|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Page 44 Studios / Neversoft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 15, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
The Tony Hawk series has been the only skater series for quite some time. Recently that has changed, and the folks at Activision are feeling the pressure. Tony Hawk's Proving Ground released for the majority of platforms in an attempt to reestablish itself as the undisputed king of extreme sports. The Wii version of the title has solid gameplay, very good controls, and a branching career mode that provides some variety of play. Disappointingly, the graphics are poor and despite the new content, you can't help but feel that you've seen it all before. On the bright side, Tony Hawk purists have a version of their beloved title on the Wii that blows Downhill Jam out of the water. The return to the classic format should sate the masses of Tony Hawk fans, though it may not win any converts.
As previously mentioned, gameplay has made its triumphant return to the classic format. Any Tony Hawk enthusiast will be quickly grinding impossible lines, putting together massive ramp combos, and boosting your created skater's skills until he attains godlike abilities. The story mode is very good, but if you're looking for a deep, involved plot, you obviously have not played much Tony Hawk. The story mode this time around allows you to follow three unique paths in the skating world. You can turn your skater into a "Hardcore" boarder, a "Rigger," or into the classic "Career" pro skater. Hardcore skaters own the street and bring an edgy, almost punk, attitude to their hobby. Riggers are also street-centric skaters that build grinds and kickers that allow them to covert seemingly normal environments into crazy skate parks. Finally, career skaters follow the path of the professional. These skaters feed off fame and fortune, and turn their boards into moneymakers.
Being able to choose your path is a neat concept that brings variety to the game without changing the core mechanic. In fact, many of the challenges present in the old Pro Skater days can still be found. These challenges include, but are not limited to, finding all the SKATE letters, linking C-O-M-B-Os together, and reaching masterful point totals in a time limit. The combination of the best game modes from previous titles in the series along with the customizable, almost RPG-like branching career paths makes Tony Hawk's Proving Ground very compelling. Taking on the "Hardcore" path can be wonderfully frustrating as you advance in difficulty and is reminiscent of backyard wresting on a board. Taking on the "Rigger" path is a neat idea, but can become tiresome for many who just want to skate. The "Career" path is straight up Tony Hawk and will probably be the path that most take on. After all, who doesn't want make the grade in the pro ranks skating for fame and fortune?
What separates the Wii version from all others is the neat control scheme. The perfect balance was struck between classic and motion controls. You'll still grind, grab, and manual with the analog controllers and buttons, but you'll keep your balance, perform Nail-the-Trick, Nail-the Manual, and Nail-the-Grab actions with the Wii remote. Using two controllers can take a bit of getting used to at first. It can be initially difficult to pick out your grabs and flip tricks with the analog stick because there is no resistance from the other hand on the other side of the controller. After about 10-20 minutes hitting ramps and fooling around with rails you'll get used to your hands being so free. Nail-the-Trick, Nail-the-Manual, and Nail-the-Grab modes are neat, slowed down moments that allow you to control your skater's feet or arms accordingly to pull off nasty aerials and flatland tricks. I found the Nunchuk to be unresponsive at times, but overall it is a really fun way to implement the motion controls without becoming too obtrusive. As you can see, the Wii controls are really outstanding. It looks as if third party developers are learning how to incorporate the unique features of the Wii without overburdening the gameplay.