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However, the real star here is the gameplay. It’s always hard to build a game that will attract and hold newbies to a series while keeping existing fans happy, but Project 8 pretty much nails it. If you’ve never played Tony Hawks before, there are comprehensive tutorials to get you going, then the game inconspicuously funnels you through a couple of basic areas where you can build on your skills and get to grips with the basic game dynamics before venturing forth into the larger game world.
Old hands, meanwhile, can zip through these areas, still getting something worthwhile done through virtue of the fact that each of the 200-odd goals in Project 8 can be completed at three different levels: Am (nice and easy), Pro (more challenging) and Sick (ludicrously tricky). Without any story mode to push you from one task to the next your aim is simple: complete goals and rack up points, and you’ll move up the rankings. Get high enough, and you’ll be invited to perform in special missions, demonstrations or competitions. Do well in these, and you unlock new areas and – if you try hard and you’re very, very lucky – you might just end up in Tony’s secret Project 8 team. Now, I don’t actually have a clue what that involves – darts, maybe, or possibly contract bridge – but you know it just has to be worth all those hours and all that effort.
Existing fans will already be familiar with the game’s bag of flips, spins, board tricks, manuals and rail grinds, but Project 8 does bring something new to the series, and it’s a genuine showstopper. ‘Nail the trick’ mode as it’s known, switches the normal third-person view to a close-up of the board and the player’s feet. By pressing the left or right analogue sticks, you can send the board spinning and revolving under your feet, using split-second timing to switch from one stick to the other and pull off awe-inspiring combos, all in gorgeous Matrix-style slow motion. Not only is this mode engaged at specific points as part of achieving certain goals, but it can be activated any time you get air just by clicking both sticks down simultaneously.
It looks particularly cool, and it also soon becomes a cheap and effective way of grabbing extra points during otherwise unimpressive tricks. If – like me – you’re incapable of pulling off those impressive, long-running grind and manual-based combos, then you might just have found your saving grace.
Otherwise, the controls are as slick and effective as ever. Maybe only beat-em-up fans have to master so many complex sequences of shifting sticks and hammered buttons, but it all falls into place after the first few hours or so, and once it does it’s just a matter of timing and concentration. Combine this with the well-wrought open world which encourages you to work out how to get from street-level to rooftops through a combination of jumps and grinds, and you have a basic recipe for tasty play.