Tony Hawk's Project 8 Review
Project 8 makes a lot of changes that will please fans of the series, but some technical issues and missing features hurt the experience.
- Redesigned career mode gives you multiple levels of challenge
- nail the trick mode is a cool-looking addition that has a positive impact on the gameplay.
- Frame rate is frequently unstable
- no online support
- skater creation options aren't as in-depth as they have been in previous installments.
Tony Hawk appeared on the Xbox 360 last year, but Tony Hawk's Project 8 marks the first time that the series has been built from the ground up for the current generation of consoles. As you might expect, not being saddled with the constraints of the Xbox and PlayStation 2, Activision and Neversoft have made some strong visual strides this year, updating and modernizing the game's look while replacing a lot of the trick animations that had been in place for years. The gameplay is as freeform and as technical as it's ever been, with some smart changes on that front that are enough to keep fans of the series interested, while a new tutorial is aimed at getting new players up to speed. Unfortunately, some technical glitches and unstable frame rates plague both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
Those frame-rate problems hit the PlayStation 3 version of the game significantly harder than the Xbox 360. Other than the choppy frame rate and slightly sharper graphics on the PlayStation 3, some of which is only noticeable when using an HDMI cable on a high-end HDTV, the games look roughly the same. But there are other, more significant differences between the two versions. The Xbox 360 version has online support for up to eight players, including a new game mode called walls, which gives your skater a tall trail behind him that behaves sort of like the light cycles in Tron--if you hit another player's wall, you're out. The Xbox 360 version also uses its online support to present a lot of different online leaderboards. Much like Amped 3, many of the different goals in the game have their own individual leaderboard, which adds some competition to the single-player game and gives you a reason to keep on playing the same goals again and again. Without this, the PS3 version feels sort of flat by comparison.
The PlayStation 3 version of the game distinguishes itself by offering complete support for the Sixaxis controller's motion-sensing abilities. You can set it to just control functions like balancing, if you like, or you can move and execute tricks with it, as well. It works, but it lacks the precision offered by the D pad, so it's a neat experiment that's pretty good at showing off what the Sixaxis is capable of, but you probably wouldn't want to play through the game this way. The PlayStation 3 version also installs a 264MB cache file onto the system's hard drive when you first put the game in your system. Presumably, this is done to help speed up loading, but the load times don't seem much better than the Xbox 360 version of the game. If you're in a position where you have to choose between the two versions of the game, the Xbox 360 version offers a more complete package. The Tony Hawk series was a pioneer when it came to being online on the PlayStation 2, and its omission on the PS3 is completely crazy and thoroughly disappointing.
Underneath all those differences lies the same basic game, and it's not that different from what Tony Hawk fans have come to expect from the series, but the changes are noticeable and welcome. The big gameplay change this year is the addition of a new slow-motion trick mode called "nail the trick". You can enter it while in the air by pressing in both analog sticks, which slows the action and moves the camera to your feet and your skateboard. At this point, the two analog sticks (or the Sixaxis' tilt sensors, if you're so inclined) control your feet, letting you flip the board around in a variety of ways. It's very strict on its timing, making it difficult to use at first. But as you get better and better at it, you'll find that it's a handy way to rack up some points when worked into your trick combos. The scoring system has been reworked a bit, so it's a little more difficult to post up ridiculous combos and multipliers by abusing a ton of lip, grind, or manual branches. Considering that score inflation in the online mode over the years has made the system difficult for anyone other than the hardest of the hardcore Tony Hawk players to enjoy, bringing the scores back down to earth is a good idea.
The game has a good career mode that doesn't bog itself down with too much story. Tony Hawk is starting up something called Project 8, and he wants to find the eight best skaters in town. You start out ranked 200th, and everything you do is focused on increasing that rank. The primary way to move through the game is to complete goals, but the goal system has been thoroughly reworked this year. Rather than setting you up with a very clear critical path that takes you to the top, the game is a bit more open ended. You'll immediately find all sorts of goals, and as you complete goals that open up new parts of town, you'll uncover even more challenges. Also, the game doesn't ask you to set your difficulty at the beginning of the game. Instead, many of the game's goals offer three different levels of completion. You can get by if you can complete the amateur-level goal, but there are also pro and sick levels to achieve. As it should be, the intermediate Tony Hawk player should be able to accomplish the pro-level goals more often than not, and some of the sick level goals are, indeed, sick.
There are a lot of different goals in the game--in fact, there are plenty of times when your compass gets so cluttered with goal arrows that you're not quite sure what you should do next. Probably the most interesting new goals are the chalk challenges. Grind versions of the chalk challenge have you skate a specific grind line in an attempt to reach the next chalk marking. The first line you reach is for the amateur goal, the second for pro, and the third for sick. There are also chalk challenges for being able to reach a certain height while launching off of a quarter pipe, natas spinning or stalling on specific objects, wall planting or wall riding up to varying heights, and so on. Since your skater improves over the course of the game, you might not be able to reach the sick levels for these goals right away, giving you a reason to come back later after you've raised your stats.
You'll perform at skate demos several times over the course of the game, and these work by splitting the crowd watching the action into three zones. You need to constantly do tricks in each zone to keep each section of the audience happy. You'll also meet up with pro skaters and then take on specific challenges to show them you're legit. These challenges are often unique. Bob Burnquist's pro challenge asks you to jump out of a plane and perform tricks in the air. Bam Margera, once again, can't stay out of the garbage, and he'll demand that you launch yourself off of a building and land in a dumpster. Ryan Scheckler focuses on gaps and acid drops, Daewon Song has you move pieces around a small area to set up a lengthy grind line, and there are five more challenges to play through over the course of the game, not counting Tony Hawk's grand finale, which is different depending on how many goals you complete at the higher levels. All in all, people that have stuck with the series over the years should be able to blaze through the game's goals and get the amateur ending after about six or seven hours. But moving up to the pro and sick finales will most definitely take some time. The career is helped along by several appearances by a virtual Jason Lee (Mallrats, Enemy of the State, Stealing Harvard), who guides you by informing you of new skate demos, pro challenges, and other more important goals. All in all, it's a fun, streamlined mode that focuses on the gameplay without spending too much time with needless story sequences.
- Player Reviews: 51
- Game Universe:
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (DC, N64, PS, GBC, NGE),
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (PS, PC, DC, GBC, N64, GBA, MAC, IP),
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (XBOX, PS2, GC, PS, GBC, PC, GBA, N64, MAC),
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (MAC, PS2, GC, XBOX, GBA, PS, PC, ZOD, MOBILE),
- Tony Hawk's Underground (PS2, XBOX, GC, GBA, MOBILE, PC),
- Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (MOBILE, PS2, XBOX, GC, PC, PSP, GBA),
- Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (XBOX, GC, PS2, X360, PC),
- Tony Hawk's American Sk8land (DS, GBA),
- Tony Hawk's Project 8 (X360, PS3, PSP, XBOX, PS2),
- Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam (PS2, WII, DS, GBA)
- Offline Modes:
- Number of Players: