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 darkgamex2k

Looks great. Activision need to do a better TH game than previous versions so EA would not own the skateboarding supremacy cause Skate looks really competitive for TH.

Avatar image for MichaeltheCM

i agree with eviron. although it looks great (graphics) it doesnt seem all that new. Skate seems more appealing to me

Avatar image for mephistoruins4

look really good, but when all is said and done, its just another thps remake. a bunch of goals and secret tapes or something, and there will always be that one secret tape or whatever it is on this one that no matter how hard you try you will never be able to get. lol. save ur money

Avatar image for Eviron

The areas seem pretty uninspired to me, like as I have seen them all before already... EA has created much more creative places. And while the city in skate. looks real with all the cars driving around and people walking along, this just looks dead somehow. Maybe I'll buy this, cause TH was always fun, but I'll not pay the full price for just an update. skate. offers so much new, so far, it's my favourite of these two skating games.

Avatar image for raginasian85

hahahahahahaah...that trailer is hilarious. they are so scared of skate! look how they were playing it "realistically". everyone knows that you probably won't even beat the first goal playin like that. freedom to choose...only out of these 3 choices though hahahahahahhahaa

Avatar image for ryguybond

isn't it time to shut this series down?

Avatar image for Np_Pro

I'm so getting this and I'm going hardcore. But after that I'll play through all 3 storylines.

Avatar image for amareen18

looks great but i don't think i'll buy it

Avatar image for Super_Kid_999

Its a definite buy for me. I have been a big fan of TH since the first game.I would pick Career, i never get tired ofseeing my skaters name of a magazine cover, or seeing my name next t th Stereo, or DC logo. I was so excited when i head of Amrican wasteland, and eve more with P8.

Avatar image for recloose


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Avatar image for AzureWind213

after thug 2 with all the running and the easy lines for tricks... I just lost interest. I was totally STOKED about tony hawk 3 and 4 and all but it just got old... you know? I was pretty damn good, too. But it's just got to unreal and complicated for me to apreciate playing it. They practically FEED you lines now. Well, it was fun while it lasted. The sim mode does sound pretty cool though...

Avatar image for Prtofdacrowd

Looks amazing! Can't wait, Death to SKATE (game) and Hutapamo talk english you plank!

Avatar image for hutapamo

da hawks serie is awesome, lookin forward to diz one

Avatar image for curua02

The Hawk series hasn't let me down yet (never completely, anyways), so this is definitely worth demoing in my view.

Avatar image for BruceLee16

Ebay a playstation and Thrasher Skate and Destroy.

Avatar image for SirMonotone

I'l give both THPG and Skate a try when the demos come out as i'm interested in both. But i know i'm gonna like THPG more as i alwasy have been and always will be a fan of the series. People, stop saying Skate will beat THPG when neither game is out yet! You have no idea how it's going to turn out! All these fanboys who couldn't accept that THP8 was the best Tony Hawk game are doing my head in!

Avatar image for _AbBaNdOn

WHAT THE ____ ABOUT CREATE-A-PARK!!!!!??? Is it tied to online mode only or is it available offline!!! Will it have create-a-goal??? Did they remove the ignorant manual button??? I dont give a crap about the "Nail-a-whatever" feature!!! if you have crusty crappy controllers with analog sticks that dont work that feature is gonna suck.

Avatar image for gmreedy

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

Avatar image for gmreedy

i agree with xGETxWRECKED. all u guys that are putting down the Tony Hawk series dont realize that it is THE BEST SKATEBOARDING GENRE of all videogame consoles. no game has ever outsold or beaten the quality of gaming that the TH series has provided for 9 years. SKATE, as far as im concerned, doesnt look nearly as good as Proving Ground, and doesnt have nearly as many features as Proving Ground does. Proving Ground will outsell SKATE by over 5 million on release. another thing, this game has some new, awesome features to it. The new video recording feature is gonna be awesome. Why? Cuz actual skateboarders that arent exactly professional but still want a realistic taste of what its like to be a pro, this is the game. andrew62 - u can still be a nobody and do awesome tricks. being a nobody dont mean nothin. there is a kid that lives in the court next to mine that can do an inverted mctwist on the halfpipe at our local skatepark. is he famous, no. but he is good at what he does. dont judge a game like that, it gets really annoying when u put down a game for no reason. so, everyone who is posting bad things please stop it on this section, create your own topic on the forums to do so, and lets see the kids who like the game post good comments here.

