Review By: Andrew Joy
|# Of Players:||1-2 (8 online)|
|Accessories:||Xbox Live (online play)|
If someone had told me a few years ago that the next generation of consoles from Nintendo and Sony would primarily feature motion controls, I probably would have laughed them back into whatever loony bin (or time machine) they escaped from. The idea, while often mused about (and only occasionally attempted, to somewhat hokey and mixed results), just seemed stranger than fiction and, at the very least, a long ways off. And yet, here we are – we haven’t just knocked on the next generation's door, but we’ve crossed the threshold, taken off our shoes, and are asking for a cup of coffee – and motion sensing controllers are just the path the Wii and PlayStation 3 have taken (albeit in different fashions) with the pointer-like Wii remote and tilt-sensitive SIXAXIS, respectively. While it remains to be seen how well they will fare in the long term, so far, things are looking promising (especially for the Wii), but taking note of that also urges us to look at the Xbox 360. Though the benefits are of arriving on the console market a year before anyone else are clear, one of the pitfalls of it (and with development starting well before that) is that Microsoft could have designed itself right out of the market. Since peripherals do not generally sell nearly as well as the console they are designed for, and with all three "next-gen" systems squaring off against one another on an even playing field, the Xbox 360 must find new ways to compete using what it's got. And, though I never thought these words would pass from my lips, Tony Hawk’s Project 8 is the perfect example of such innovation.
Over the years, innovation hasn’t exactly been the calling card of the Tony Hawk series. In fact, if anything, the series has grown so stagnant that each following version has seemed less and less worth purchasing. Activision has started to experiment in recent years, trying to recapture the spirit of the franchise with Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land on the Nintendo DS and going in a completely different direction with Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam on the Wii (which was more of a racing title), but main installments in the series have remained relatively unchanged. Though the series features the Birdman’s name and face, recent versions have seemed more about promoting the fresher faces in the industry, the ones that can bring in the new money. But with this new roster comes a new style, and the games have become more and more convoluted as a result. I won’t say Tony Hawk’s Project 8 completely fixes this problem, and I ran into a few people I didn’t expect, like actor Jason Lee, but for the most part you will meet a lot more truly professional skaters during the course of the game. As it is in every game (hey, some things never change), interaction with these pros is not only key to progressing through the game (as they stand as some of the many challenges you’ll have to complete sooner or later), but also developing your skill. Not unlike a lot of gamers who pick up the game, most of these skaters have found themselves specializing in one skill or another, and for their tests you usually must perform some sort of feat along those lines. While it is possible to progress with a specialty, if you are able to tackle each objective as it becomes available, you’ll likely find it much easier to advance in rank.
The setup of the game is that Tony Hawk has come to town looking for the eight best skaters (hence the name), and in order to join his troupe, you must beat out some 200 other hopefuls. The road to the top can be a long one, though it really all depends on the skill of the player as I’ve mentioned. So, if you’ve been a loyal fan of these games, steadily playing them throughout the years, chances are it won’t take you very long at all to get back into the swing of things...or, if you’re anything like me, you can at least wing it through a good portion. A lot of what you’re tasked to do should also seem familiar, with, in addition to the pros, lots of various townsfolk, photographers, and the like popping up all over the place asking for your help. Some of the tasks are pretty straightforward, like being asked to perform a specific stunt for a photo shoot - with varying degrees of complexity earning you a score of Amateur, Pro, or Sick - while others actually give you a short but welcome story, like having to break into a building undetected, steal some blueprints, disable the alarms, and tamper with the clock tower in order to free all the children from school. Some of those, like that last one, are actually the only way to open new areas on the map. Though I’m not familiar enough with the series to make a direct comparison to other games, Tony Hawk’s Project 8 plunks you down in the middle of a fairly large map. Unfortunately, you don’t have run of the entire thing right from the get-go, and it is broken down into several sections – including Suburbia, the Skate Park, the Capitol, the School, the Slums, the Factory and the Fun Park – which you unlock over the course of the game, much like a Grand Theft Auto game.
Posted: 2007-03-03 11:55:25 PST