Tony Hawk's Proving Ground Updated Hands-On

What kind of skater are you? We investigate in our hands-on look at the latest Tony Hawk game.


What kind of skater are you? Are you the kind that likes to skate for the glory: the magazine covers, the endorsement deals, and the fame and fortune that come with it? You could be of the technical variety, the kind of grinder who gets more satisfaction out of finding and creating new places for skaters to perfect their craft. Or you may be the kind of skater who's not looking for the glory, but rather the sheer thrill of lighting it up on four wheels. Perhaps your personal approach is a mixture of all three of these different paths. Regardless of your philosophy, Activision's upcoming Tony Hawk's Proving Ground will likely be able to scratch that skating itch. We had a chance to spend some extended hands-on time with a recent build of the game to see how the different styles in the game add up.

The three different paths in Proving Ground are career, hardcore, and rigging. Career-path skaters are those looking to make a living as a pro, get the magazine covers, and the endorsement deals that follow. The hardcore path is for skaters who are in it for the love of the game, but aren't above laying out a little street justice in the process. The rigging path will challenge your building chops by giving you the tools to create your own ideal skatepark.

The slightly wider net of skating approaches is the means to an end in Proving Ground's story--in short, becoming the best skater around. As you play through the game, you can focus on any of the different paths available to you at any given time. Spend some time building an impromptu skate paradise in your favorite section of Washington, D.C. (one of the three cities featured in Proving Ground, along with Philadelphia and Baltimore), or go deal with some thugs who've taken over Philly's famous FDR Skatepark. Completing these various missions will earn you new abilities across all of the different career paths in the game. For hardcore missions, you'll earn upgraded abilities for your skater, such as skate-checking. As a rigger, you'll earn new items you can use to build out your skate parks. In one D.C. rigging mission, your job will be to customize the Air and Space Museum into an indoor skate park, and you'll earn objects such as rails, jumps, and more.

Along with story-specific challenges, there will also be a ton of spot challenges you can try at any point. These are your basic challenges that will test your skating skills along a number of different events, including rail grinding, jumping, and, naturally, racking up trick combos. A couple of the challenges we tried during our hands-on time with the game included a timed race event that had us skating through a series of trickily placed checkpoints, and a long-jump challenge that had us trying to clear an overpass. For the latter challenge, we had to make liberal use of the new "aggro kick" system, which will give a boost of speed, provided that you time each kick correctly.

Proving Ground's story will cast you as an up-and-coming skater looking to make a name for yourself.
Proving Ground's story will cast you as an up-and-coming skater looking to make a name for yourself.

Last year's Tony Hawk's Project 8 introduced a new gameplay feature--nail the trick--that let players have more control over their board's movement during jumps than ever before. The dual-analog-stick system, which let you kick or flip your board in any direction while your skater flew through the air in slow motion, has been extended in Proving Ground with a couple of new additions: nail the grab, and nail the manual. To nail the grab, you pull the left trigger while in the air, and your right and left sticks will control your right and left hands, respectively. You can grab the board at any point and move either analog stick to tweak your grab, or even do a finger-flip by moving either stick in a quarter-circle. Nail the manual will allow you to land on either the front or back wheels. To use it, you pull the right trigger and, once you've nailed the jump, you can move the stick up or down to control the angle of your manual, or left and right to steer. To ollie out of the manual, you simply let go of the right trigger. When you chain the various "nail the" modes together--with complex, huge air tricks involving multiple flips, twists, and grabs, only to finish by landing a perfect manual--you've got a pretty robust trick system that should please the more obsessive fans of the series.

Other new touches in the gameplay include a slightly reworked balance meter. Instead of the meter being above the player's head as in previous games, the balance meter is now integrated in the center and edges of the screen, resulting, oddly enough, in a more seamless look than before. There will also be a sim mode that will feature more realistic physics (such as jumps that aren't as high). In addition, the weather will have an effect on how your board handles, and you'll be able to have both a wet deck and a dry deck to choose from.

As you skate around in Proving Ground, you'll occasionally run into arcade machines strewn through the environments. The arcade spots let you can play minigames such as Hawkman, a skate-themed variation on Pac-Man that will have your skater collecting color-coded pellets throughout the environment. The different colors indicate the different "states" you need to be in to gobble up that pellet type--red pellets, for example, can only be collected when in the air, while yellow pellets can only be collected while grinding. However, in true open-ended style, you're always welcome to use your rigging skills to place rails or jumps in order to improve your chances of getting to hard-to-reach pellets on the map.

