Not many sports are cooler than skateboarding. Miss a shot in golf and your ball lands in the rough; miss a trick in skateboarding and you'll probably take all the skin off your knees and break most of your bones before wrapping yourself around a lamppost in an interesting but anatomically impossible position.
That's what makes skateboarding so impressive: not just that the pros can actually land these tricks, but that they do it time and time again, and make it look so effortless as they do. But don't despair if you don't have the skills of Rodney Mullen or the pain threshold of Bam Margera - the good news is that now you can skate alongside the pros and land the tricks that even they couldn't do thanks to Tony Hawk's Project 8 on PlayStation 3.
Chairman of the board
The Project 8 of the title refers to an elite team of the best eight amateur skaters around being assembled by Birdman, skating legend and all-round thoroughly nice bloke Tony Hawk. Naturally, you want in, so create yourself a skater from the five templates available (Surfer, Urban, Punk, Woman, Kid) grab a board and hit the streets to make a name for yourself. You start off ranked a measly 200 out of 200, and must make your way up the rankings by completing challenges that are strewn throughout a huge, streaming world littered with grindable rails, jumpable half-pipes and authority figures to kickflip over the head of.
These goals should mostly be familiar to anyone who has ever played a Tony Hawk game, but for the uninitiated they span a broad spectrum of skateboard-related mayhem. Classic goals like collecting all the letters in the word SKATE, landing a 100,000 point combo or collecting all the letters in the word COMBO in a single line sit alongside wackier goals like capturing escaped goats, nailing tricks as you parachute out of a plane or helping some nerds blow up a school wall. These are in addition to the huge number of spot challenges littered around the world that see you trying to manual, grind, ollie, natas spin or lip trick for as long as possible to get an Amateur, Pro or Sick rating.
The more goals you complete, the higher you rise up the rankings, hoping to gain a top eight spot and inclusion into Tony Hawk's elite Project 8 team. As you rise, sponsors will begin to take notice and you get hooked up with free shoes, boards and clothing to wear as you tear up the neighbourhood. You can also buy yourself new outfits and boards using Stokens, the in-game currency that you receive for impressing the locals with awesome skateboarding tricks.
Hard as nails
A brand new feature to the Tony Hawk series that really shows off the PlayStation 3 system's next-generation capabilities is Nail the Trick. Ollie into the air and press the L3 and R3 buttons together and the game goes into slow motion and the camera focuses on your skater's feet and board. The left stick controls the foot on the left of the screen and the right stick controls the foot on the right of the screen allowing you to flip and spin the board any direction you like to create brand new tricks. It can also be worked into existing combos for massive points. And, more importantly it looks cooler than anything, ever.
As well as skating alongside your fellow amateurs, from time to time you'll bump into some of the biggest names from the world of pro skating. As well as Tony Hawk there are appearances from Jason Lee (ex pro skater and now star of My Name is Earl), Bam Margera, Rodney Mullen, Bob Burnquist and tons more, all with fiendish challenges for you to undertake to earn their respect.
In terms of presentation, Tony Hawk's Project 8 is top notch. The graphics all have a bright and beautiful High Definition polish, and the animation and effects do their job brilliantly, creating an expansive, living breathing world for you to make a nuisance of yourself in. There's also a great hip hop and punk soundtrack featuring some genuinely excellent music from a combination of mainstream and underground artists, including Hieroglyphics, The Klaxons, The Walkmen, Ugly Duckling, Mogwai and Slayer. All in all, it's a feast for the eyes and the ears as well as the thumbs, and as with previous Tony Hawk games you'll find yourself discovering new artists that you'd never heard of courtesy of the eclectic soundtrack.
The Tony Hawk games have always been excellent, but the power of PlayStation 3 lets Project 8 take it to another level. It's the closest thing you can get to being a pro skater without having to spend six months a year in traction. Now that's a recommendation.