Tony Hawk's Proving Ground Preview
It's one of the most beloved and easily recognizable franchises in video game history, and it's no coincidence that the skateboarding phenomenon grew right along with the game industry during the mid-‘90s. Most fans would consider Tony Hawk the "grandfather" of the sport - despite not being very old at all - and of course, his name has graced many a video game cover. However, despite the high reputation of the series, critics would say the finest installments are in the past, which is a viewpoint Activision is hoping to change with Tony Hawk's Proving Ground. The latest entry will arrive later on this fall, but this one is heading back to basics; they're not attempting to implement a storyline or some other secondary addition that can take away from the gameplay. It's all about boardin', from top to bottom, and that's good news for fans.
It's right there in the title- you're out to prove your skills, which means you simply must create, hone, and execute the most difficult tricks in the world in order to emerge victorious. The end goal is to establish a championship skating brand or team, but you won't be encumbered by any bizarre mini-games or plot-based objectives. In the skateboarding universe, there is a seemingly endless array of high-flying and death-defying tricks, so don't think you're a master just because you landed a kick-flip. Chances are, due to this refocusing on the core gameplay, there will be more tricks in the game's arsenal than ever before. Even so, the developers are going a bit beyond the skating itself, as there is one significant feature in Proving Ground that fits in very well with the next-generation style- the Skate Lounge. If you're into freedom and customization - and we know you are - than you can't miss these details.
The Lounge isn't just about creating your own park, it's also about personalizing your area with everything from newly unlocked props to leisure items like big-screen TVs. You will start with a completely blank area, and as you play, you will unlock a variety of items to utilize in your skateboarding "My Space" of sorts. This "space" is viewable by your friends as well, and they can check out your progress during multiplayer challenges...which occur directly in your own Lounge! Best of all, unlike previous "create-a-park" mechanics, you're not limited at all in how you select and place your freshly acquired prizes. Wanna put that ramp at a ridiculous angle over the window? Sure, go for it. That TV? Why not throw up a recorded video of your sickest tricks, and have it playing when your buddies show up to have some fun? It's all about making this interactive Lounge your very own, and the better you do, the more you'll have to distribute throughout your "space."
You'll notice we mentioned recorded video clips...that's right, for the first time in the franchise's history, Activision is letting players record themselves while they play, and then save it for later viewing. But this isn't your standard, barebones, stripped-down Video Editor; oh no, this is a fully realized, very flexible Editor that lets you take full control of your recordings. After skating around for a minute with the Video Editor running, you can do some good old-fashioned cutting and splicing by selecting your favorite accomplishments and creating what amounts to a Greatest Hits reel. You can even do this with multiple video recordings; removing and replacing certain clips here and there to design the perfect highlight film. Heck, you can even alter the camera angles in a variety of ways, letting you see the same trick from several different perspectives! You can fast-forward, take advantage of the slow-motion option, and even change the lens types (fish-eye, for example), so obviously, this is a huge addition to Tony Hawk.
Given all this, we have to wonder just how much of it will translate to online play. We haven't heard much about the multiplayer Internet options for this game yet, but the Lounge and Video Editor features alone would make for stellar and engrossing online entertainment. Take a gander at PlayStation Home, for instance: you create your own virtual self, your own virtual living space; you can locate friends, launch games from within Home, and use countless customizing options that will become even more robust with extra downloadable content. Now, doesn't it seem like a miniature version of Home within Proving Ground? It may not have all the bells and whistles of Home, but the premise and concept remains the same, which should provide some excellent opportunities for all you skateboarding fans. After all, these games have a distinctly social element to them, and it's obvious that features like the Lounge and Video Editor are meant to be shared with others. But will Activision let this happen, or will we be limited to standard multiplayer Lounge interaction without online?
Tony Hawk's Proving Ground is scheduled to arrive on October 9, which means it comes after EA's SKATE, which is due out September 24. Therefore, in order to maintain its dominance of the sport in the video game realm, they had best deliver a top-notch experience that fans have come to expect. It seems they're taking the correct approach in kinda trimming the extra fat by not instituting secondary or cosmetic options that don't really impact the gameplay. This one revolves entirely around your own skills and your own ability, which means only one thing- it's all about the skating. Now how can that possibly be a bad thing?
8/13/2007 Ben Dutka
|10/10/07||Tony Hawk's Proving Ground||Arnold Katayev|