Speaking of rigging, the menus for building out your skatepark dreams are quite easy to use: You simply choose the object you want from the menu and place it in the environment. Once an object is placed, you can change its size with the analog sticks and, for rails, you can choose to either place them one at a time, or connect multiple rails into one continuous grind by clicking the left stick. Up to 30 pieces can be placed in the world at any given point. A new version of HORSE in the game will be tied to individual objects, with players competing for high scores on different objects placed in the map. In addition, when in multiplayer, all of the objects you create will be available for other players to check out for themselves.

One of the more interesting features in Proving Ground will be the new video editor, which will let you record footage from your various runs throughout the game, and then edit it to your heart's content with editing software that looks to be fairly robust. There are tons of effects and overlays you can add to your clips (many of which you'll unlock as you progress through the game) and you can place a camera practically anywhere in the environment to help capture your best tricks. You'll be able to add music to your clips, and developer Neversoft, who is also heading development on the upcoming Guitar Hero III, is using technology from the rocking rhythm game in Proving Ground in order to judge the quality of your edits. In the video editor, you'll be able to see where the beats of the tune you've selected are; the closer you cut to the beats, the higher the score you'll earn for your clip.

The downside to the system is that you can't rewind and save a clip on the fly. Instead, you have to manually begin recording before pulling off your best tricks. While that might detract from the spontaneity of the clips you have--inevitably, you'll have a few incredible moments that you wished you had "on tape"--with such powerful tools available, we still expect to see plenty of creative stuff coming from the Tony Hawk community once the game is released.

The skate lounge is your own personal home away from home which you can fill with items you've unlocked.
The skate lounge is your own personal home away from home which you can fill with items you've unlocked.

Your skate lounge will be a representation of all the things you've accomplished in Proving Ground. There are 10 themes to choose from for your lounge, from dance club to dojo, and you can fill up your huge space with items you've unlocked or bought with your hard-earned cash. Among the more interesting items were cars, skate ramps, and an absolutely massive plasma-screen television that looked to put most IMAX screens to shame. The video screens will play unlocked skate videos you've earned along the way; unfortunately, you won't be able to play your created videos in the player, which is a bummer. Still, once you build up enough stuff, your lounge can be a fun diversion for you to live out your skating fantasies--or invite a few buddies over for multiplayer fun and let them gawk at the items you've collected in the game.

With EA entering the competition with a skating game of its own this year, the competition for skateboarding supremacy has become a lot more interesting. Still, with control tweaks aplenty and enough gameplay variety to appeal to a wide range of skating approaches, Tony Hawk's Proving Ground looks like another winner in the popular franchise. According to Activision, a demo of Proving Ground will be available on Xbox Live in the near future. Stay tuned for more information on the game in the coming weeks.

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Avatar image for ukillwegrill

skate is a great game as the demo has show im not even a fan of skating games but i already can see signs of activision losing their grip on the market although they are veterans with great games under their belt and ea do have a history of missing the mark

Avatar image for therejectx

it is cool that skate is coming out around the time of proving ground. options are always nice and both games look good.

Avatar image for horariovandalas

Now people please don't argue over this. It's a matter of simple opinion in which one gamer prefers the limits of a game to be pushed, and the other wants to try something, without feeling the negative effects. it's all in preference, don't argue over this. just be happy that both Proving Ground, and Skate. are coming out at the same time, and they'll force each other to accell in the areas they forfeit. these two great game series will evolve through competition. let's discuss that, rather than argue over the realism and experience, and which game is better...that's for the "personal survey," and this isn't a personal survey. it's a board/site. be happy, not angry.

Avatar image for horariovandalas

"go out and skate it is way funner. don't stay in doors and play skateboard games and get fatter" Go join the Army and don't play shooters. Games are about having fun and doing something you couldn't or wouldn't usually do, and not having to suffer any consequences. Not suffering the consequences and feeling as if you're actually doing it and not suffering the consequences are two seperate things. people want to experience the real thing without feeling the anguish of the actual experience. and have you any idea how many military men and women play Rainbow Six:Vegas? one of the most realistic shooters ever created, and almost completely on par? it's a best seller. hundreds of thousands of players world wide know it. people want realism for an accurate experience. if it's exaggerated then it's not the same experience is it? so, that's why people would like realism in their virtual experiences. simply put.

