on 16 May 2010
I don't think anyone would argue that the Tony Hawks games have peaked, but this one is still not a bad game at all all things considered.
There's only so much you can pack into a game of this kind, and minus a couple of new tricks and gimmicks, Project 8 is really not much different from it's predecessors.
The game is mapped out as one huge world, rather than several separated levels. Different sections of the world unlock as you progress. The Career mode follows a similar format to those of the THUG games; "Goals" are handed out by people hanging around on the street. Each area (level, in old terms), has 20 or so goals, most of which can be completed to either Amateur, Pro or Sick difficulties. (e.g. you have to score 10,000 points to complete the goal to Amateur level, 100,000 for Pro and 500,000 for Sick.) This is a positive part of the game; regardless of your ability level you won't be totally stuck and unable to progress.
Gameplay-wise there are no surprises, it's all the usual grinding, tricking and very often unrealistic action that made the earlier Tony Hawks games so fun to play. There are a couple of new gimmicks, e.g. having the ability to use the Special bar you've built up to go into slow-motion mid-combo. This new addition is particularly useful for getting those "Sick" combos where you are struggling to balance during a grind or a manual.
There is a massive focus on combos in the game; admittedly I am no master of these and this is where the game falls down a bit for me. You are expected in a number of Goals to rack up an enormous amount of points, which can only be achieved by doing long combos. This emphasis on combos has been prevalent in recent Tony Hawks', and it gets a bit samey after a while.
That said, there is some degree of variety in the Goals you have to complete. Project 8 seems more content to be unrealistic than some of the earlier Tony Hawks, which I am all in favour of as that is where the enjoyment often comes from. One goal, for example, requires you to do tricks while falling out of a helicopter 150,000 feet up (sounds more fun than it actually was to be honest). There are also a series of entertaining bail-Goals, where the sole intention is to trip up off your skateboard and hurl yourself up into the air as far as possible, into as many obstacles as possible, breaking as many bones as possible and racking up as big a hospital bill as possible. It's all very unrealistic and Jackassy, but nevertheless great fun.
Downsides of the game then. The areas (i.e. levels) aren't particularly inspiring. They're not based on any real life cities, which I think was one of the main plus points in previous Tony Hawks'. The good old days of skating around Alcatraz, New York or Moscow are gone, unfortunately. Instead you have areas such as a fairly generic town, a school (a standard for every Tony Hawks game it seems!) and a funpark, (which is not really much fun truth be told). It doesn't kill the game, but it's a bit unimaginative. The makers could be forgiven for running out of ideas, though.
Secondly, the frame rate. Not a problem, until one of your friends signs into the PS3 Network. Everytime this happens, the game freezes entirely for 2-3 seconds. Really frustrating when you are mid-combo, and a major glitch in the game.
Thirdly, the on foot controls. Never a strong point in the post-THPS games, but in this one they seem especially awkward. The wall jump sometimes works, often doesn't, and say you are halfway up a building and you try and jump up another level, sometimes the walljump won't work and you just fall all the way back down again. It's all very very gammy and lacking in control. Trying to put a "caveman" (jumping off the board and running) into your combo is a complete no-no unless you want to be extremely frustrated.
Graphics-wise, not a lot different to the PS2 ones in my opinion, in fact, with all the walking through walls and watercolour buildings you could be forgiven for thinking this was a PS2 game. Not a strong point, but then in the old days we didn't used to care about graphics so why now?
Overall, Project 8 is very much a "more of the same" offering, similar format, fun, but never quite as fun as the older ones. Much bigger, more gaps, more goals and a lot more difficult, but still well worth getting if you like Tony Hawks games. And doing combos.