Review by gameguy2500
Absent past features hurt this one for me, but as far as the main game goes, it doesn't get much better.
The Tony Hawk series has always been one of, if not my all time favorite game series; the combo focused gameplay, the exaggerated level design, and just the sheer depth in the game modes that could keep you busy for weeks, if not months... Or dare I say, years? For me, games just never got any deeper with options and variety as these ones, or at least that was true for the older ones, with levels, options, and customization practically oozing out of the package... But unfortunately that time has passed, or as of 2009 anyway, which is when I finally decided to do this review for the PS3 version of Tony Hawk's Project 8. Yes, I have played Proving Ground, and yes, I do enjoy both, but let me get back to this one.
Let me just get one thing straight before I carry on; Project 8 rocks... It kicks major ass, and anyone who says otherwise should go and jump off of a cl - er, is entitled to their own opinion... Of course. Comparing to the game before it, which was Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (which was a bit of a disappointment to me anyway), there are some major improvements that can be spotted within even the first hour of playing it; for one, it looks great, and not just cosmetically, but the animations and effects all work very nicely to create a highly visually pleasing experience, which is something that, I personally, had waited a long time to see in the series ever since THPS3 on PS2, Gamecube, Xbox, and PC. The older games were never really much beyond average in the graphical department, and while Project 8 (along with Proving Ground) doesn't look quite as incredible as some of the other PS3 titles we're seeing today, it still looks very good, and the animations will probably never show their age as they are all high quality motion captures of the actual pro skaters we see in the game. Unfortunately, this is one of the earlier examples of this generation of gaming where the developers used what I like to call, "The Vampire Effect"!! Sound fancy? Well it isn't... It simply means that you never see a reflection of your skater no matter what kind of surface you're on, whether it be shiny floors, water bodies, etc. It isn't really much to complain about, but it is a little jarring at some points of the game... Other than that though, the water is quite pretty, and the ripples left behind by your board work well enough too.
As far as the actual gameplay goes here, like I said, it doesn't get much better. I'd love to call this my favorite Tony Hawk game in the history of the series, but certain issues negate that, those of which I will explain later. If you are playing on the PS3, nothing will feel much different here to you, that is, aside from the fact that everything just feels a little more polished. Actually, the only difference from American Wasteland that you'll find is a chunk of abilities removed (maybe to avoid growing confusion of the control scheme), and in their place, only one new feature, and it is Nail-the-Trick. As I'd be a little amazed if you didn't know about this already, let me just sum it up and tell you what I think of it; you push the two analog sticks down to slow time and control your feet to kick the board in whatever way you wish... There. It actually works very well, and was definitely one of the fresher additions to the game (much better than some of the crap they put in American Wasteland). It is possible to greatly increase your combos by adding this to the mix, almost uncannily so actually, but it isn't really bad, because no matter how good you get at it, there is the possibility of accidentally hitting that left or right stick a little too late, or too soon and completely dropping your combo all over the ground amongst your bloody skater. The same can be said for pretty much every trick in THP8 though, so you know... Just make sure you understand this one before trying to toss it amongst your other tricks, but in all honesty, it really isn't that complicated once you get a basic idea of what you're doing with it.
The career mode really is the beef of the game with this one, and luckily, it is pretty much at its peek here, maybe just at the level of THPS4, or possibly a little above it in greatness. What you're given is a world all divided into specific sections that is locked to you at first (save for the starting level; Suburbia), but eventually becomes one gigantic skate park that you can roam freely. The great thing about this game is, it isn't some ridiculous mockery of the concept like it was in American Wasteland, where the levels were marketed as being all connected and completely open, while merely being heavily separated by annoying "load tunnels" that were basically like skating across a progress bar (about as narrow too). That's all in the past now though, because the world here truly is open, though that's hardly too impressive in 2009, it's still nice, as it does mark this as the first Hawk game to actually pull it off... WELL I mean.
All the goals can be completed at AM, PRO, or SICK difficulties (except for a select few more event-like ones), and what's great is, they can be ultra challenging if you want them to be, and easy, if you'd rather. This essentially separates the giraffes from the giant squids, whereas hardcore veterans can have themselves a true test of skill (for the most part... I mean, unless you're just ridiculously good, like dishing out 30mil combos with the flick of a button good), and newcomers can... You know, do their... Do their thing as well. It's safe to say that almost anyone can feel comfortable at one of these difficulty levels, though I have seen some TERRIBLE newbies when it comes to Hawk games... But if you're new, you'll get the hang of it eventually.
