Developer: Shaba Games
Release Date: November 7, 2006
The Tony Hawk franchise has definitely had its ups and downs, although there are some who claim that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 and 4 were the peak of the series. Personally, I think American Wasteland is one the best offerings to date, but Tony Hawk's Project 8 is a serious step backwards because it strips down the franchise to its core and takes away too many things that made it so fun.
When you first load up Project 8, you can already tell that the developers were trying to keep it simple. The main menu consists of a calming cloud background adorned with a red strip and scarce options.
Granted, the developers have added some interesting new ways to skate, such as pressing forward to give yourself a boost up to two times. They've also made it easier to manual by simply pressing Square instead of up and down, and the best addition is that it's much easier to combo. In between tricks, you have a small window of time – like when you get off your board – where you can continue and keep your current points.
One of the biggest new features is Nail the Trick, which lets you slow down time by pressing L3 and R3 once your special meter is full; you then control your left and right feet with the respective thumbsticks. This feature allows you to make up your own flip tricks, but they are definitely more difficult to land than any regular trick.
In Career mode, you are trying to land a spot on Tony Hawk's prestigious skate team, Project 8, by skating around and accepting missions from different people.
To earn money, you do tricks in front of people who have coin icons above their heads. Perform a really cool trick in front of them, and they will be "stoked," which will earn you Stokens for the skate shop. Sadly, there are not as many things to buy as in the past titles; you can only purchase special tricks and skateboard decks.
It's important to note that Classic mode is included in Career mode as a mission, which means that you have a Classic mode mission for each area. Just like before, it features 10 goals and a two-minute time limit, but since it's a subset of a full mode, it has been stripped of any cooperative play. This is a major blow to anyone who was looking forward to playing through with a friend, a feature which was offered in the last few Tony Hawk titles.
This is only the beginning of the limitations in Project 8. Move on to two-player mode, and you will find that the amount of replay value has been further restricted by the availability of only four gameplay options: Trick Attack, Free Skate, Graffiti, and Horse. These are good and all, but we've lost fun modes, such as Score Challenge, Combo Mambo, and Fire Fight. But wait, there's more!
One of the best options in the past Tony Hawk titles was creating your own park in which to skate. Kiss that goodbye. All of the Create-a-Modes from American Wasteland such as creating parks, tricks, and graphics were completely taken out. In fact, Career mode teases you by giving you missions where you have to place park pieces in certain places in order to achieve your goal, but ultimately, you don't have the option to create your own park.
Then the Create-a-Skater that you are left with is only a shoddy shadow of its former self. First of all, you can't pick between genders for your characters, so if you're a female Tony Hawk fan, it looks like you're going to just have to deal with being a male skater again. On top of that, all of the customizable options have been severely limited. In American Wasteland, it was to the point where you could adjust the size of all your body parts. I thought to myself, "Wow, what could they possibly think of next?" Obviously, nothing.
Levels in the Tony Hawk are venturing more and more into real life, and forgetting that skate parks even exist. In Project 8, you will have more levels where you get to skate around a neighborhood, grinding any piece of 2x4 you might find in an effort to obtain a minuscule score. The developers are definitely trying to be creative by transforming realistic locales into skate-able areas, but they need to go back to just including interesting skate parks.
Amidst all of Project 8's flaws, its graphics stand out as one of the redeeming features. It is definitely one of the nicest-looking Tony Hawk games, with sharp visuals and bright backgrounds. Also, whenever you meet a new skater or get an important mission, you're introduced with a realistic cut scene that is honestly quite surprising for a Tony Hawk title.
The musical playlist isn't too shabby, either. It has a nice mix of punk rock and hip-hop, typical of the Tony Hawk series. You can even expect to be skating to tracks as new as Gnarls Barkley's rendition of "Gone Daddy Gone."
It saddens me to say that Tony Hawk's Project 8 is a disappointment. As a stand-alone title, it is a very fun skating experience, but when you consider that it's the eighth offering in a long-running series, it is a totally different story. It is down to the bare bones of the series, leaving you feeling like you're playing the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater again. I get the impression that the developers are trying to start anew with the series, which is a heartbreaking prospect for devoted Tony Hawk fans.