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The icing on the cake, then, is the goals themselves. Yes, there are basic ‘grind from here to here’ efforts, but there are also more complex missions that involve wall-riding to rip posters from public display, or Jackass-style pranks that see your skater flying through giant skittles or tumbling down steps in an effort rack up vast hospital bills.
Demos are fun, with several crowds that each need to be impressed, meaning you have to juggle not just what you do but where you do it if you want to keep everyone buzzing. You also have to love the way the ‘classic’ missions have been implemented, going back to the first principles of the series with a selection of simple goals that have to be completed in a set environment, but presented as part of an ongoing feud between rival estate agents over who dominates the local patch.
Any niggles? Sure there are. Long-term fans will notice that the build your own skater options have taken a downturn since last time, and that it’s getting hard to create an avatar that doesn’t conform to the slightly depressing nose-ring, tattoos, silly haircut skater stereotype that (you’ll note) even Tony and his crew don’t conform to.
I’ve also heard talk of technical jitters and frame-rate problems, though I’d have to say I haven’t encountered any. In fact, the only serious negative point I might make is that in some areas – the humorous interludes and the deliberate bone-braking challenges – Project 8 scores worse than Amped 3, a game that has held and even grown in its appeal nearly one year on. Oh, that and the fact that My Name is Earl star and Kevin Smith regular Jason Lee, who cameo’s in his capacity as the co-founder of the Stereo skateboard brand, has been given one of the least flattering in-game personas in video-games history. Bloated and excessively hairy, he looks more like the grunge Grisly Adams than the sharp-witted co-star of Vanilla Sky and Chasing Amy.
Still, as criticisms go, we’re talking small beer. If you used to love the Hawks games in the Pro Skater glory years but gave up once things went Underground, then you’ll find this the ideal chance to get reacquainted. If, meanwhile, you’ve never played a skating game in your life, then this is a great place to start. Don’t be frightened – as Sega’s much missed Jet Set Radio made explicit, they’re really just smooth moving platform games with added tricks. All in all, like Bond and Batman before him, Tony Hawks has benefited from the franchise reboot thing. Let’s hope things go onwards and upwards from here.
The best Tony Hawks game in ages, and an entertaining ride whether you’re an old hand or new to the series.