The OG from the GC is back on the Wii
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.
Most unfortunately, the visuals are bad. This is becoming more than a recurring theme for Wii titles. I’m almost ready to drop this section from my Wii reviews. Supposedly the Wii is more potent graphically than its predecessor; I have yet to see that proved true. If it is the case, developers need to devote more resources to the visuals. The environments in this game are passable because everything is easily distinguishable. However, everything looks fuzzy rather than crisp and character likenesses look scary because they’re so artificial. There really is no fluidity to the visuals other than the movement animations. Thankfully, movement is the most important aspect so the game is still very playable. The game is so ugly though that it almost overshadows the great controls and makes you want to pick up the title for one of the other next generation consoles. Greater emphasis should have been made on the visuals.
The sound quality of the game is very good. Tony Hawk is one of the few titles that actually have very solid music support. If you’ve got your Wii running through an AV receiver, then I suggest turning up the background music. The background effects are also quite good. Rail grinds, ramp roll outs, and bails all sound very realistic. There is a lot of high profile voiceover work too. Many of your favorite professionals have lent their talents to provide a realistic feel. Unfortunately, the voiceover work is not well synced to the lip movements, and it looks brutal. Other than that issue, the sounds are really quite good.
There are no online features in this title which is a shame but not a total detriment. It would be great to best fellow gamers’ scores online, but the story mode is compelling enough that it’s not essential. There is a two player component that is not nearly as convincing as the story mode, but it’s good for a few laughs. The two player competitions include Free Skate, Trick Attack, Graffiti, and Horse. I’ve always liked taking friends on head to head and these games do the job admirably.
Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground for the Wii is a good game with classic gameplay and creative controls. The graphics fall short and there is no online component, but it is a very entertaining title on the whole. The developers struck the perfect balance between old and new content as well as familiar and inventive controls. If the graphics weren’t so poor, I would give the nod to the Wii version. Unfortunately, they are bad and it does detract from the overall rating. If all you have is a Wii and you’re a Tony Hawk fan, I whole heartedly endorse its purchase.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.7 Graphics
The graphics are bad and do their best to spoil the game. 4.6 Control
The perfect balance has been struck between analog and motion controls. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is great, the sounds are realistic, and the voice over work must have cost a pretty penny. 4.0
The branching career options add variety and the return to classic Tony Hawk was essential.
3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.