From the humble beginnings of a single level, 2 minute-timed PlayStation demo to a massive annual franchise, Neversoft’s Tony Hawk Pro Skater series has developed constantly, expanding it’s trick range and level scope each year and after a few false starts with the two Undergound games, finally embracing next generation animation and streaming last year with Project 8. This year is the first time the Birdman has had any serious competition, and EA’s Skate, with it’s back-to-basics gameplay, online meetups and comprehensive video editing presents quite the threat for skaters’ hard earned cash.
Thankfully, the guys at Neversoft haven’t sat around this year just adding a few new moves to the Project 8 engine: the latest in the series, Proving Grounds, looks set to revolutionise the brand and the genre and pull the punters before Skate even gets a look-in. Sure, there’s new moves, such as Nail-The-Grab and Nail-The-Manual, but we expected those (and more on them later), but it’s in the new class system that the game moves beyond what we’ve ever had before. Essentially splitting gamers up into one of three categories, at the start of the game you must decide between a Career skater, a Hardcore skater or a Rigger, and each has three special ‘moves’ or abilities that can be upgraded during the game that your chosen class will be able to perform better than the others can. In the first of two previews, we’ll investigate the game modes and these new character classes.
Career skaters are in it for the sponsors, money and events. Thus, you get the aforementioned new Nail-The-Grab and Nail-The-Manual moves to show off your skills. Both are started the same way as the Nail-The-Trick move from Project 8 (click in both analog sticks) but Grabs are initiated with the right trigger (so the sticks control your body rather than your feet) and Manuals with the left trigger (with one stick for the foot, the other to balance). This being a Hawk game you can, of course, chain and combine these new tricks together for extra points.
Hardcore skaters get the Aggro Kick which gives you a short speed boost should you time it right, enabling big air from ramps without having to build up speed on quarter pipes first, and Skate Checking which does exactly what it sounds like it should – useful for attacking other skaters in your way, or knocking down any chasing security guards. Best here, though, are the new Bowl Skating moves, a set specifically made for recreating your favourite Dogtown moments, although these were seen in previous Hawk games.
Interestingly, the most innovative moves are reserved for Riggers, although we have seen them before. Should you choose the path of the creators, you can make use of the Modtool (small tweaks to the environment) and the Rigger Menu (similar to the ability to move pieces around in Project 8) which together will allow the player to change the level enough to make massive lines and combos even easier. Riggers can also climb, something that the other two classes won’t be able to do as well as the Rigger, which is how these classes will work.
Whilst the PS3 version of Project 8 had no online functionality at all, this is all set to change this year, with Proving Grounds having a comprehensive video editing mode which will allow you to create any skate movie you wish from 2 minutes of replay footage, and fully integrated multiplayer options which no longer require you to leave the single player career mode to enjoy: simply roll up to a designated area and you can choose to start, join or even watch a multiplayer game in progress. Further to this is the Skate Lounge, which will function as a huge Home-style environment in which you have your own space (a large warehouse) and plenty of create-a-park pieces so you can not only build your own ideal skate park, but also populate it with rare pieces and general furniture, and then invite your mates over to freeskate, watch your created movies on an in-game TV, or any mode you can possibly think of.
We’ll have more on Proving Grounds, including the world itself, in our second preview.