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Tony Hawk's Project 8
Score: 96%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft Entertainment
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Sports (Extreme)

Graphics & Sound:
The graphics in Tony Hawk's Project 8 are excellent. The Pro skater models look just like the real people. Well, actually they look more like Muppet versions of the people. The motion capture is well done, but sometimes the lip synching seems to be showing a little less movement than the people would actually be doing. This is just a note, however. There's an almost cartoon like treatment that is used in the FMVs, with Graffiti and skating video in the background, evidently designed to appeal to the skating scene.

Tony Hawk's Project 8 also puts the PS3's video and storage capabilities to good use, with a slew of video content, from Pro Skater video to Sponsor Videos... there's some cool skating action to be seen here... a lot of it is available right out of the box, with a lot more unlockable as you progress.

Additionally, there is a feature to Tony Hawk's Project 8 which allows you to view Motion Captured moves made by the Pro Skaters in the game. The coolest part of this is that you can control the camera, slow down, speed up, rewind and stop the action. If you wanted to try to learn to actually perform one of these Motion Captured tricks, this feature gives you the opportunity to examine them in great detail. I am not suggesting you try these tricks, but if you're going to, it's good that this lets you see exactly what's going on.

Tony Hawk's Project 8 has a lot of skater music, seeming to center around punk, rock and hip-hop. You can choose which songs you want to hear and which ones you don't, though, so if that's not you're cup of tea, you can take any songs that you simply can't stand out of rotation.

Purely and simply, Tony Hawk's Project 8 is fun. There are a wide assortment of "missions" or challenges to attempt, with varying rewards based on how well you perform. Actually, there are three different award levels that you can earn on a challenge: AM(ateur), PRO(fessional) and SICK(sational). Typically, I find that AM is not too overly difficult to obtain, while PRO takes a good bit of effort and SICK seems like it should be impossible! (It's not, I assure you, but you'll have to really practice and concentrate to get a SICK rating.)

The plot of the game has you starring as an up and coming skater in a town that's all about skating and, as it just so happens, is the very same town that Tony Hawk is searching for a new skating team in. He's looking for the top eight ranked skaters to make a new skate team called "Project 8". You'll start out ranked around 200, so you'll have your work cut out for you. However, as you practice pulling off different types of tricks, you'll increase your "stats" in different tricks and will also up your rating. You'll also need to win the challenges, taking the highest ranking you can. SICK might be out of reach on some of the challenges, but you should at least try to pull out at least a PRO. As you progress, you'll interact with digital versions of the featured Pro Skaters and have to prove your mettle to them to rise to the top.

Playing Tony Hawk's Project 8 is not easy. It's actually not all that difficult to play, but it's hard to get PRO ratings and nearly impossible to get a SICK rating. One thing that will really come into play is the skill to accurately and precisely control the analog stick - specifically, the left stick. During grinds, manuals and hand plants, you'll use the left analog stick along one axis (either up/down or left/right, depending) to maintain your balance. While doing this, you'll also need to press different buttons to switch between tricks. Learning to maintain balance with the analog stick while switching between different tricks will greatly improve your score.

Another part of Tony Hawk's Project 8 where analog stick control skills will play into your favor, is the "Nail the Trick" mode and challenges. This is a mode that allows you to use the analog stick to manually tie different flip tricks together to form your own special trick. You'll be manipulating the skateboard in a sort of "bullet time", with a closeup of your feet and the board, and you'll need to make sure you time it well and return to ride your board before you land. Certain challenges are specifically "Nail the Trick" challenges, but you can enter into "Nail the Trick" mode at any time when in the air by pressing down on both analog sticks (L3 and R3) simultaneously. Mastering this and Manuals and the other analog stick portions will help you score much more highly, increasing your scores and making Tony Hawk's Project 8 a little easier.

Game Mechanics:
Tony Hawk's Project 8 is a skating game. Based on the very nature of trying to pull off skating tricks, I am neither surprised or too worried about the fact that occasionally the camera will go too low and clip through the ground or get too close during a bail and wind up looking out from inside of my pants leg. I would really love to see a skating game that doesn't suffer from this, but it only happens occasionally and in the worst wipe-outs, so this isn't affecting the score in this review.

The part that is a bit weird is the physics. Again, based on the fact that everything about skateboarding is a matter of mastering physics, be it gravity, mass, acceleration, balance, rotational inertia... they don't have to discuss their tricks with these terms, but professional skaters are performing highly intricate choreography and a balancing act all at the same time. This is why it's so surprising to me that in certain parts of the game, the physics are overly exaggerated and seem, quite simply, wrong. This is not an unknown issue, because it is actually used as a feature in certain challenges, such as the bowling (and similar) challenges. These have you bailing, and then controlling your skater's body such that it knocks down over-sized bowling pins or breaks wooden gates or such, allowing you to control the direction and amount that you bounce. This weird and, at times, laughable physics effect is apparently a result of the rag-doll physics used. This is all well and good when it's during one of these comical bowling challenges, but it can be a bit distracting when you try to pull off a low speed trick, bail while standing almost still and then your character goes "falling" halfway across a warehouse. This doesn't happen all that often, but when it does, it can put a sour taste in your mouth.

The one real complaint I would have about Tony Hawk's Project 8 would have to be its load times. I understand that this is a big game, with a lot of data, but this seems like one game that definitely should have been a candidate for a "install data onto your hard drive" feature, which it, sadly, is lacking.

All-in-all, Tony Hawk's Project 8 is a beautiful game that caters to skaters with some great video content and some nice motion captures of some cool moves, along with some genuinely fun gameplay and some tongue-in-cheek comedy. Tony Hawk's Project 8 benefits from everything learned in developing the several Tony Hawk games that came before it, as well as the next generation game hardware and video capabilities of the PS3. I would not hesitate to recommend Tony Hawk's Project 8 to any PS3 owner who has any interest in skating games.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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