Wednesday, 12 September 2007

FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! - THPG goes head-to-head with Skate.

Talk about being blatant. Today, the new demo for Tony Hawk's Proving Ground hit the XBOX Live marketplace. It seems that not entirely by coincidence, that today is also the day that EA's Skate sees its U.S. release. Seems that Activision is keen to remind its fans of just what lies in store if they are still around. Imagine it; the two most popular kids in town decide to have their Birthday parties on the same day. Skate kid, none-the-wiser to the other planned party goes about his business with confidence, knowing that all his new friends will be at the party. THPG kid is furious and at the last minute, BAM! he adds a stripper to his party. He's just shot it up by 10 points, but will anyone come at such short notice? Well, maybe....

In a perfect world we would be able to separate the two games and look at them subjectively, placed at opposite ends of the spectrum. We should be able to view THPG as the arcade funfest that it is; a game brimming with character and colour and one that from the very beginning seeks to offer its players another world; a skateboarding theme park where your wildest skate fantasies can come true. From playing the demo, I genuinely believe that Tony delivers on those promises. Whilst the series' aesthetics have become increasingly gritty since American Wasteland, there is still the undeniably fun and outlandish character that has come to typify the Tony Hawk games. Should Skate never have existed, then Proving Ground would have had the potential to be the best Tony Hawk game to date. However, from playing the Skate demo, many can now see just what can be achieved with a skateboarding game. Skate, quite simply, shows Tony up, gives him a huge wedgie and kicks his arse to the curb.

We can't ignore the importance of the Tony Hawk series, after all without it, we would not have skateboarding games at all. Sure, someone else may have done it sooner or later, but would they have such impeccable architecture from which to build? Skate could not be what it is without looking at the competition and identifying everything that they though was wrong with it. Skate innovates the format and has in turn, created a completely different skating experience, one that i believe to be incredibly close to the real thing, whilst maintaining a fair and rewarding learning curve and the ability to out-perform your real-world self- just as you should be able to in a game. With its down-to-earth realism and sense of reward, Skate makes the Tony Hawk series look redundant and stale. Neversoft can bolt on as many new features as they want, but it will always be shown up by Skate's simplicity. Skate achieves something that very few games ever manage - subtlety. San Vanelona, on the surface, seems as if it was designed with any game in mind. Its sprawling streets, multiple districts and realistic architecture are misleading and refuse to betray the game's identity. But when you are given free roam on a skateboard, you can see potential begin to emerge. Every surface offers new opportunities to those who are willing to look beyond and experiment. When every single building wall doubles-up as a quarter-pipe in THPG, you can see how Skate may be considered as the thinking-man's skateboarding game.

As I said before, I wish that these two games could exist side-by-side, but for me at least, this will never be. I refuse to un-learn my tricks from Skate, or to fall back into the lazy ease of a new Tony Hawk game. I have had years of fun from the Tony Hawk series and I will be sad to see it go under, should Skate prove to truly make it redundant.If you hadn't guessed already, my money is going on EA's offering. What the future holds for the Hawks series, seems uncertain right now, I guess alot of it depends on how much of their fanbase hasn't been converted. If the forums on IGN and Gametrailers are anything to go by though, the Hawkman may have to consider hanging up his board for good.

crude, but effective, right?

The Faux-Bot

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