Tweak it to perfection!
Back in the day, there was only one champion in the skating genre – Tony Hawk games. Over the years, there have been a few flops in the series and a few disgraces of the once highlighted series. There have also been attempts at uprooting the giant franchise. Even a recent title, SKATE, has attempted to claim the crown in the hearts of skaters. While that entry was a nice attempt, in my eyes and in several others, there is only one skating series that I feel I have to play whether it’s good or bad. Moreover, you don’t have to worry that much about punishing your thumb when it makes you to do a ridiculous trick like you do with SKATE.
There are a few things to the newest installment that people will view as the same old same old, but there are also a few tidbits that will keep people playing for quite some time. One of these is the diversity of the controls. Now, I know that most of it is a repeat, but there are several new ways to make sure you will nail your trick. One of these is a slow motion camera that allows you to zoom in to see exactly how your footing needs to be to land it correctly. However, where it holds the strongest is in the Nail the Grab mode while skating. This is necessary to learn for anyone looking to excel in the game. This is where one of the newer tweaks comes into play. Instead of having access to a plethora of tricks and techniques right from the beginning, you will have to progress through different story modes in order to acquire some of the more desired techniques to show off your skill.
To some this could be a downfall to the game since you can just skate without ever really doing any of the story modes available. Players just wanting to skate around in their designated area will be happy to see plenty of areas to become more comfortable with the controls before attempting any of the story modes that are available. The great, but also bad, thing here is that there is absolutely no direction on how you move through the story modes. You decide how you progress once you have learned the basics to make yourself shine at the park. This is a great thing, especially if you got tired of the massive overarch of story in previous games. Here you can just do the smaller story-arches at your own pace. Again, be forewarned that certain stories give you certain abilities that are a must, so be careful of the path you choose first. Since the story modes are how you unlock new abilities and techniques you might want to fully explore every story arch as they come instead of advancing in just one.
There are a few of the eight new features that are kind of pointless or trivial. One is the Nail-the-Manual. I cannot express how trivial this was. In real life, not so much, but here it felt a little too difficult to perform and never really amounted to anything other than constant wipeouts or ending too soon. Another feature I had a problem with is the Bowl Carving. It felt almost forced and not as put together as it could have been. For instance, some of the time it was extremely easy to nail the trick, while others it was no fault of mine but rather the device I was performing it on. Maybe, in future installments, this will be modified to almost perfection because it could be essential to showing off your skills, at least in real life.
Another annoyance I had, though it might be small, is the level of challenge you face. Each challenge is broken down into three difficulty settings, AM, Pro, and Sick. You can clear a section by meeting the AM requirements only, which is a good thing. No longer do you have to spend a ridiculous amount of time to progress. The annoying thing is there is really no reason to try for the Pro or Sick levels. The only plus to these levels is the extra cash and bragging rights. Personally, I wish there had been a little more to the harder challenge levels than that.
One thing I thought at first wouldn’t be really entertaining, the skate video editing, turned out to be truly innovative. The ability to create my own videos of my best and worst tricks was great. Being able to include my own soundtrack also helped in continuous video editing. Though this may not be very important, I believe the first one you do will have you hooked into it more than you originally thought it would. In addition, in case your friends don’t believe you about your truly amazing trick, you can upload the file to show them over the net. Speaking of the online functions of the game, you can venture into the online communities straight from single player mode. You also get to take all of your character’s attributes you have built up. You can also toy around with the Skate Lounge option to tweak out your own skate warehouse to invite friends to see what you have created.
The graphics of this installment to Tony’s series are okay, and there is really nothing that will smack you in the face with an “Oh my Gosh that looks sweet” caliber. Too many times the characters look freakish. However, the body language was represented really well, as were the environments you skate through, yet, unfortunately, nothing truly miraculous. On the other hand, the soundtrack from the game is pure skate gold, with a few flops here and there. Most of the tracks can aid you in your quest for maximum pointage, while more than a few others may divert your concentration as you ask “What the?!?”. Even the voice acting is not as painful as it has been in the past. There are a few annoying characters, but it all washes out in the end.
So, does the Proving Ground stand a chance against the recent rival SKATE? I say that it depends on the type of skating gamer you are. If you have a hard time adjusting to completely new control schemes, then you might be better off enjoying the beauty of a proven control system, like Proving Ground. If you need the abuse of inability to nail tricks on the fly, then SKATE could be along your train of skill. Either way, it is great to have more skate games. When the next installments roll out, we will see who rules the park, but right now, it’s still the Birdman.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
While the character models look good, there are too many times they look rather ridiculous. 3.8 Control
Staunch and a bit difficult to newcomers. However, there is a traditional sense to the game that will keep returning fans happy with familiarity. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Solid soundtrack helps the game along, it is great to see the various rock rifts throughout the game. 4.2 Play Value
A return to basics is great for those that do not like change. It is the same as always and will keep you playing for quite some time. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.