Proving Ground is the deepest “X-sport” video game ever developed, and that means something considering the Tony Hawk franchise singularly created the alternative sport video game genre.
That said, Neversoft should have done a hell of a lot more testing.
Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground brings new features like “nail the grab” and the speedy aggro kick to the table, but two main negatives prevent the game from being truly great.
First of all, there are several graphical glitches like getting stuck behind objects that slow things down. This leads to the second problem — not made any better by the graphical glitches. The goals are often ridiculously hard to get passed on the lowest, “amateur” mode. The other two levels of difficulty are “pro” and “sick.” Indeed it would be absolutely sick to accomplish some of the goals on “sick” mode.
Proving Ground breaks the game up into three distinct player paths, which involve career aspirations, rigging and tough street skating. You’ll find yourself going after all three to keep things interesting and to learn new skills.
The “separate but equal” game mode model is a sidestep from previous Hawk games that usually bind random skate life aspects into a linear game. Now you have the freedom to focus on what interests you. I liked going after the career mode, making videos and competing against other skaters, and then I would fall back on my “roots” and do some street goals like taking back the local skate park from hoodlums and skate checking people across the road.
The story is fun, and like I said it’s really deep involving a ton of professional skaters like Jeff King, Mike Vallely and Dustin Dollin. The game just doesn’t go far enough. You’ll spend several hours battling a whiny little runt with a tricked out car who’s supposed to be a great skater. You complete against him in two big competitions, but the game doesn’t cut away — you never see him compete or land and big tricks. It’s just assumed. The game has a million videos showcasing every goal and pro you’ll encounter, but the videos are just highlights that don’t have any bearing on the game. There aren’t any real epic story cutaways.
The competitions are a joke. They’re like every other goal — you get timed and have to rack up points, or you fail. I wanted to see some X-Games, live on ESPN style scenes. Tons of pros lend their voices, so have some of them do commentary … just make the scenes more interesting.
Still, rigging is the weakest point and makes everything else look gold. The editing mode is really buggy, and the things you build never work quite as intended. This made the “Jeff’s Demo” goal really hard to get past.
Throughout the game, you’ll find yourself trying to time tricks just right for magazine photo shoots and videos. This is a fun element that adds a lot to the standard gameplay. The standard gameplay is fun in and of itself. Proving Ground recreates an interesting map of Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C. As expected, every jersey barrier, curb, fountain, electrical wire, train track and federal government monument is usable for air, grinding and all kinds of tricks.
Once I created my character and put him in Globe gear, I had plenty of fun trying to master a backside indy 720, but in the end, this became a game that I picked up to let of 10 minutes of steam, get really frustrated, throw the Sixaxis and try again and again until I barely scrape by the slash grinding the pool or rigging some god-awful contraption.
Proving Ground is fun, and most of the graphics look beautiful. But you’re gonna throw the Sixaxis. Poor bastard of a controller never gets a break.
Developer: Neversoft Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii, Playstation 2, Nintendo DS,
Players: 1-2 (Online 2-8)
Launch Date: September 12, 2007
Learning Curve: [rating:2/5]