STAFF REVIEW of Tony Hawk's Project 8 (Xbox 360)

Friday, November 24, 2006.
by Adam Rivard

Tony Hawk's Project 8 Box art Project 8, the newest and the first true next-gen Tony Hawk title. This time around instead of simply upgrading a couple modes, developer Neversoft has literally stripped the game down and rebuilt it from scratch with hope to push their product past anything players have ever seen before in terms of graphics and gameplay that will challenge even the most hard core Tony Hawk fans. I have played threw all the games in this series and I also skateboard myself and this is by far the most addicting and realistic Tony Hawk game to date.

Tony?s back in town and he has a new skateboarding team and you will have to show what you?ve got if you want to make the cut, no cheesy story line this time around. Instead of a storyline format like THUG and THUG 2 presented, Project 8 will simply present fans with one large city to grind up. Most of the places you will be hitting up you would find in your average suburban neighborhood.

With all this open space and no storyline to follow, players may wonder what to do when they first start playing. Immediately after you create your character and start your career you can immediately put your skill to the test with some daring challenges; right off the bat baby! Some challenges, not all of them, such as a grind challenge, are initiated by talking to a person and getting instructions. Others must be discovered by the player as they play and explore the city.

Challenges are structured in the familiar labels of ?am?-?pro?-?sick.? Players can choose to simply settle for ?am,? if they want to move on, but if your like me and have played threw all the other games in the series you will strive to earn as many ?sicks? as possible by attempting the challenge over and over again. For example you take up the challenge of ?Nail the Trick?, where players have to try and earn points for multiple tricks done on a single jump. ?Am? might be, say, 3,500 points earned, whereas ?pro? may be 8,000 and ?sick? may be 15,000. Some challenges also require a secondary feat of some sort on top of points to secure a ?sick? rating.

Same great controls, but the new Control Sticks adds a brand new feel to the game. Sort of like the control stick format Fight Night 3 and NHL 07 used. In Project 8 you simply click down on both thumb sticks in mid air, to bring you in a bullet time mode where everything is slow motion. Once in slow motion you move the thumb sticks in any direction to do a move, or moves just make sure to land on the board when you are done your trick/tricks. When you land you can also keep the combo going by doing a manual or a grind then if you can catch enough air to do another sweet combo in bullet time then you are starting to master Project 8. This feature adds a whole new layer of skills to master if you want to be number 1. What do skaters do in real life... practice, practice, practice that is going to be like your experience with Project 8. Also the more you grind, manual, wallride, spin, etc... the more your stats go up. So all the hours you spend playing/practicing continually improve your stats.

Skating throughout the city is a very open, non linear experience within the areas that you have unlocked. You can attempt any challenge that you can reach at any time. There are grind challenges, trick challenges, and even ?force bail? challenges, where you try to break as many bones on your rider as possible by bailing out during a jump (my personal favorite haha). In addition, you can also accept challenges from any of the pro skaters found throughout the game. There are plenty of challenges, most with three different levels to achieve (Am-Pro-Sick). You are going to be in for a solid 20 hours of gameplay to accomplish ?Sick? on all of the games challenges, so players have plenty to look forward to when they drop into the game for the first time.

Let?s talk a little bit about the Xbox Live experience. Project 8 takes gamers to another level with highly integrated leader board systems for every individual challenge in the game. Say, for instance, you can score a Sick on any particular challenge. Your score will go against scores across the world in that specific objective. Players no longer have to settle for challenging themselves to improve. Instead, they can look to their fellow addicts for gaming inspiration, leading to a much more engrossing and addictive gameplay experience. Neversoft didn?t stop there, one new gameplay mode named ?Walls? puts up to eight players in an area with little Snake-like trails behind them to trap opponents and eliminate them. Your tail grows longer as you perform tricks, so pulling off awesome moves while watching out for others, it?s a new and exciting experience that keep the game fresh for many hours. Other classic online modes are available to beat your friends in also.

The graphics are definitely next gen. Thank god Neversoft decided to strip the game and start from scratch, it really gives the game a fresh new look and feel. The game also has improved physics to make your gaming experience that much more realistic. Every trick, especially while using the Control Sticks, look extremely real with the toe flicks and heel spins. The city feels alive and is very well structured for skateboarders, if cities in real life where this accessible to skate then I don?t think I would be playing this game I would be ripping it up myself. Also all the character models of the pros skaters are very realistic, but hey that?s what we expect from a next gen title.

The sound is exceptionally real. Every different type of ground that you skate on has it?s own distinctive sound. You can actually hear every crack your wheels make contact with. Even if you had your eyes closed, you could picture the kind of ground you are skating on. While using the Control Sticks and you are in slow motion in midair, you hear your feet flick your board and catch it. The soundtrack is one of the best on any game, plenty of tunes to listen to while you are pulling mad combos. The voice acting is also spot on. The sound department has never been this series week point. Just remember to crank up the volume.

As the winter shopping season approaches and the console war is upon us, Tony Hawk is in top form in Project 8. The return of old-school goals instead of playing through a cheesy storyline was a very good decision. By far the best Tony Hawk title to date. Just keep thinking of innovative new features and concentrating on bringing the games to life.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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