E3 06: Tony Hawk's Project 8 Impressions

Neversoft is rebuilding Tony Hawk from the ground up for the 360 and PS3.

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LOS ANGELES--Tony Hawk's Project 8 attempts to take the Tony Hawk series and toss away as much of the underlying technology as possible. For the last seven games, each one seemed to build bit by bit off of the last, reusing the same animation and rendering technology. Old systems and new hardware apparently don't mix. Project 8 is being developed with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in mind right from the get-go. Will a deep overhaul reinvent the series?

The brief demo we were shown started with a slow-motion trailer of skating, focusing on the feet of the skater and showing off some very realistic trick animation--but this didn't seem to be real-live gameplay. Still, the fancy footwork was pretty impressive. Project 8 will contain a new animation system that will let up to 20 different animations blend together and play simultaneously. That means upper-body animations and lower-body animations can blend together all crazy-like, which is designed to come into play to show off more-realistic rail-balance animations, ollies, and the like. Most of the information given out focused on new visual systems. In addition to the animation system, a new physics system will be in there, as well as shaders to make glass and metal look realistic and effects like depth of field and radial blurring. The motion-captured pro skaters have been put together using full head and body scans, and their heads alone are made up of 100,000 polygons. The game will take place in a large streaming world that sounds similar to the "no loading" claims made in Tony Hawk's American Wasteland.

So how will all this technical stuff pan out in the end? Well, we don't rightly know. The PS3 version of the game was shown very briefly, with the caveat that it's a very early demo. The demo showed Stevie Williams skating around and doing tricks, while the player at the controls dropped into focus mode and swung the camera around to show the skater's feet up close. Honestly, it really didn't look much different from what we've seen in previous Tony Hawk games, but as they said, it's a very early demo.

The game's storyline will put you in the role of an amateur skater who gets caught up in Tony Hawk's search for the top eight amateur skaters. Other gameplay differences include on-the-fly difficulty changes. Each goal will come in three different flavors: am, pro, and sick. The game has had multiple difficulties in the past, but this time it sounds like you'll be able to take on the different difficulties in the same game.

Tony Hawk's Project 8 is being developed by Neversoft. While the main focus appears to be on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, it's apparently in development for current-generation consoles, as well. We'll have more as it becomes available.

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