Avatar image for maxmax1234

tony hawk always gets boring after a while.

Avatar image for andrew62

yeah, more crap from the "master" of skating tony hawk.. also, i dont understand, you can do all these immense tricks.. yet your a nobody? makes perrrrrrrrrrrrrfect sence.

Avatar image for floodiastus

Whats up with video editing stuff in all skate games now, that gotta be the most boring concept of all. Why dont they invest some time getting some other featues in there. Bah!

Avatar image for xGETxWRECKED

y is everybody dissing the tony hawk games i cant wait for this game i plan on buying watever console is needed to play it oh and i think skate is gunna suck just think about all the past skateboarding games that have tried to oversell the thps series how many succeded exactly 0 so wat is going to make skate so different the ability to ollie only as high as u can in real life how would that be fun in a video game idk i just think that you should give credit where credit is due and thps series deffinatly deserves some sure project 8 wasnt the best one ever made but then again u have to think they used new technology to make the game look and feel like real skateboarding which definatly was succeded and yet it got little credit well yall can say wat you want but im sticking with the thps series

Avatar image for 705H1R0

skate skate skate. I don't think I'll be playing the TH series much after being so disappointed with Project 8.

Avatar image for ps3ruler

No PSN demo? neversoft you ********

Avatar image for PhaedrusTheWolf

Yeah, no contest - SKATE is going to win this round, hands down. It's going to be interesting to see how the TH franchise reacts to this obviously superior competition...

Avatar image for DaWhatWhat

Skate is going to be the best skating game since tony hawk 2.

Avatar image for pouch-taits

OMgg u start as a no-body and work ur way up to a skating superstar!!!1!!!!!!!!!! doesent it seem the last 4 or so have had that same recycled plot, jeesus its called SKATE and its gonna make people forget about this out dated series

Avatar image for ross_wrx

This will be like all other TH games.............. Poo!

Avatar image for gotrice415510

this new video's animations were terrible. Some of the guys just did a pop intothe air instead of doing a full motioned ollie

Avatar image for zath5

@singingfishy: no its not exactly like that. i have a skateboard but i completely suck. i dont wanna go out and pick up my skateboard and suck all over my neighborhood and i dont wanna buy THPG so i can literally be the skateboarding god (grind, manual, vert trick, manual, grind, manual for 250,000pts). i just wanna chill in the huge city with lots of skating variety. thank you

Avatar image for revolutionary0

i Own every single tony Hawk game ever created not because i like tonk hawk cuz i think hes a complete sellout but hey who doesn't want the moolah any way the way the thing i found was the franchise reached its peak at THUG or evenn THPS 3 and the much like the project 8 this doesnt seem to be using full mo cap either and hopefully isnt using the atrocious ragdoll fizzicks they thought was cool cuz it was lame and stupid maybe if they do things right with this game ill buy it at launch but the thing about competition is that it makes things better for example skate which will make the Tony hawk formula look like childs play compared to the sticks action you use which is looking more fun and challenging all the time so this holiday i will choose which has better mo cap, style and skaters cuz i skate and i know the community and im pretty sycked to know that Jerry Hsu and Chris cole are int he same game and they better pay tribute to Shane Cross cuz if they dont shame on youu all!!!

Avatar image for deactivated-5ce72effd6960

I'd rather give both games (TH and Skate) a try... This looks cool...I love the idea of video editing!