Avatar image for horariovandalas

skate is great. tony hawk's gotten too unrealistic. i like real games, cause i suck on a real skateboard, i mean, i can carve bowls, but i suck at flips and such, so kickflips, heel flips, and tre's in these gams make it for me, and quite frankly, skate. was extremely satisfying. i loved it. although, i may suck at flips, but i didn't say i couldn't land them, and this game is just a slightly better version of me, i wish it was just a little more realistic. tony hawk overdoes it, and this one just slightly undercut realism. but none the less, the controls make it feel real, and the gameplay is amazingly satisfying and leaves a sense of accomplishment, and pride. skate. seems to be a much better and more skateboard related game. i.e. bikes in american wasteland, and sidemissions in this. wtf? seriously.

Avatar image for mrfidget

skate is as fun as tony hawk, if not, funner. i bet you havent even tried the demo.

Avatar image for skateboard1587

skate can suck my balls. if people are so obsessed with playing a realistic game, and not having as much fun as you possibly can, go play forza motorsport ( nothing against forza, that game's pretty good)

Avatar image for kittykiller897

This game looks exactly like all the other thps games, but with gay add-ons like nail the manual. The controls in the skate demo feel so good, even if not perfectly realistic, its more rewarding to have to line up a grind rather than tap y, and then double tap x to get into the kind of grind that you want. My point is, skate takes more skill, and the controls let you keep your hands in the same place, except for pushing off. i do agree with foodclubdrinks, i think its not so much about realism and more about good controls.

Avatar image for kittykiller897

nothing new here, except nail the manual, but why do that when you can play with completely new controls in skate?

Avatar image for chaos-is-me

i'm gonna get this and skate. skate for realism. thpg for the tried and tested insane, unrealisticaly but fun gameplay.

Avatar image for GrandMasterSmit

All the tony hawk games are the same. the addons are lame.. 'nail a manual'? come on.. ea's skate atleast brings something completely new and fresh to the skating games. skate>proving ground

Avatar image for Captain_Orgasm

This game looks totally awesome - hope it's better than PRO 8

Avatar image for packernation31

This game has sold itself to me, it sounds so sick

Avatar image for Skater710

You know what? I'm over realistic games...

Avatar image for GaMeFrEaK5040

WELLL sometimes tony hawks games get boring cuz after awhile you beat it and theres nuthing else to do but free skate...... so hopefully he makes free skating a lil better! also tony hawk has a bunch of good games hopfully proving ground steps up and foollows along whith all those other bunch of skate games he has made but even beettter !!!! im definetly going to get this game tho i got like every single skate game he madeeee there all rly rly gooooood :P

Avatar image for kappareign

im glad skate is coming along to give the hawk series some competition... neversoft has made some great games but they really got lazy with THUG2 and especially THAW. hopefully this proving ground will be a step up

Avatar image for dice14

I'm gonna Steal this game! :) download it off the WEB oh oh oh lol. all the tony hawks games were good till american wasteland.. then they went to $4!T

Avatar image for digi_dragon324

i've liked every thps game since the original, forget realism. How and why would i even care about REALISM when i dont even skate in real life? i like the tony hawk games, and i like that they update them and make them diffrent everytime, but leave teh core the same.

Avatar image for Alex071093

foodclubdrinks : Good point man. If people want realism then they should go try it and see the tough life of a skater, and if you succeed in skateboarding then you realize it was worth the blood sweat and tears. But if people don't want that, then they should appreciate that at least theres something to play for fun when you don't want to live that life.

Avatar image for foodclubdrinks

idk if people are yet to realize that in almost every skateboarding game that the realistic features are gonna have flaws... what i'm trying to say is that there is and will always be something to do that is unrealistic in video games, even the new EA Skate game... there will be numerous amounts of tricks to do that are ludicrous. so everyone stop worrying about a "perfectly realistic skateboarding game" cause if you really wanted "realism" in a skateboarding game... no one would want to play it cause you would be getting arrested and getting citations constantly, you would also be spending $200 a month(just on skateboards) and that's just 1/10th of the realistic features of "skateboarding" in realistic terms. So just be appreciative that there is something to have to mess around with and have super fun in your own fantasy video game world.

