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Tony Hawk's Proving Ground

Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Free-Roaming/ Sports (Extreme)/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Tony Hawk's Proving Ground look awesome. The environments are highly detailed, although I must admit that they have been modified to make them more skatable than they truly would be in real life. Think of the Philly that could only exist in a skater's dreams, and you get the idea; imagine that all of the walls of buildings are shaped - either naturally or by some rigger's modification - into a half-pipe, as are all water fountains... if it's there, it's there to skate on.

As for the characters, there is a lot of customization available when creating your skater. There are also real skaters that are represented in-game using their likenesses. These skaters look a bit scary. While this is not intended, it is likely due to the "Uncanny Valley" effect; basically, the skaters look very realistic, and since they look so realistic, we automatically scrutinize the details more.

The music in Tony Hawk's Proving Ground is pretty good, if you like alternative and punk, of which skaters tend to be so fond. At any rate, there's a pretty good mix of music in the game, with the ability to choose which tracks you want to listen to and which ones you'd rather not.


Tony Hawk's Proving Ground is the best Tony Hawk title, yet. Proving Grounds lets you concentrate your skater's development in your choice of three different directions: Career, Hardcore or Rigger. You can choose to specialize in one one of these, or you can work your way through the missions for all three. The ones you choose and the order you choose them is up to you. This adds another layer of personalization and customization of your character that picks up where the skater creation feature leaves off.

And, why do you want to make your character one-of-a-kind? Why, so you can be easily identified when you play against others online or when people see your videos. These aspects of the game put your mug in front of others, so you're going to want to have the moves and the looks to make them all remember your name. And there are several different types of online games to play. There's Trick Attack, a timed event where tricks are the name of the game, Score Challenge, where it's a race to a target score, Combo Mambo, where you try to nail the biggest combo you can before time runs out, Graffiti, an interesting game that has you "claiming" objects by skating on them, Walls, a skating version of Tron Light Cycles and Snake put together, NAIL THE TRICK (an XBox Live exclusive game), Skate the Line, where you lay out a path and challenge others to get the most points in a combo along that path, and Free Skate, which is just skating for the fun of it and is the default game that all XBox Live multiplayer sessions begin with. Graffiti is a pretty cool mode, but I think Walls is the coolest concept out of the bunch.


There is a lot of complexity in preforming tricks in Tony Hawk's Proving Ground. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It's really relatively easy to learn to do a trick. It's hard to master a trick or, more specifically, the full range of ways you can pull off tricks and combo them together. It's harder still to do all of the above without messing up somewhere in the middle of your dream combo. The missions help, since you get to learn bits and pieces one at a time and can keep trying until you get it, then you have to combine the newly learned variations to pass the mission.

The manuals seem to be easier to initiate and to maintain control over in Tony Hawk's Proving Ground than in previous games. As such, I was able to add them to my repertoire of moves that I often use in combos. This really helps to chain combos, since a manual can be done without the need for any external prop, unlike a grind, which requires something along which to slide. The problem with using manuals to cover ground is that if you're not going downhill, manuals tend to slow you down. The solution to this is to fishtail the board to build some forward speed, but that's a trick I've had some trouble mastering, especially since you have to maintain your balance the whole time you're in a manual. Maintaining balance has been an aspect to Tony Hawk games for quite some time, and it is no different in Tony Hawk's Proving Ground. This time around, however, the visual indicator is a large sweeping line that is on both sides of the screen and does a good job of showing off your balance. If you're grinding or balancing inverted at the top of a half-pipe, the balance meter shows as a line that goes horizontally across the screen, and rotates clockwise or counter-clockwise as your balance shifts; you'll need to use your left analog stick to counter this imbalance without over-compensating if you want to stay balanced. Manuals use the same type indicator, but instead of rotating, the bar will move up or down the screen. You'll have to use your left analog stick to counter, again, to maintain balance. These balance indicators are easy to see, but it takes some practice to get good at maintaining your balance. One useful note: if the indicator turns red, that means that if you lose your balance in that direction, you're going to bail. If the indicator is green, however, if you lose your balance in that direction, you will successfully finish the move. This is a useful thing to be mindful of, because anything's better than losing all of your points by bailing. If you're just going for score, it might be better to try to keep your balance centered a little bit towards the side that turns green. Be warned, however, there's not always a green side.

Game Mechanics:

Those who have played previous Tony Hawk games will likely notice that Tony Hawk's Proving Ground has much better physics. The last Tony Hawk game I played had excessive use of rag doll physics and used this (intentionally) as a game mechanic in some unrealistic, yet hilarious, mini-games. Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, by comparison, takes itself much more seriously, returning to a more pure skating gameplay experience.

I found the development of the three categories of skaters to be an interesting concept that provides the opportunity for gamers to customize their skaters in the ways they want to, as well as a way to let gamers avoid activities they're not interested in. For example, if you're not a tweaker, you might not be interested in any of the Rigger missions or of customizing your skating environment. You wouldn't be interested in unlocking the large skate objects, because you wouldn't even use the small ones. In Proving Ground, this is easily remedied, as you can simply choose not to do any of the Rigger missions. Voila! You get only what you want to get out of the game.

I think the online gameplay is a nice feature, and would probably be really cool with eight players, but when I tried playing online, I found that there would typically be 3-4 players in a given game. I also found it rather interesting and annoying that any time I had a higher score than everyone else, the person hosting the game would bail for a minute, invalidating the game. Basically, if you're a hardcore online gamer, you might be disappointed in the online feature games in Tony Hawk's Proving Ground. If, however, you're like me and you focus on local gameplay and just occasionally check out the online gameplay for fun, the online's not too bad.

Online gameplay aside, Tony Hawk's Proving Ground is an awesome skating game, that offers an amazing amount of customization, from skater appearance, to tricks, to career paths and the environment itself. If you're a tweaker, get in here. If you're remotely interested in skating games, this is the one to own. I've started to wonder if the name, Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, is also referring to the game itself, as Tony Hawk proves itself to be viable as a realistic pro-skater game that takes realism seriously.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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