Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground marks the ninth game in the Hawk series of skateboarding games. The Hawk games have always been known for an impressive soundtrack and great controls, and Proving Ground is no exception. Proving Ground also follows in the faults of recent Hawk games by being painfully hard, borderline bad voice acting, and sloppily vague explanations of goals that leave the gamer wondering what they did wrong and how to correct it.
Every year, new Hawk game brings new tricks and talents into the Hawk Universe, and this year it comes in the flavors of Agro Kick and Nail the Grab/Manual. The Agro Kick is a neat little skill that allows the skater to move faster by pressing the R1 button at the correct time for an extra boost. While this does add a level of skill to building up enough speed to clear a gap it does have the downside that the skater only moves as fast as previous Hawk games “normal” movement speed when doing the agro kick and painfully slow when they are not. Nail the Grab/Manual are extensions of last year’s introduction of Nail the Trick. Nail the Grab plays out exactly like Nail the Trick, slow motion starts as soon as both analog sticks are press in allowing the player to control how long each trick is held. Nail the Manual plays a little differently than expected as the player has to jump into the air to even start the slow motion, which seems odd as manuals are done when the skateboard is on the ground, and then land on the ground with the back of the board facing up.
The last several iterations of Hawk’s games have been raising the base difficulty farther each time, Proving Ground is no exception. After several basic goals teaching the gamer how to grind or manual, the game expects the gamer to master these newly learned skills by tricking off of nearly everything around in one continual combo. All goals are split into three difficulties, the easiest of which consistently feel undoable. This can feel rather disheartening when the easiest goal seems nearly impossible because the next highest goal normally involves doing over three times the amount of tricks.
Another addition to this year’s Hawk game is the three different “career” paths that can be explored, Career, Hardcore, and Rigger. The hardcore storyline is motivated by simply enjoying the act of skating. Rigger is about building things and using the world around to do skate tricks that have never been thought of before. Career is supposedly the skater that does everything just for a paycheck at the end of the day. As each of the story lines progress new skills and things to place in the environment are relieved. While this does at least give some kind of motivation to play through the story it is rather annoying to not have the agro kick or Nail the Trick moves at the beginning of the game.
This year’s rendition of what the real world Tony Hawk looks like, namely massive age lines, looks better than ever although the rest of the world, and many other skaters suffer an overall feeling of blandness. Some pro skaters included look almost identical to their real life counterparts while others look almost nothing alike. Most of the time this fact would probably never be noticed as the game continues to bring in more and more real life skaters every year, unfortunately every time a new skater is introduced a movie is immediately played showing the real life counterpart and their style of skating.
Some objects in game seem to place perfectly with the near life renditions of Tony Hawk and Dustin Dollin while other objects fair less favorably, namely cars; which always look and act like they are from another, less good game. While most of the environments manage to look like what a “skater’s paradise” would resemble, ramps and rails scattered feet from one another through the entirety of the cities, some of the buildings and fences feel almost arbitrarily placed.
The real world skaters depicted lend their voices to the game, and while this does add a level of aestheticism it is also becomes painfully clear that most of them are reading from a script. While most of the performances feel forced and overacted it is hard to blame a professional skater for not being a professional voice actor as well. Several times throughout the game present “it’s so bad it’s good” moments when the professional voice actors for “story characters” interact with pro skaters with emotional context inside the games absurd plot.
The game does continue the tradition of including one of the finest sound tracks in gaming. Everyone from the Foo Fighters to Jurassic 5 are included. While this game does include dozens of artists that most people probably haven’t heard it is also one of the most mainstream soundtracks of any Tony Hawk yet and not covering nearly the scope of past Hawk games.
While this may be Tony Hawk’s 9th game it is hard to say that much has changed since the other games. At a full retail price of 60 dollars it is hard to recommend this game over any of the other now bargain priced Hawk games. While this Hawk does add some new moves from last year’s version it is simply the same game with new areas to skate in.