Tony Hawk's Proving Ground: Hands-On With the XBL Demo

We get a sneak peek at the upcoming downloadable demo of Activision's latest skater.

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The beauty of skating is that all you need are a decent sense of balance, a board, and a fun place to skate. You need even less to enter the world of skating video games. Provided you've got a next-generation console, all it takes is $60 and a pair of opposable thumbs to get skating away, likely pulling off tricks you'd never be able to do in real life. At a recent Activision press event showing off some of the latest games from the publisher, we put our thumbs to work with the Xbox Live demo version of Neversoft's upcoming Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, the ninth game in the long-running skateboarding series.

Rigging challenges will test your creativity and your skating skills.
Rigging challenges will test your creativity and your skating skills.

The demo, which doesn't have a solid release date other than "soon," is designed to show off the three major paths your created skater can take in the game: rigger, hardcore, and career. As we've mentioned in our previous look at the game, the three different paths feature different characters and story arcs. They will also challenge your Tony Hawk skills in a variety of different ways. Consider the demo's rigging challenge, for example. Here, you'll meet up with a camera man named Rube, who's looking to film you skating off a variety of different kickers with the eventual goal of sending the video to Jeff King, rigger extraordinaire and host of Fuel's "Built to Shred."

The rigging challenges are simple: You simply need to place ramps or kickers around cars and then let Rube film you as you jump over them. Rigging challenges are an introduction to the different rigging tools you'll be using in the full version of the game. As a result, you won't have a full menu of items to place in the world. For example, in the first challenge, you'll need to place a ramp on either side of a car then jump from one to the other. In the next, you place a kicker ramp in front of a car and jump over it. Within the rigger menu, you be able to choose where you place the object and rotate the piece using the LB or RB button. The final challenge in the rigging path will have you use both a kicker and a rail, with the latter on placed on top of the car. Here you'll be required to jump off the kicker and then grind on the rail on top of the car, which is a slightly more challenging but still manageable early goal.

Another challenge in the demo is an introduction to the hardcore path in the game. Here, there's a gap that your created skater hasn't been able to cross. To finally get over that gap, skater Mike Valley will teach you how to use the aggro kick, a new mechanic that will give you a significant boost of speed by pressing the RB button (or R1 on the PlayStation 3 version of the game). The trick with the aggro kick is that it's timing based, and to gain maximum speed out of it, you'll need to get a careful rhythm going. To acclimate yourself to the aggro kick, you'll race around Philly in a timed checkpoint race. Each time you pass through a checkpoint, you'll add more time to the clock. If you beat the race, you'll practice combining the aggro kick with simple jumps until you have mastered the technique well enough to finally jump the gap that seemed insurmountable before.

Your final available path in the demo will be an introduction to the career path. Here, Bob Burnquist will introduce you to the subtleties of the nail-the-grab system. It's a fairly lengthy and detailed tutorial that will give you slow-motion examples of the different subtleties of the feature, which plays a lot like last year's nail-the-trick mode. It will also give you plenty of on-screen prompts for how and when to use the left or right analog sticks once you're in midair. As we described in our previous look at the game, you have a ton of flexibility and control over your skater and the board with Proving Ground's nail-the-trick or nail-the grab features. Once you've got the basics here, you'll be limited only by your imagination (and your reflexes) in the full game.

Nail the grab is an extension of last year's nail the trick feature.
Nail the grab is an extension of last year's nail the trick feature.

When you aren't participating in the career paths--and they probably won't take you that long to get through--you will have a 10-minute time limit in the demo during which you can skate through the inner-city section of Philadelphia to your heart's content. After that, the game will reset, and any of the challenges you've completed (including rewards you've earned, such as new gear), will be reset as well. During those 10 minutes, you'll be able to check out other features in the game, such as skills challenges and video introductions for features, which includes the all new skate lounge, as well as the video editor. You'll even be able to check out the video editor for yourself, though it will have limited functionality compared with the extremely flexible tool that will be in the final game.

No release date has been given for the demo of Proving Ground, but we do know the retail version of the game is due for release in October. Stay tuned for much more on the game in the coming weeks.

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