Well, we blasted through the Tutorial in about 15 minutes, confirming that this is definitely a new Tony Hawk game. The basics are identical. You grind, spin, grab, revert, and if you're more than a bit useful, revert to manual then ollie into a grab kickflip over a gap and revert to another manual to continue your amazing combo back where you came from.
If none of that means anything to you, don't worry - there are enough simple beginner-level challenges dotted around Project 8's open world for you to gradually get into. You can just press Y to grind a kerb on one of the numerous Spot Challenges spraypainted on the scenery, gradually rolling forwards, then backwards until you fall off or realise that ollie-ing - skateboarder speak for 'pressing A to jump' makes you land the trick and bank the points.
So what of the Big New Idea For The Fans, this Nail The Trick business? At first, for someone who's played all of the last seven Tony Hawk games, it seems wrong and alien. In the middle of any trick or jump, you can click down both of the analogue sticks to force the game into a blurry slo-mo view of your feet and the board. Rotating the two sticks then pulls off tricks manually.
This is no 'casual gamer' stick-wagglingto- score-points exercise. Nailing anything other than a simple 180-degree rotation is immensely difficult, with precise pressing and changes of direction needed to avoid smashing into the floor. It's not essential to do these tricks - you can score high without them - but it is at least something new to try. You might like it.
The levels, as levels have to be these days, are all linked into one huge city. Certain areas remain inaccessible until you've completed the required number of challenges - and butch security guards patrol the school to stop you getting in before time - but when you get up high and have a good look around, it's one hell of an impressive town.
It looks great, although the frame-rate isn't perfect. For the first time ever, Tony Hawk isn't completely silky smooth. This is quite a shame, as the games have always been as slick as an oiled eel. You'd expect Xbox 360's vast processing power - roughly equal to the power of six microwave ovens - to smooth things out. But no. Shiny, pretty, better-thanlast- year cities and characters need more juice, so the occasional jerk is the price we pay.
Still, it's not that much of a deal. The game is huge, the tricks are all still here, and the new Nailing system encourages you to take risks and try new things in a Tony Hawk game, instead of firing off all your usual favourite, reliable combos. On Xbox Live you have the usual options - Ranked and Player matches, eight players, Friend slots on the Lobby and standard Hawk game types like Trick Attack, Graffiti and Combo scoring. You can switch game types without going back to the Lobby too, turn off manuals, walking and collisions, and generally go totally custom on Xbox Live.
It's a good, straightforward system, with the city broken down into sections to keep things simple. Sadly, it only supports two players offline which is a bit of a swizz. But still, it's fast and smooth online, and the fact that most of the city is blocked off behind wobbly glass barriers ironically seems to make the gameplay smoother on Xbox Live - definitely a first. It's not as vastly different as they said it would be, which is both a shame and a relief. If you want more of the same but shinier, and slightly more serious Tony Hawk action, this is the best skate game for some years.
Same old genius skating play
- Vastly improved look
- Nail The Trick system works well
- Levels are great for Xbox Live play
- Nice Lobby system and online options
- Not quite the 'all new' Tony promised