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Tony Hawk's Project 8

Once again, in a series of reviews for games that show little change from existing versions, I regret to inform you that the bulk of this PlayStation 3 review comes from the Xbox 360 review I did for Tony Hawk’s Project 8. So, for the ADHD among us, I’ll outline all the PS3 changes before presenting the old review.
With Tony Hawk’s Project 8, we finally we see some interesting uses for the Sixaxis controller. Project 8 uses the tilt functionality of the controller for a few options, and while some end up working better than others, when it works it works well. You can enable the tilt control for initiating tricks rather than using the thumbstick, controlling your steering, and controlling balance during manuals and grinds. The bad apple among those three is trick initiation; you still need to push the corresponding grab or flip button while flicking the controller, and I found that the sensitivity was off slightly for a game that sometimes relies on exact button presses to complete a goal. The controls for steering your skater are mediocre at best, as the response just isn’t quite there for the controller to be used exclusively to maneuver. Sure, it was really cool to tilt and move your hands and see it happen onscreen, but making tight turns or quick stops was very difficult — I opted to also leave this option off.
The best part that all gamers should enable, though, is controlling your balance with the Sixaxis, which really lit up the gameplay and made it more involving. No longer did I have to slightly tweak the thumbstick to stay on a rail; I simply had to make sure that I moved my hands in smooth motions to stay upright. The sensitivity here at its default setting was just right allowing for some challenge in keeping on the rails but also satisfaction when you managed to grind for a Sick level goal.
One huge negative for this title is no online play whatsoever. Two players can play on the same console, but really, why the elimination of the online component? Surely the PlayStation Network can handle this type of gaming, so why isn’t it in here? For gamers who are deciding between the Xbox 360 version and PS3, the choice becomes “do you want online play, or some interesting ways to use your fancy new Sixaxis?”
For the remainder of this review I’ll borrow predominantly from my Xbox 360 impressions because, quite honestly, nothing has changed. The game still stutters from time to time, the music selection still rocks, and the core gameplay is completely intact. In other words, Project 8 is still a return to Tony Hawk greatness.
The last time I played a Tony Hawk title I swore the series off. It veered off on a tangent that really didn’t fit with the type of game that was fun to play, but that was THUG2 and times have changed. Tony Hawk’s Project 8, names so not because it’s the eighth game in the series, but for a group of elite skaters that Mr. Hawk is bringing together from around the world. The goal of your game is to break into this Project 8 but pulling off sick tricks, impressing professional skaters and pedestrians alike, and surviving some really vicious bails.
While the core gameplay of the series has remained the same, the presentation has grown and changed with the times. From the highly story-driven THUG games to the two-minute drills of the Pro Skater series, the game was about skating, tricks and psychotic combos that would be impossible to do in real life. Project 8 still contains some story elements, but delivers them in a more organic method and seems a lot more easily melded into gameplay than THUG2. Also much more integrated into the game itself is access to new locations to skate as they are unlocked as you progress through the goals that litter the levels. The classic mode that ruled during the Pro Skater days are essentially wiped out from normal gameplay, but are selectable as individual goals in game. As mentioned, the goals are scattered throughout the level and are initiated as soon as you attempt the right trick or action at the starting point. Some goals are straight forward such as grind along a curb to a specified point while some are a little more labor intensive like helping a man dressed in a beaver costume not only publicize a dance lesson, but then pull off a series of flatland tricks to earn him enough money to take said dance lessons. Other interesting requirements came in the form of Pro Challenges where you meet up with one of the professional skaters and do their bidding. The goals here seemed to emulate the personality of the skaters, with Bam Margera’s challenge involving wiping out while on the top of a building and landing in a dumpster; and Bob Burnquist’s threw you out of an airplane and didn’t allow you to pull your chute until enough tricks were successfully executed.
The classic modes that permeated the Pro Skater series are here, but in a slightly different way. Rather than a level being exclusively this classic mode, one challenge makes up the entire classic mode and your rank is determined by how many of the goals are performed; including classics like Collect Skate and Combo. This section alone should tell you just how vast the game is. Even unlocking new locations is now more involved than simply meeting a completion level, you must perform a specific action, like launching through a window while burning to ignite stored fuel.
The biggest enhancement to this game was without question the Nail the Trick mode. This was demonstrated quite nicely in the marketplace demo that Activision released, and the mechanics of it are exactly the same. During any trick sequence a simple click of the two analog controllers will initiate Nail the Trick, zooming the camera on the board and your skaters feet. Each foot is controlled by one analog stick, so flipping the left stick up will kick the board in that direction starting a flip. Tricks can be linked with either foot when the grip tape is up, or when the trucks are up; but tricks can only be landed when the grip tape is up. Finding the right timing to pull off amazing tricks can get tricky, but the mode is so well executed that the sometimes difficult timing is easily overlooked.
The audio visual department in P8 is one that gets good grades from me, and if not for some nasty graphical slowdown would be great. From the great zoom and blur effects that are present when in Nail the Trick to the overall look and feel of the game, the graphics finally represent something that’s been made for this generation of consoles. Characters aren’t 100% photo-realistic which is a good thing; they have a somewhat exaggerated look to them which is much easier on the eyes than an almost there realism that some games go for. The world being so wide open in P8 lends itself to the long draw distance, but that in itself could be part of the burden. There were many times where unintentional slowdown would occur and the tough part was I couldn’t pinpoint the trigger for it. There are times when a large number of characters are onscreen with no slowdown and times when it’s only my skater heading to a challenge and the game drops frames badly.
Once again though the soundtrack on this game is a great one and it doesn’t pigeon hole itself into a specific genre which is a great thing. Bands range from the always interesting Gnarls Barkley to +44 and The Hold Steady. It’s nice to have such a range of songs in the game, and the fact that you get to hear more than 2 minutes of each is a great improvement from the Pro Skater days.
As I mentioned early on, I was “Tony Hawked out” after playing through the Pro Skater series and then picking up what I viewed as a step backwards in THUG2. Thankfully I safely can say that I was highly entertained by this title, and even complained about a case of dreaded “Nintendo Thumb” due to late night sessions. The Nail The Trick mode combined with the Elder Scrolls like skill upgrades (the more you use them, the better you get) are great tweaks to the series. Fans of the game who’ve passed over due to being burned out on the series should consider giving this a rental, and fans who still enjoy the combo action after all these years have no reason not to pick this title up.

Overall: 8.5
Finally we see a good use of the Sixaxis controller, and it’s about time the Classic mode returns as a single challenge. However, what’s up with no online play, and why didn’t the occasional slowdown get addressed?

— Jeff Paramchuk

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