Gameplay takes a light RPG approach by splitting different challenges into three "lifestyles": Hardcore, Career and Rigger. Depending on which skaters you accept challenges from, you'll have to do everything from causing problems with Mike Vallely in each of the game's three locales to filming skate videos with Arto Saari. Challenges follow the same pattern as previous games and require that you complete certain moves or reach certain point totals. As you complete challenges, your skater's style will alter to meet the skills emphasized with each style. Skills also increase by meeting in-game goals such as grinding, wallriding and making specific jumps.
Each of the two skate styles is well-balanced, so one isn't better than another. The intent is to give you more choices based on what type of game you a looking for. The Hardcore path is a little more in-line with later games in the series where you skate around and generally cause chaos around the city. Career, on the other hand, is a little more like previous games and is more about you sticking certain moves.
Of the available styles, the oddball of the group is Rigger, which plays more like a puzzle game than a skating game. Most of the gameplay here involves the Create-a-Park elements to modify levels in order to create new areas to trick from. By description the mode sounds great; it is also the game's weakest link. Even if you enjoy making skate parks, the mode is poorly implemented and not much fun.
Outside of the lifestyle tracks, Proving Ground is also broken up into skater-specific goals. Each skater's goals fit their styles and, in a roundabout way also work as something of a tutorial which will help you complete other goals in the game. Each has a specific focus; Lance Mountain's section focuses on learning new moves while Bob Burnquist's is focused on competition skating. All of the goals play into a career meter that, each time it fills, will push you to another level in your career. You'll begin by making a name for yourself and eventually earn sponsors and create your own skate team.
When taking the game online, up to eight players can compete in modes that should now be familiar to series vets. You can compete in trick and combo challenge session or one really cool mode which is essentially a skateboard version of Tron's light cycles. If you want, you can even make bets with other players using in-game currency.