Avatar image for 217958385202338532302435240796

This Tony Hawk game looks cool, though with all these comments talking about Skate, I gotta check that out too.

Avatar image for diddyj

well, the tony hawk franchise has been very successful...and skate looks amazing lets give them both a chance.....

Avatar image for jdr589

SKATE looks better this yr then Tony Hawk! Jake Brown shuld get a video game, called Escape Death

Avatar image for ToxicMold

I'm done with Tony Hawk and giving Skate a try it looks badass.

Avatar image for singingfishy

rooster is retarded, anyone who can walk can do that. I saw the pick of destiny and picked up a guitar and started playing. I can play most songs in guitar hero now and its only been a year and a half. so no if you want realism you can do it, its just a hell of a lot harder. But not impossible. I always say guitar hero is the lazy mans way out, but i play it too so???!

Avatar image for RgvXavi

i liked the nail the trick feature and glad to see them expanding on the concept. also, i think its great how dev's and publishers give you tools to edit footage of gameplay. i think Forza 2 for the Xbox 360 really upped the ante as far as creativity is concerned. has anyone seen the crazy car artwork being created within Forza 2? really good stuff. i find myself designing cars(as you can see in my albums) more than playing the game. i think having this type of creative activity makes a game much more than a game but also a medium of expression.

Avatar image for nichjehl

rooster2991: totaly agree.....

Avatar image for faidon5987

Hahahahahhahhahhahhahhaaha... But seriously, I think it's pretty funny how this trailer shows all of these "realistic" skateboarding scenarios. Now 25X combos... they seem to be biting a bit from what is attracting so many people to Skate. Tony Hawk is growing old, and is still almost identical to the first as far as the gameplay. The SKATE demo comes out on the 15th, and will show us who will come out on top. -sig

Avatar image for matty_sen

man, tonys big things this year are *video editor *three big sk8tboarding citys *nail the trick(S) *sk8ter lounge(will be pritty cool online) *create your own story and the big thing in skate. are *flickit(the dual analog thing that will be extreamly realistic to skateboarders movement) a huge hit or miss * a relistic city of San Vanelona bulit for skaters *create your own story i really dont know but ether way i am still getin both!!!!!

Avatar image for duke-nukem11

and on the subject of skate. we shall see if it can make the cut. coz the fing they do lack is well known pro's jason {im jack osbournes mate} dill and donny {ive been on viva la bam} barley dosent sound much of a pull factor to me. dont get me wrong im gonna buy it cos it looks great but it needs some more famous faces! the dirty sanchez boyos whould be great lol or bam margera {sorry}

Avatar image for jeremy_sends

Give up activision! EA's got u beat!

Avatar image for duke-nukem11

i lost my faith in tony hawk games after thug 2. its gone stale, year after year its the same game with a few tweaks. what neversoft need to do is stop making yearly games and start anew. take say 2 years to build a new tony hawk game from scratch for the next gen consoles. make it more realistic! i cant be assed to do anymore 'classic' goals!

Avatar image for Gta4lif3

yeah SKATE is better!!!go SKATE

Avatar image for alwayzplayin

dude ajh127, you are so wrong. i too have had 7 of 8 (1st to thaw) and i even thought they were running into the ground. but i played project 8 and it revived that playing spirit. one of the huge reasons im getting a 360...along with resident evil 5. skate has nothing on a series that has developed such a large fan base. skate is too new to just come in and be able to knock off such a huge franchise.

Avatar image for carddude

One thing that Tony Hawk games do well is not making the game seem life like. Thats why Skate earns my kudos and money.

Avatar image for ajh127

I've had 7 out of the previous 8 Tony Hawk games and I can honestly say that the Hawk series has had it's run espicially with Skate comming out nex month. It's not much more you can do unless you bite off of the gameplay/controls of Skate. I still love the Hawk but R.I.P. to the video game series