But Neversoft seems content with exploring the Nail the Trick style of gameplay. In Proving Ground two more variations are added to this mode, including Nail the Grab and Nail the Manual. Nail the Grab is the easier of the two, you start it like the standard Nail the Trick, but instead of using the analog sticks to control your feet you are holding the left trigger to control your hands. Using the two analog sticks you can grab either the front or back of the board, while also moving it in different directions to increase your combo meter and score more points. And not only that, you will also be able to flip your board around if you can figure out the extremely simple button combination needed to perform that trick. Unfortunately Nail a Combo is not nearly as simple (or enjoyable). At first glance it looks like all of the other variations of this mode, but by holding the right trigger you will be able to move the board up or down until you get the optimum angle for manual. To further complicate things you can also take your finger off of the right trigger to Ollie (jump) and perform some tricks, and then, if you're good, you can hold that right trigger again and go back into a manual.
With some practice all three of the "Nail the" modes will make sense and feel somewhat natural. The problem I have is that the constant slow-motion effect takes away otherwise speedy pacing of the Tony Hawk games. I appreciate that Neversoft is trying hard to do something original with their games, but I'm still not a big fan of how these modes work.
Another big obstacle you will have to deal with while playing through the Career lifestyle is that pesky cameraman. I have nothing against photographers in real life, but the camera mechanic in Tony Hawk's Proving Ground is the very definition of awkward. When you're skating you'll see a large bubble that indicates that there's going to be a picture taken, so it's you job to trick through that bubble to get the maximum points. But that's not all; it's also your job to take the picture. So imagine, if you will, pulling off these complex stunts and then all of a sudden having to take a picture of that (which is done by pushing in the right analog stick). At first this isn't very hard, it's not difficult to grind a rail and push in the right analog stick. But towards the end of the Career lifestyle you'll be asked to Nail the Trick/Grab/Manual while also taking a picture of yourself. When you enter into the picture bubble you cease to see the game from your standard viewpoint, instead looking at yourself through the camera's lens. This means that you're going to have to be pushing the face buttons and moving the analog sticks around while also pushing the button to take the picture. And that's not all; you are still going to have to land the trick after being completely disoriented by the different point of view. There were times when I only have a split second to line up my landing because of the camera, which just added to the frustration of the overall experience.
The biggest issue I have with the camera system is that it could have been done so much better. There's really no excuse for why the camera mechanic has to act this way, most of the confusion would have gone away had Neversoft just taken out the different points of view. While it's a completely different kind of skateboarding game, EA's Skate handled this very thing in a much better way, showing you the several frames the photographer took AFTER the trick (and letting you select which is your favorite). Doing it like that would have improved my overall impressions of the Career lifestyle, the mode I should have enjoyed he most.
When you're not going through the Career lifestyle then you're probably hard at work on the second path, the Hardcore lifestyle. Of the three, Hardcore is probably the most enjoyable path you can take in Tony Hawk's Proving Ground. Early on the game introduces you to one of the best additions to the Tony Hawk gameplay - the aggro kick. Never mind the ridiculous name, the aggro kick (yes, spelled with two G's) always you to earn some extra speed by continuously hitting the right bumper button. This is one of the most useful additions to this year's Tony Hawk title, and one of those gameplay tweaks that I hope is used again in future entries in the franchise. The aggro kick allows you to pick up speed incredibly fast and helps you make those long jumps you normally wouldn't hit. You also can use it to race, which is what you'll end up doing when playing through the Hardcore lifestyle.
But wait, there's more to the Hardcore lifestyle than just jamming the aggro kick over and over, you'll also learn how to skate check and ram people out of your way. The skate checking is perhaps the most curious addition to this year's Tony Hawk game, not because it's so over the top or anything, but rather how normal it feels. To skate check you have to find a large bowl (such as a swimming pool or something) and then push and release the right bumper. You can also skate grind, which looks a lot like a regular grind ... only it lasts a shorter amount of time. The problem with this addition is that you really only skate check over stickers and cans of spray paint, there's really no other use for this move. In fact, that seems to be the problem with all of the new additions in Proving Ground, all of the moves make sense in the context of the various missions, but are not very useful when you're just skating around for fun.
This year's Tony Hawk tries to add a lot to the tried and true skateboarding formula ... maybe even too much. While there's a solid skateboarding game here, you have to trudge through a lot of half-baked ideas that aren't nearly as much fun as they should be.
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!