While it's no secret that it's been a long time since Tony Hawk gave us anything to get truly excited about, game-wise, it's almost as if he didn't want to be left out of PS3's lavish launch party. So he's timed his return just right. Taking a step back from the story-focused (and frankly ridiculous) antics of Underground and American Wasteland, Tony Hawk's Project 8 returns us to what the series is all (and should have always been) about... the skateboarding.
Odds are that very few of you know anyone who's actually any good on a skateboard. Like, really good. Someone who can effortlessly break out gravity defying action that'll make passers by stop and stare? Thought not. Because skateboarding is really hard, which is why this year's top innovation, Nail The Trick mode, is so damn fine - everyone can shine and it's one of the most obvious advancements for the series that we could ever have imagined...
YOU'VE NAILED IT
As you're tearing through the world of Project 8, grinding on picnic tables at the school, kick-flipping over roller coasters at the funfair or pulling off Frontside 180s at the car factory, a simple click of the analogue sticks is all it takes to throw the entire Hawkiverse into pure, eyeball-melting slow-motion - zooming in on your feet and putting the control of each leg onto the left and right sticks, allowing you to truly play with the board as you fly through the air, adding trick after trick to your combo. It's amazing to see, quick to master and it'll make your mates' jaws drop every time. And that's what a 'great new feature' is all about.
Meanwhile, THP8 features the sort of challenge-based storyline we've come to expect from the series over the years. Basically, Tones is looking for the top skaters in town to assemble a team - Project 8. You start off as a no-name punk, ranked number 200, who dreams of becoming part of Project 8 - and if you play your deck right, number one.
Making it that far takes work: Spot challenges, puzzle challenges and bail challenges - in which you're rewarded for breaking bones - are necessary achievements, with classic two-minute goal challenges also making a return. Each challenge has three levels of completion - amateur, pro, and sick - and, rather than choose your game difficulty from the start-up screen, you're able to revisit challenges at any time to better your score. The game supports Six-axis control, too, although this only really works for balancing in grinds or manuals - where, after a little practice, it actually makes them easier. When it comes to controlling your character, forget it.
SKATE FOR IT
With the vast graphical upgrade supplied by the PS3, this is easily the best-looking Hawk game yet. Yet it's not without its flaws. It would seem, in an effort to tighten gameplay and offer a fresh approach to the series, the 'acknowledged for excellence' Tony Hawk frame-rate has taken an unfortunate knock. At times the game can chug, leaving you wondering whether the fully-streaming world was necessary and longing for the smaller but smooth restraints of yesteryear.
Thankfully these stutters are few and far between and while irritating, they fail to completely tarnish the overall experience. The limited customisation of characters available is poor, for sure... but it's the complete absence of any online play that is truly unforgivable. Still, despite that, it's a solid back-to-basics return to the glory days of the Hawk, hampered only by the missing online features and the occasional rough edge. Long may he reign.
Tony's back and, although it feels like he got here in a hurry, he's still delivering the goods.
- Gorgeous slow-mo
- Massive environments
- Creepy-looking characters
- No online play
- Occasional frame stutter