Tony Hawk's Project 8 Review

Tim Billups

Ah Suburbia, a quant cul-de-sac with white picket fences, green grass and a half-pipe. Wait a minute, a half pipe? That can only mean one thing... it’s time for some bone breaking, insane and out of this world skateboarding. Tony Hawk has done it once more, and thank god it’s not a reincarnation of American Wasteland. Tony Hawk’s Project 8.

The graphics of the previous installment were poorly ported, not in Project 8. Neversoft and Activision completely redefined the way skating games should look by engineering everything from scratch, not simply giving us a high resolution port from the Xbox. The characters were created using motion capture animation, and despite the fact some of them look a little scary, were done very well. The texture of the levels is amazing. Trees look real (from a videogame standpoint), the graffiti on the walls is legible as compared to a blurry mass of colors, and when glass shatters, it doesn’t just make the sound and disappear; it falls all over the place. There are imperfections, as you will find in any game, but the hurdles taken to create this game cannot go unseen.

If I bail, will I scuff my sneaks?

Birds chirping, wheels on the pavement, and trucks down a pole. All the sounds in the game are very realistic, you can even hear your bones crunch when you bail. The character voices are the actual people who are portrayed, and the extras aren’t all the same person. When the person talks, you can tell that they are just opening and closing, but it seems as though they are actually mouthing the words. The soundtrack for the game is comprised of some newer music, not just mainstream pop that clouds over most videogames we see. I didn’t recognize a lot of the names, but all the songs fit the game very well.

Now, let the true reviewing begin. You begin your journey in your bedroom, and here you will choose how your skater appears. From haircut to shoes and all the lovely tattoos, you are sure to make your skater exactly who you want to be. And unlike American Wasteland, you don’t get an achievement for this one…sorry. Once you have finally completed making your character look nothing like yourself, it’s out into the realm you go.

There are many new additions to how you go about completing the story as well as completing the game. Sidewalk challenges, Photo Opportunities, Skating a Line for a Demo, Pro Challenges (aren’t these always a hassle) and the Stickler: Nail the Trick. Not to mention the newly revised Classic goals being inserted into the story mode, which for those of us die hard fans, was a long over due improvement, even though in recent games, the Classic Mode was better than the story itself. Ok, enough incoherent rambling, lets get on with the show. The sidewalk challenges are truly where you begin to get your rhythm back. These aren’t like the last “challenges” we had in THAW, where you can only do so many at a time. And no more are the days of “grind for 10 seconds” or “nose stall for 4 seconds”, no instead you must hit points. And they are not all point A-B-C, some require you to change direction, wall ride and hop to another ledge. If you have unlocked a part of the city, then every challenge in that part of town is available any time you feel the urge. Some are simple, and some are extremely difficult and require timing, patience, skill, and a lot of luck.

Why Grandma, what big feet you have!

With each challenge you are given or come across, there are 3 different ways to complete it: Amateur, Pro, and Sick. If you were simply playing through the game, only doing each objective 1 time, you would probably have gotten around 30% sick, 30% pro and 40% amateur. And there is nothing wrong with that, no one expects perfection on the first run through. Now here is the catch…becoming numero uno requires that you get at least 95% sick. And we all want to be numero uno right? So, not only does the game require you to get sick on most goals, but you are actually pushing yourself to do better. Giving you more replay ability than most Tony Hawk games in the past.

Nail the Trick…the exciting new feature that is played for what seems like an eternity the first time you load the game up, and no, you cannot skip over it if it is the first time you load up. When you first learn this new feature, it seems remarkable and out of this world. After a while, you realize that it’s not so much so, and that is quite easy to comprehend. Nailing the trick is done using the two joysticks. Pushing them in different directions when your skateboard is sitting right will enable you to do a different trick. The joysticks control your feet, left being for your left and if I have to explain what the right one is for we are all in for a world of trouble. The camera zoom's in and goes into focus mode once you ollie. Showing you the direction of your feet and how kicking one way with one foot and another way with the other foot creates the tricks we are about to Nail. Once you get the hang of it, controlling the new feature becomes second nature and barring an accidental flick of the joystick at the wrong moment, too easy to do.

Also new to the world of Tony Hawk is the wonderful hospital bill and amount of bones you have broken each and every time you bail. You can induce a bail yourself, making your character fly through the air at times, and perhaps actually control it. Granted, it’s a “cool” feature, I feel that it is somewhat useless and a tad overdone. Most of the time when you bail, your character lands no where near where it should realistically, he is usually doing a flying star pretending to be superman before he plummets to the ground bouncing like a deflated basketball. To me it seemed like a cheesy addition that was not necessary.

Now to land it....

Multiplayer, did someone ask about multiplayer? But of course there is multiplayer, and this one is way better than the previous installment. High Score runs, tagging, each multiplayer mode is fun. Not to mention the fact that you have to play 100 games and finish them for an achievement, at least this time around you have to play someone else. Now, are you going to be in a room with some 12 year old who thinks he is a Tony Hawk God? Yes. Is he going to wipe the floor with your face? Probably, but who cares, you are playing an amazing game online with people from god knows where. Isn’t that amazing enough? No, probably not. Then you know what you should do, you should practice, practice, practice until you can murder that 12 year old…not literally, I mean figuratively.

The achievements, I know that’s why you are all reading and what you have been waiting for. I feel that I have saved the best for last. 49 Achievements and 1000gs, for those of you thinking that this is a walk in the park, think again. Granted, there are the simple ones, unlocking areas of the game as you progress and completing training, as for the rest, well you better get ready for a long haul. From Breaking 15 Bones at once to manualling 140,000 feet, some of these achievements are going to make you want to pull out some hair. However, even though they are tough, even though some will take you hours on end to unlock, I for one am very pleased and satisfied with the achievements. And what Tony Hawk Achievement list is complete without the Gaps? Packed with 281 of them, this may be one achievement you may not get as a lot of them are difficult, and some of them require nothing but plain luck and repetition. Adding more difficulty, but not making them impossible to achieve in my opinion makes these achievements very well done.

To close, I absolutely loved this game. I am no where near complete, but irregardless the game is always in or around my 360. It has its good sides and its bad, but in this installment from Tony Hawk, the good by far outweigh the bad. I hope that those of you reading this review can see that, and invest some time in what I feel is the greatest skating game ever made.

The soundtrack, voiceovers, pedestrians and "extras" were all done very well. It wasn't the same old "let's use the same person for all extra's" concept.

There were some times when the visuals were kinda off, and there are times where you can get stuck in areas that you can't get out of or have to get off your board to escape. However the fluidity of the game's layout is a massive upgrade from the last Tony Hawk game.

There were some changes in how you control your skater, nothing drastic. Just simple button combination changes. Being able to move from area to area without a loading screen is always nice too. But actually being able to control your character and new the new features is very self explanatory and will only take a few hours of playing to make it second nature.

The game is presented very well. There are some minor details that even after the patch were there, but nothing that detracts from the game itself.

Possibly one of the better sets of achievements that I have seen, this list offers not only new and improved achievements, but they are also attainable, and not far fetched fantasies that someone has just thought up. They were carefully planned out. Granted, there are some seriously stupid ones as well, but we can always use a gamerscore boost, right?

Great game to say the least. Outstanding presentation, easy to learn controls, some beautiful visuals and not to mention a well made list of achievements, this game will keep you staring at your TV for hours on end. Very impressed with the NeverSoft staff and can't wait for Proving Grounds!

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