Avatar image for Klown_hitman

Well at least they squeezing every last drop they can out of the "tony hawk" game franchise... cant wait for Skate Tycoon, where you have to make money creating skating games, and alter each one enough to ensure people will buy it, you can earn extra money having product placement...

Avatar image for jakekb

yea tony hawks games have always been unrealistic but thats whats fun about them, whats so great about a game thats just like real life u may as well just watch videos...

Avatar image for EL_Punisher85

i think the game looks great but i think it still needs a lil somethin to make it look realistik i dunno but i still am thinking of buying it though hahaha......

Avatar image for FireBurger

"go out and skate it is way funner. don't stay in doors and play skateboard games and get fatter" Go join the Army and don't play shooters. Games are about having fun and doing something you couldn't or wouldn't usually do, and not having to suffer any consequences.

Avatar image for Alex071093

Looks awesome, but I'm still a bigger fan of Skate, sorry Activision...

Avatar image for 2p4eva

I went off Tony Hawks for a bit, mainly due to the poor underground games. But Proving Ground looks very promising, and with Skate coming, i hope neversoft continue the improvements.

Avatar image for Willy-Wilks_777

I have every Tony Hawks game and now I desperately want this one!!!

Avatar image for ja_rawr_ed

sounds chill

Avatar image for Eviron

@unreal_ll417: It surely is, but not if it's dark or raining. ; ) Games, as realistic as they might be today or will get in the future, will never be an alternative to real sports. They won't get a real skater off the board, but give you the possibility to live out your passion whenever you want to, i think that's great.

Avatar image for unreal_ll417

go out and skate it is way funner. don't stay in doors and play skateboard games and get fatter

Avatar image for BondJames007

oh hell yeah.

Avatar image for michirican123

Tony Hawk was always more arcadey skateboarding game and now for some reason the want to make it realistic. Skate will be realistic skating proving ground will be arcadey. Sure theres competition in it but the fact remains one is going to be a completely different experience than the other so it doesn't need to be one is better than the other.

Avatar image for seangames

I wish I could get this game, but thanks to all of the great PC games coming out this Fall, I've become a PC gamer.

Avatar image for bagelbuster02

about 5 days till the skate demo

Avatar image for xAngelxDustx

this game looks very promising

Avatar image for kai_311

Nice... I'll get this one and SKATE too.

Avatar image for matty_sen

u know if tony didnt add nail the trick last year there wouldint be a skate.

Avatar image for Epitaph_Disease

For those whom actually skate outside of their living room, I think .Skate is gonna be the best skateboarding game to come out this year. However, Proving Grounds looks pretty tight for just having an all out good time. The story paths is a nice little addition.

Avatar image for wheater

I cant belive Tony Hawks is still making games!

Avatar image for masterchief1994

I like the tony hawk series but can't they make a different skateboarder game

Avatar image for macaque12

"There will also be a sim mode that will feature more realistic physics (such as jumps that aren't as high). " Please say it is true, it is so boring when you are full-stat and can't take some points back, and are forced to do those ridiculous airs. I hope they really fixed it!!

Avatar image for d3r7y

No question Tony Hawk is top game with the skateboarding games, but come-on already. We need something different. The nail the tricks arent even all that. I think the last great TH game was THUG.

Avatar image for StarOceaner

The skate lounge seems pretty cool.

Avatar image for connell66

Cool! But the question is: will this be a masterpiece? HAH! If the previous Tony Hawk's are of any indication, then this one will be a derivative, "Been there, done that" game with an expensive, unjustified price tag.

Avatar image for agustbestur

cant wait

Avatar image for TheFallenOneXXX

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Avatar image for Reetesh

I prefer this over Skate. and will surely get this :D

Avatar image for Ironclash

Looks great. Can't wait for skate. though, it looks slighty cooler than this.

Avatar image for potatoesman

if i was a ps3 owner id be well **** off that all the previews of every game nowadays is on 360

Avatar image for Zazalon

No it is'nt ''ryguybond ''.