So we've been spending some time shifting back and forth between Tony Hawk's newest game and EA's SKATE. One continues to be the over-the-top skater it started out as, meanwhile the other brings an element of realism to the mix. So who to choose? Well, I'm not going to choose either just yet, but I will tell you what I think of Proving Ground so far.
First off, if you haven't guessed by now, Proving Ground doesn't do much to change up the Tony Hawk formula. And within my first three minutes of playtime, I was already able to land a 250,000 point combo, and that's me still being rusty. So veteran Tony Hawk players should be able to nail 7-digits with relative ease, I'd imagine. You'll notice an all new balance visual that appears opaque across the entire screen. In between the opaque lines is a gap, and that gap is the center. You'll want to keep that gap centered on the screen in order to maintain balance. When you're tilting too much towards one side, one of the opaque lines will begin turning red.
Challenges in the game will vary across four types, Career, Street, Hardcore, and Rigger. The Career Skater is the professional who enjoys skating as a means of making money, and will stop at almost nothing to land covers and record videos. The Street Skater prefers the outdoors, grinding on benches, guard rails, curbs, jumping over cars, with the occasional half-pipe, and kicker ramp. The Hardcore Skater is the daredevil, the climb-to-the-top of a steep ledge and grind 50 feet above ground, with a gap in between lines that requires you to perform a leap. Succeed, and you pass. Don't, and you destroy your entire body. Well, okay, you get to get back up in a few seconds. But still, you get the idea.
The Rigger introduces a new gameplay element for Tony Hawk, as it allows you to edit your surroundings on the fly, in order to complete a challenge. And it isn't cheating, because these challenges call for the rigging aspect to be used. A challenge may require you to perform a certain trick or reach a certain location, and so you'll be instructed to plant a number of items in various spots in order to succeed. All of this is done in real-time, so think of it as the create-a-park feature being regularly used throughout the game.
Now, don't think that you have to embark on all of these challenges. In actuality, you simply choose which skater type suits you best, and you stick with it, for the most part. You'll have a progress meter that measures your skill in all of the four categories, so a well-rounded player will concentrate specifically on one style, but not completely ignore the others. Furthermore, recording your performance during various challenges and events will be quite common.
Visually, I can't say I see much difference between Proving Ground and Project 8, other than the fact that the awful framerate in Project 8 is finally gone. Proving Ground runs smoothly, and that's a relief. But the engine it's using is the same one found in last year's game, so don't expect anything that'll wow you, you simply won't find it. So compared to SKATE, Proving Ground is looking quite dated. It's got its fair share of aliasing along some edges, and the textures can stand to be improved. Character detail is looking cartoony at this point and the animation needs to be redone. If you were okay with last year's game and think you can live with them for another iteration, then you should be fine with Proving Ground. But if you've played SKATE, and want your Tony game to look like that, then you've been spoiled. It's not happening.
If you've enjoyed the open-ended Tony Hawk games in the past, you'll likely enjoy this one and should be able to justify the $60 purchase. If you're pulling your hair out for a more traditional Tony Hawk game, and don't want a sandbox skater anymore, you're only other choice is to see if SKATE fits the bill. And even though SKATE is also a game with gigantic locales, it does have a number of closed-off stadium events for you to compete in.