The Tony Hawk series is one that has certainly had its ups and downs. Sadly this year’s iteration is one of those downs. Developer Shaba seems to have done everything in its power to make this game as boring and simply un-fun as possible. With stiff game play that makes every trick feel like it’s being performed while rolling through a puddle of molasses you’d be shocked to hear that the next generation versions of this game play like the brilliance that was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. Everything about this game is a port down from those next generation versions, and it hurts this game in every way imaginable, especially when the developer cannot get the fluidity of skateboarding down. This game feels as clunky and flawed as the late nineties disaster, Thrasher Skate & Destroy. Yeah it’s pretty bad when I’m able to compare this to a PS1 title that came in the midst of the system’s life cycle. Shaba has had a nasty habit of ruining ports of titles when they are also making their way to a next generation console. Case in point being Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 back on the PS1; it’s almost like the same scenario all over again.
From the outset of Project 8 you’ll feel like you’re getting burned when you see that the “Cut-scenes” are simple video files of the in-game footage from the next generation Tony Hawk Project 8 and they look like they’ve been run through a bad codec. The presentation for this game just feels incredibly weak and the little things like this really hurt. When you enter the game for the first time you’re presented with a really limited amount of options when it comes to making your skater. At this point in time I wish they would have just stuck with playing as the pros, because you’re not going to be able to make yourself. From there it is off to the first stage, or the training stage, your choice. Once you get in to the game you’ll quickly notice that there is no tunnel to another zone or some interesting little segue to another area. That neat little trick they pulled off in American Wasteland won’t be seen here. Each level is an individual entity, so if you want to go to another area, you’ve got to unlock it, and then navigate to it through a menu. This breaks up a lot of the flow that the previous version held and further hurts what Shaba is trying to accomplish.
The graphics of the game aren’t too shabby, they have a bad grain filter over them but the texturing is good and the character animations are solid. I wouldn’t want to suffer some of the bumps and bruises these guys captured because some of them look sick. The character models you are given though are severely limited and don’t give you much personality to the game, for the pros however they have spared no expense. Though it is kind of insulting to see Xbox 360 in-game footage of them in a cutscene and then see it transition to the PS2 equivalent, boo-urns I say to that kind of tease. The level designs are kind of hit or miss in how they look and feel where as earlier stages feel barren and empty but when you get close to the end of the game you’ll actually feel like they pushed the PS2 to its limits. That is without turning on anti-aliasing. Agh, the jaggies they cut in to my eyes and they hurt! The audio is pretty good, though the decision to link the music you hear to the character type is a little bit of a pain to undo. The voice acting comes off like second nature to all the pros, as it should; they’ve been doing this for years.
Man they pulled off a sick “port shove-it!”
Level design is paramount in a game like this and sadly, this is one of the most boring Tony Hawk titles I’ve played in a long time. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that you cannot transition from level to level while still in combo. Sometimes it wasn’t about the object placement but just knowing I could take a trick from one side of the world to the other. That feeling is absent here and so you find yourself just doing laps around a particular level until you unlock the next stage. And then it’s simple rinse and repeat from there. The school stage is a painful example of this, as it is relatively small and is composed of a lot of enclosed areas. I liked the factory stage however just because of the crazy lines it had inside. But in the end it is all very boring, it feels like the game play is stuck back in the older titles of the series, and we’ve seen and done it all before.
To unlock new levels you have to complete a specific event that opens up once a few of the other challenges have been completed. Those who remember the old school Tony Hawk titles will be happy to know that the “Classic” challenges are back and are for the most part a good dose of fun. For the uninformed, the Classic mode takes you back to when you had two minutes flat to accomplish a myriad of goals. These ranged from things like collecting the letters to spell skate, or to kick-flip over a massive gap, or find the hidden tape. Good times here and I’m really glad that they included it because aside from those things, the only real fun is doing the pro challenges. There is a new addition as well called a Spot Challenge where you attempt to get from point A to point B via manual or grind or something else, and these would be great, if they could happen more spontaneously. On the 360 version you can see them out in the open and you can do them. On the PS2 you’ve got to find a guy that tells you what the challenge is. This one little thing really takes a lot of life out of the stages and makes me sad that it were not more streamlined in to the game.
The other big addition this year is Nail the Trick mode. Those of you who weren’t sick of the focus mode will be overjoyed to know that now you can control the board, using the analog sticks as extensions of your feet. This would be great if it could be used in point challenges, but it’s something you’re only going to experience during the missions that are dedicated to it, or when you’re out free-skating. A design like that is like hitting the back of your Achilles with your board. It freaking hurts. It’s also very clunky and does not feel well implemented at all. It’s slow and unresponsive to your commands. It’s a very good thing that Shaba was wise enough to highlight the board when it can be used during Nail the Trick, otherwise I would not have used the feature at all. For such a feature to enter the game in such a damaged state, it’s almost as if they shouldn’t have bothered.
Tony Hawk’s Project 8 was meant to be a revival for the series, but to me, this is like a burial, and they aren’t even bothering to sing Ave Maria. It’s still Tony Hawk and it still has a few moments of fun but if you’ve grown up playing Tony Hawk as I have, then this title feels like it’s a bail-out on a dying system, and that’s too bad because I’ve been playing just the demo of this game on X-Box 360, and I feel like my money would be better spent there. Tony Hawk’s Project 8 on the PS2 is a boring title, period. If you must try this game, then give it a rental, and then find a friend with a next generation system and then look at it there. I guess an upside to all of this is that we won’t have to suffer a mess like this next year.
Tony Hawk’s Project 8 was meant to be a revival for the series, but to me, this is like a burial, and they aren’t even bothering to sing Ave Maria. It’s still Tony Hawk and it still has a few moments of fun but if you’ve grown up playing Tony Hawk as I have, then this title feels like it’s a bail-out on a dying system, and that’s too bad because I’ve been playing just the demo of this game on X-Box 360, and I feel like my money would be better spent there.