Since its then-kickass debut on the PlayStation in 1999, the Tony Hawk franchise has had a stranglehold on the skateboarding genre. There've been like a billion iterations of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater since (okay, more like 11... still, that's a shit-ton of videogames), and the series' dominance has largely been unchallenged. Until, that is, this year—when EA rolled out Skate, a game that aims to woo the hardcore gamers that're sick of Tony Hawk's arcade-y thrills. Damn, Tony—EA is all up in your grill, man! You gonna take that?
Oh, you are? Your response to Skate is to just crank out some more of the same old shit? Ah, okay. Cool, I guess.
The charm of the first few Tony Hawk games was simple: let players do all sorts of crazy combos on a skateboard, launching themselves 30 feet into the air and stringing together endless grinds. But once one got over all the twirly acrobatics, there wasn't a whole lot left to Tony Hawk, and as the series has aged, it's desperately tried to stay hip—tying in free-roaming story elements and ever-increasing cameos from the Jackass crew. The latest Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, at least puts the focus back on the series' trademark fantasy skating, allowing players to choose a method that best fits their interest (career, rigger, or hardcore), and throwing in online play, a slick video editor, and the bullet time-y "Nail-the-Trick" mode.
But overall, Proving Ground feels about as engaging as when you watched The Search for Animal Chin for the 230th time. The new bits and pieces scattered throughout feel like smudges of polish on a series that's been rusty and outdated for too long; cartoony and unsurprising, Proving Ground ultimately offers just more of the same. I'm not sure if Skate is the future of videogame skateboarding, but I do know that Proving Ground feels like a totally unnecessary example of the past.
Next week: Earnest "Nex" Cavalli reviews Skate.