Reviews// Tony Hawk's Project 8 (Xbox 360)

Frankly risible bells and whistles

Posted 18 Nov 2006 16:37 by
It would be disingenuous for SPOnG to pretend that we had not been awaiting this game with something approaching awed anticipation. There are quite a few skaters, and ex-skaters on the SPOnG team, and even more Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater fans. So, when we all heard that Neversoft was re-working the game from scratch with an all new game engine, and improved physics engine, we were stoked.

Then when we heard that Neversoft was dumping some of the frankly risible bells and whistles it had feature-crammed into recent versions, and replacing them with a free-roaming, open ended gameplay mechanic, we were totally pumped.

So it was with a heightened sense of anticipation that this reviewer sat at the keyboard to write this review. On the one hand THP8 fails to disappoint. On the other, one or two niggles prevent it from being the perfect game that it so nearly is. This reviewer will be buying a 360 purely to play this game.

You probably know the Tony Hawk’s drill by now: it’s the game that popularised skateboarding games on consoles, made Tony Hawk the star he always deserved to be, and re-invigorated the skating scene on the streets. Quite a set of achievements for a videogame!

In the game, you play a skater of your choice - either one of Hawk's licensed real-world skater friends or a skater you build yourself in the skater creator.

Once you've chosen your character, you can hit the streets and free-skate. At first, you are in suburbia - a street with a gate at the end and a few back yards: one with a seriously impressive series of wooden ramps; one with a few semi-drained pools; one with a covered pool, and one with a large pond.

Behind the street lies a fabulous concrete skatepark, the entrance to which is tantalisingly barred by the closed gates of a chain-link fence. Your tasks, should you choose to accept them (and having laid out the moolah for the game, you'd be a buffoon not to) are to raise your skills, complete spot challenges and other game objectives to unlock other areas of the game-world. Once unlocked, you can skate between all these areas as you like, as they form one seamless level.

As you progress through the game, a straightforward tutorial system guides you as you learn new board skills.

Along with a game engine re-written from scratch, Tony Hawk’s Project 8 is supposed to have an all new physics engine, though most of the users in the SPOnG office couldn't see any big differences in normal skating situations. But then, if both the old game engine and the new one are attempting to replicate standard Newtonian physics, that's probably a good thing.

However, the physics engine seems to have some major inconsistencies in crashes and bails. Sometimes you can come off the board from a fairly major accident, and experience only mild damage. Other times, after what looks like a fairly minor bail, you can be cast across the game-world, flying high in the air and crash landing hundreds of metres from where you bailed - and with a hefty hospital bill.

The physics engine also lets itself down when you do a step-off or low-velocity bail near any post-like item like a mail box or lamp. When trying to reposition your skater, he will often hover in mid-air, and bob up and down as the game engine hunts for a place to position him - it's quite weird, and not at all impressive.
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