experience, as in other games when the developer messes with an old, time-tested formula—they don’t! The same enthusiasm that powered the past Tony Hawk games remains intact.
Neversoft has kept the gameplay relatively smooth thanks to their extraordinary efforts in conceptualizing the animation through motion-capture technology. It’s easy to see how well they blend the upper-body motions with the lower-body movements, resulting in the most realistic ollies, unbelievable grinding sequences, and the fanciest footwork. But the animations can only be as good as the controls that are bind to them. Fortunately, Project 8’s control mechanics are quite responsive. You can easily perform various combinations of pro tricks with a touch of a button. There are some tricks that can be particularly hard to pull off, especially if you are relatively new to the Tony Hawk series. Thankfully, the game provides three levels of achievements (amateur, pro, and sick) as you try to reach your goal, whereas in the previous versions, you had to choose the game’s difficulty from the menu first.
Tony Hawk’s Project 8 provides a variety of game options but of all the modes that is currently selectable, the career mode offers the best experience. This mode is played entirely different from what you are used to. You skate towards an orange glowing pedestrian, set off a classic goal, and then bam—you open up a chain of new goals! These goals include a variety of challenges from incurring the longest grind to completing a wall plant. These challenges are nothing new but if you want something fresh, the film goal and photo goal should deliver a good exploit to the skills you already know. Both the film goal and photo goal are fun. But it might take you awhile to achieve the pro and sick rankings. The film goal works like this: You follow the guy with the camera and complete his instructions on tricks. The photo goal is a bit different. You must trick through the photo shoot locations until time runs out.
You can also enter the freestyle competition where you rack up on points doing killer tricks in front of a crowd or judges. It’s fairly easy and it’s one of the best highlights in the game. You add your own personal touch to the combos to show what kind of skater you truly are. After completing a set of challenges, a section of the wall is removed, whereby giving you access to new areas in the map. What’s nice about it is that your whole Tony Hawk world is seamless, a vast open-ended skating adventure. You start out in Suburbia and make your way through different locations such as the Capitol, the School, and the Factory to name a few. The 3D compass on the screen really helps you identify your next goals. As you skate the world of Project 8, you’ll obtain stokens, which you can use to get new signature moves and board designs in the pro shop. You get stokens by impressing the locals with your high-flying tricks.
Stokens can also be obtained by ramming into unsuspecting pedestrians thereby coughing up points out of their system. But be careful though. They can do the same to you and you can lose some of your stokens in the process. If you think Tony Hawk is all about random skating just to clear different goals, think again. The game gives you plenty of “side-shows”. There is one where you had to bowl yourself into huge pins. This is done by ejecting yourself out of your skateboard and while wobbling through the air, you aim for the best shot at the pins using the left stick. If you manage to take down at least six of them, you get your required AM points. It’s really fun and it’s quite a diversion from the constant quest of completing those traditional objectives. While the career mode is sure to fire up fans of the series, it’s sad to say the multiplayer player aspect of Tony Hawk’s Project 8 still needs a little work.
The fiddly frame rate interferes with much of the “versus” experience, and stitching together combos can get frustrating at times. These issues also extend to the online component of the game. The obvious lag makes it hard to enjoy with your skateboarding friends. Graphically, this is the best Tony Hawk we have seen to date! The motion capture done to this game is so surreal you just couldn’t get enough of “Nailing the Tricks”. Watching your character go into matrix-like sequence is very addicting and the fancy footwork is very impressive. The game shows off its incredible radial blurring and some really nice depth-of-field special effects, everything from rail-balance animations to high-flying tricks. The surrounding environment is captured in vivid details and it’s filled with lively pedestrian interaction. The excellent audio also helps provide a more realistic experience and it truly adds a nice touch to the dramatic animation. Listening to the physics as your board cascades to various surfaces is uncanny.
Tony Hawk’s Project 8 did a solid job synthesizing the sound effects for taking off of the ramp and accurately depicting the grinds. The voice-over work is okay for the most part, but the music rocks, adding boost of adrenaline momentum. Overall, Tony Hawk’s Project 8 delivers a solid skateboarding experience despite its messy multiplayer options. The superb animation, impressive trick system, the excellent physics, Nail the Trick feature, and the abundant challenges are enough to justify Project 8 as the king of skateboarding games. Just don’t buy it with the focus on playing it for multiplayer session. That aspect still needs some fine tuning. As a single-player game, it’s everything you can image in a skateboarding frenzy (even though there is not much attention on the custom creation side)—at least for now. We can only expect better things in the next Tony Hawk title, whatever it is. If you’re a skateboarding freak that is looking into somewhat intense skateboarding experience, there’s no better game out there than Project 8. But if you’re more of a casual type, then it is best if you rent this one first.