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Tony Hawk: Proving Ground Package Art
Extreme Sports
Vicarious Visions

Tony Hawk: Proving Ground

While Tony Hawk may have officially retired from skateboarding, he returns for the third time on DS. Last yearís Downhill Jam attempted to proffer a new way to experience the skateboard action through races, but Proving Ground goes back to the basics with a grittier presentation. As a result, players will once again kick flip and manual their way through the same game with a new subtitle.


Previous Tony Hawk entries showcased more of a cartoon art style, which is dropped in favor of a realistic approach. This may sound bad on paper, but Vicarious Visions succeeds in creating huge 3D environments that contain detail and style. In the early harbor level, players will be treated with detailed fountains with multiple levels to catch major air, all of which are surrounded by the dock and ocean. The grandness of each level is definitely inspiring for a DS title, but not all levels pack the same attention to detail as the others.

While the levels display good looking environments, the character models leave a lot to be desired. The characters appear to be abnormally long in the legs, and the face models are absolutely horrendous because of blurry textures. In addition, the game lacks a solid create-a-character mode, which is wasted potential considering that the touch screen allows for user-generated face models. These created faces might not be pretty, but itís better than a generic a hippie or zombie face.


Proving Ground offers a slew of tracks that range from the Foo Fighters to the Smashing Pumpkins. The song selection is solid overall, but nothing on the list stands out to the classics of previous incarnations. The various sound effects, such as falls, grinds and huge jumps, are spot-on. The effects also pay great attention to detail as players will hear birds chirping in the background or car horns blaring as they skate the streets.


The main mode for Proving Ground revolves, once again, around a story where the player brings their avatar from an unknown to skating prodigy. This time, however, players have the ability to choose objects that will make their character a hardcore or career skater. While the objectives might be somewhat different, this new method of choosing a style did not add much to the overall experience. It was hard to decipher between what made a goal more hardcore or career-oriented, other than the subtitle. On a positive note, the ability to view goals from the get-go and immediately start one is a solid addition to this portable game. Players will not have to waste precious time skating from NPC to NPC, but instead, can jump right into the action. Overall, the difficulty ramps up evenly throughout the story mode and presents some new interesting challenges. A great example is the new Red-light, green-light challenge, which forces players to master their manuals because completing a combo or the red-light will result in a huge deduction of points. Unfortunately, the new touch screen gesture system challenges feel cheaply tacked-on.

Classic mode also makes a return, which brings players back to the glory days of the franchise. This inclusion is a great nod to veterans of the series, as players will embark on two-minute runs to complete as many goals as possible. The only problem with this mode is the lack of goal diversity, as each new level just presents score challenges that gradually become harder. However, the scoring has become somewhat easier in this addition because of the inclusion of the freak out mechanic. Basically, when a player crashes a huge combo, players will have a limited amount of time to fill up three touch screen bars to salvage their points. This helps stop some of the frustration from failing to land a kick flip on the end of a possible 1,000,000-point combo.


Proving Ground follows in its predecessor's footsteps by presenting one of the top online experiences for DS. By linking their game with the official site, players can join an online community that contains sk8 crews, tournaments, forums and even the ability to showcase player-created board designs. In addition, players can battle it out with three other players over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection or by wirelessly linking systems. Players can also talk smack to one another through voice chat capabilities, but only for players who have shared friend codes. This attention to the online experience positions the game as one of the best multiplayer experiences on DS.


Proving Ground is another solid entry into the series that, once again, requires players to link tricks to score massive combos to progress through the game. The series fits especially well on DS for its pick up and play options, in addition to the depth in the single-player alone. The multiplayer adds icing on the cake for fans of the series, but there is definitely a sense of familiarity that is starting to turn sour. It may be smart at this point to give the series a year off and start with a fresher design. While the game is solid design-wise with lots of depth, this is practically another rehash of Tony Hawk that fails to provide innovation. Thatís what separates this title from good to great.

final score 7.9/10

Staff Avatar Evan Campbell
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"Real men don't fight ó they sing!"

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