Generation: Gamerz More than yet another Tony Hawk – GC Leipzig Follow Up

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Tony Hawk's Proving Ground - Logo (High) copy

A while back I wrote YATH (yet another Tony Hawk) in regards to Tony Hawk's Proving Ground and while I did not slam the game I was less than enthusiastic about it. But after spending almost 30 minutes with Lisa Perez, Production Manager for Activision I realized that I was far from as excited as I should be about the game. But she was set on her task to show me the game and I was all ears and eyes. The thing she impressed upon me the most is that every skater has a story and now you have the ability to write yours.

The Tony Hawk skating series of games has come a long way and this next installment is set to catapult it headlong into the future. The thing I am always curious about when a new game in a long series comes out is what is new and what is newly configurable. Lisa showed me that there is more configuration and option in this game than any previously created in the series.

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground - Stairs.jpg
As you progress, you develop into any combination of three skater classes, acquiring attributes and skills of a contest-winning Career Athlete, a fast and furious Hardcore Skater or a creative maverick Rigger, who alters and modifies the world as a giant skate-park. But that's not all. Each class has specific sub-paths that you can follow but if you suddenly realize you are on a path you do not wish to be on you can simply begin to change your style and change your image and path up to and including changing your class altogether. How uncharacteristically realistic is that.

As a Career Athlete your goal is simply to be seen doing the sickest tricks on the planet even if you have to snap the photos and shoot the videos yourself. You want to make a living off skating and you want the sponsors to foot the bill. You want to travel and hear the fans cheer and be on the magazines and videos.

As a Hardcore Skater you skate for yourself and no one else. You skate when, where and how you want to and don't bother with what others think. You like the empty swimming pools and the skate parks sporting massive bowls for carving. You try again and usually get hurt doing it, but that doesn't stop you.

As a Rigger (not the Shadowrun style rigger) the world is your skate park and so you modify it as you see fit so that you can get the most skating enjoyment out of it. If you want to get to a balcony and grind it you will modify something or put something in place that will allow you to get up there.

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground - Rigger.jpg
To me the rigger was by far the most interesting of the three classes and we spent a good amount of time talking about it. With it comes the rigger kit that includes ramps, rails and other obstacles that you can place into the world in order to make the best ride. "These pieces are persistent," said Ms. Perez, "so when you go into multiplayer they will still be there." So you can make the ultimate run in an area and then challenge your friends to come in and beat your score or even just to succeed in managing the run. In addition to the rigger kit you also get the mod tool which allows you to interact with a wide array of objects already in the environment and change them to suit your needs. This area was somewhat limited as not all objects are mod-able and there are only certain ways to modify them but it is still a great option. The example I saw was a streetlight that was bent in one direction and with the mod tool we were able to move the kink in the pole to bend it the other way allowing access to a second story ledge that was then grindable. 

In previous versions as you followed your path the game basically chose which skill you had and chose which skills to improve but not so in this game. Proving Ground will allow you to choose the skill you want to improve and excel at. If you're a Hardcore skater you get skate checking (knocking over pedestrians as you go) which you can then improve to deal out more damage. But because of the growing number of younger players they decided to remove blood from the game altogether which doesn't negatively affect the game in the least bit in my eyes. Not to mention you can totally forego the skate checking violence if you wish and still continue to progress through the game. As I said in the beginning, you are the author of this story.

 Tony Hawk's Proving Ground - Video Editor.jpg
As in the past you are again able to set up cameras and snap shots or shoot videos to earn some bragging rights. But this time around this area has exploded with options. They have integrated a fully functioned video editor with effects, lens modes, camera angles, transitions and splicing abilities to cut or combine clips. Plus you can add a personal soundtrack and even showcase online (via XBL or PSN) to share with others or simply move up the leaderboard rankings.

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground - Nail the Manual.jpg
They also brought back the Nail-the-Trick move from the previous games but expanded it with Nail-the-Grab and Nail-the-Manual allowing for even more massive trick chaining. Each one allowing you better control of the whole chain. I watched Lisa string together several minutes work of tricks using this feature. She is a skating god in my book.

Another major feature with an overhaul is the skate lounge. You begin with an empty room in any of around 10 different styles (dojo, warehouse, etc) and then can add up to 200 skateable pieces to fill it out for some home field advantage fun. On top of that you can drop in a stereo system and customize the music that plays from the unlockable tracks in the game. You want only rock music in your skate dojo, it's not a problem. In addition you can invite up to 7 friends into the lounge and hold competitions with them to see who can skate the best in each lounge.

Several other improvements that we spoke about included:

  • Minimal loading times. The world is one continuous piece and you could basically skate through the whole thing without seeing a load window.
  • The loading times that are there (switching from skate lounge to video editor or world) are minimal.
  • Optimized frame rates. Something they were called on in the last game was poor frame rate. They have heard the criticism and addressed it and it looks good.
  • Beat mapping videos. Utilizing some technology they borrowed from Guitar Hero you can match up the songs and the videos which can increase your score based on the production values.
  • Leader boards. Show your pics and videos online and score high. The higher the score the more viewers. The more viewers the more sponsor attention.
  • Game Rating. With the removal of blood they are aiming for a Teen (13+) game rating.

So if you aren't able to tell from the length of the article and the information contained in it then let me just say that this game is now rocketing up my anticipation charts.

Screenshot Gallery:  Tony Hawk

Anticipation Level: Very High

Publisher: Activision Publishing, Inc.
Developer: Neversoft Entertainment (Xbox 360, PS3)
Page 44 Studios (Wii, PS2 – NOTE: gameplay/content may vary)
Vicarious Visions (NDS – NOTE: gameplay/content may vary)
Release Date: Fall 2007
ESRB rating: TBD

In : PC

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