Building on the success of the critically acclaimed Tony Hawk's Project 8, Tony Hawk's Proving Ground takes all the features that made Project 8 such a smash and ramps them up with a whole host of new modes, features and abilities for all the armchair shredders out there.
The new game world for Tony Hawk's Proving Ground is huge, clocking in at one and a half times the size of Project 8's, already the biggest one ever found in a Tony Hawk game. It's split into three areas - Washington DC, Philadelphia and Baltimore, each offering its own unique skating challenges as well as local pros to take on and skate with.
Hardcore, you know the score
There are now three different types of skaters, Career skaters, Riggers and Hardcore skaters. Career skaters love the money and fame (and MTV spin off shows) that come from being a top skater, and, as such, are the guys to go to for flashy aerial moves, and big, attention-grabbing stunts. Riggers are the DIY fanatics of the skate world, using everything at their disposal to create skate spots, including scaffolding, metal sheets and parked cars. Hardcore skaters on the other hand, skate for a love of the sport and don't care about the media coverage, or avoiding passers-by who happen to get in their way.
Each skating style gives you access to different abilities: Career skaters can access Nail The Trick, Nail The Grab and Nail The Manual (of which more later), Riggers are able to add new objects to the environment with the Rig Kit, as well as having better climbing and breaking and entering skills, while the Hardcore have access to the aggro moves including Aggro Kick, which lets you build up huge speeds to clear massive gaps. The path you choose determines the direction of Proving Ground's story, and the skaters you'll get to skate with along the way.
Series purists are well catered for as well; dotted around the levels are Tony Hawk 2000 arcade cabinets that let you play classic goals such as 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, as well as the endearingly silly mini-game Hawk Man, where you must traverse the level Pac-Man style, collecting pellets by grinding, jumping and flipping your way through them.
Hard as nails
One of the big innovations in Tony Hawk's Project 8 was the addition of the Nail The Trick mode. 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 allowing you to flip and spin the board in 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. Now Nail The Trick has been joined by Nail The Grab and Nail The Manual. Nail The Grab kicks in when you hold down the L1 button and lets you control your hands with the analogue sticks, while holding down R1 puts you into Nail The Manual mode, where the sticks let you balance as you perform a manual. Both new modes work just as well and look just as cool as Nail The Trick, and you can switch between all three on the fly to create some truly breathtaking combos.
In terms of presentation, Tony Hawk's Proving Ground 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 !!!, Bloc Party, The Sex Pistols, The Beastie Boys, El-P and Gallows. 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.
Also included is a video-editing mode, which lets you record yourself busting some sick tricks, and set them to music, letting you choose camera angles and cuts to best show off your four-wheeled prowess. It even uses Guitar Hero technology to tell how well you've beat-matched your footage to the music, all of which adds up to a brilliant, fun mode that you'll spend countless hours fiddling with long after you've finished the main game itself.
Tony Hawk's Proving Ground takes all the good points of Project 8 and adds enough extra features, tricks modes and characters to satisfy even the most diehard sidewalk surfer. Plus it's the closest you can get to real skating without knocking any of your teeth out or taking all the skin off your knees. What higher recommendation can there be?