Marking the latest in the Tony Hawk series is Proving Ground, an engaging foray into the street life of the common skater who is trying to make a name for himself through 3 career paths designed to improve his skating skills and eventually earn enough cred to hang with the legends.
Detail is the key to THPG. Right from the character creation menu you get a sense of the complex nature and nuance of the customization available throughout the game. Clothes, hair, boards and accessories are just the tip of the iceberg as you build your skill arsenal to fit your unique play style. Whether it is grinding, air, or grabs, the more you use your tricks the more you level and unlock increased stats associated to pulling off these feats.
THPG gives you three paths to explore through missions and skill boosting trick pull-offs; namely career, hardcore and rigger. The career lifestyle has you complete tasks designed around capturing video and photos for various magazines–the better the shots, the more you get paid, and the closer you get to becoming a brand name. The difficulty here is being able to set yourself up for a specific trick and then being swapped to a separate photo shot to capture your picture. Hardcore helps you develop certain skating techniques, such as the new agro aggro? kick, which you will use to prove your worth cleaning out skate parks of rival gangs. Lastly you can develop the DIY skater mentality through rigging your own ramps and rails to build your own dream skate park. This is hit-or-miss because of a clunky rigging editor that is irksome at best and downright annoying at worst as you attempt to rig specific elements together to complete goals.
Control mechanics can be a little daunting as you progress your way through the game, and while they are not impossible to master, they are not for the faint of heart either. Simple combinations required early on require extreme precision to pull off and may deter some casual gamers from progressing, but once you understand the controls, the intuitive nature of their design becomes second nature and a joy to nail the different combinations. How you grasp the controls will ultimately affect how you fare online, as the online community for the game tends towards the hardcore crowd. Still, online play provides another awesome outlet to truly measure your skills and given the seamless transition between the story mode to playing online. Other developers should take note and aim for this design.
The area maps are great for people like me who try to constantly explore; there are always these hidden nooks and crannies that seem virtually impossible to reach until you figure out the right jump or grind spot. If you get tired of playing the story or even the online sections you can always lounge in your personal skate area that you can build and populate with items you gain through the main game. And if that isn’t enough you can focus on editing all of your game footage together into a movie; this video editor is an interesting addition to the series and a worthy waste of your time. Needless to say there is plenty to do in the game and beyond the game making the price completely worth it.
Graphics were another one of those hit or miss items; a lot of times I felt the graphics were a worthy contender for the PS3, but then I would come across these blatant design flaws with environments and character creations. As good as the modeling was, it is almost a slap in the face that my character had an unmistakable line across the back of his neck, or the almost comic A