While the main goals in the different areas tend to keep enough variety to satisfy you, there are also other more "side challenge" type goals that can really keep you going. The most common of these would be the new addition to Project 8, the "spot challenges". These are essentially graffiti tags left by other skaters (the developers put them there... Shhh!) that show a line that you must follow and best them at. It's interesting enough, though the only thing that truly separates them from the traditional goal is that you'll have to occasionally put aside the board and hunt down the AM, PRO, or SICK markers of the line to get some clue of where in the hell it is trying to take you. This is by no means an issue, as it was really the intention of the goal types, for you to figure it out. Any time you see a green line across the ground that says "manual, grind, etc.", you can start you combo at that point and continue on to find the next marker. The AM marker usually tosses itself at you before you even realize it, but the higher difficulties sometimes take a keen eye and a decent set of reflexes.
As usual you also get your Gap listings for all the surrounding areas that I, personally cannot understand how anyone ever has the patience to complete (I was so close to finishing the THPS4 gap list, SO close!!). For anyone who has no idea what I'm talking about, gaps have been a staple in the Hawk series ever since THPS on the Playstation. They are basically just labeled score add-ons that you get for hitting certain objects together in a combo, or jumping over them or so on and so forth. For example, you jump off of a ramp and over a car, and you get a message in your combo like, "BIG PAPPA LEMMINGSTON'S FRESH HAMBURGER GAP" or something completely unrelated to what you just did, and you get points for it. Afterwards, you can check your gap list to see how many times you hit the gap, and how many gaps are in the area. Honestly though, many of them are actually fairly logical, but there are still a few real head scratchers as always.
All in all, the career mode is very good here, and there are plenty of tricks and decks to purchase with your "stokens" you'll get by impressing local skaters and random individuals. I'm glad they threw aside the damn story concept this time for a more fun-filled journey like the good old days, and classic mode is still in, though it is now included in the form of goal pedestrians in the career mode that give some absolutely senseless reason to go around picking up combo letters and the like... Because seriously, no body can justify that, which I why I think this mode should have been accessible as a separate pile from the main menu rather than what it is now.
THE REST OF THE GAME:
The biggest flaw with Project 8 to me, and I knew it would be from when I first started hearing the news before its release, is that it lacks much else beyond the main game mode. I'll be honest in stating that the park editor was what got me into the series in the first place back when the Pro Skater series was still kicking strong, and the fact that it is no longer a part of the game almost feels like somebody at Neversoft actually wanted to break my heart in the worst way possible, like it was one of their main goals in making this game. I saw this coming though, after American Wasteland anyway, so the complete exclusion here was less of a utter devastation than it probably could have been to me... Though it still hurts when I think about just how much more fun I could have had with the game had the creation options still been intact, but alas, it is not so.
Create-a-Skater is still there, but... Well, it's bad... I mean REALLY bad... But that wasn't much of a crushing disappointment to me anyway, because I didn't really care what my created skater looked like in the past, and I use the pros a lot anyway when I can, along with the unlockable characters. It isn't like this really makes a difference though, because you can't exactly define yourself online or anything in a game that doesn't support it, unlike the Xbox 360 version of Project 8. The lack of online never really occurred to me either until I started playing Tony Hawk's Proving Ground online, and then, looking back at this one, it really is a shame that PS3 owners had to get the shaft on it, because I'd probably enjoy playing this one a lot online as I really like the gamplay and areas. Nevertheless, there is a lot of fun to be had in the game anyway for die hard fans of the series and definitely newcomers (unless you're one of these SKATE fanatics who killed one of my favorite series'... You know who you are) who are oblivious to the fact that a lot of the great things of the past have gone away.
Now that I'm here, I'm not entirely sure how positive or insightful that review was considering the 9 I gave the game, but there are a lot of words, so I must have covered something important. I really do mean it when I say the game is great, but it really is a shame that it lacks a lot of the stuff that made the past games so damn good... I mean, the Hawk soul is still there, and it is shining greater than ever in this game (I'm talking about gameplay here now... I'm pretty sure anyway), but the things that make the old games timeless are really hard to ignore, and I guess I pretty much just mean the creation options... But um... No seriously though, was a park editor THAT hard to include? Like really? I mean, even a couple of slope, stair, ramp, and tree pieces, and the rail tool... I mean, come on!!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Tony Hawk's Project 8 (US, 11/17/06)
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