I’ve owned most of the Tony Hawk games, but as far as I can remember I’ve never finished any of them due to either tedium setting in or hitting a huge difficulty spike and getting frustrated. I found Tony Hawk’s Project 8 to be a particularly harsh mistress – after four hours of play I only had four achievements worth 80G to show off and was coming up incredibly short on pretty much all the score-based challenges.
With this in mind I wasn’t holding out much hope for Shaun White Skateboarding, which I snapped up for £5 pre-owned in HMV last month. I thought at the very most I’d get a hour or two of play out of it and unlock a few of the easier achievements before hitting a proverbial brick wall. But I’m pleased to say I stuck with it until the end. It’s a lot easier and simpler to play than any of the Tony Hawk games – and even EA’s Skate – and it’s all the better for it.
When grinding rails it’s a bigger challenge to try and fall off then it is to stay on. A lot of the missions in the first half of the game don’t have time limits either so you’re free to complete them at your own pace which gives the game a nice relaxed vibe.
It’s a game that’s reminiscent of THQ’s deBlob in many ways – the world has been taken over by a corrupt government which has stripped the colour out of the environments and forced people to wear grey suits. “Don’t try too hard” reads one of the amusing ‘de-motivational’ posters. Every time a trick is performed a shockwave is unleashed that fills the world up with colour. Stringing tricks together builds influence and the more of this you have the bigger the shockwaves.
As the story – which involves taking the ministry down before freeing Shaun from prison – progresses you earn new skills giving the ability to raise and lower the land at will and create glowing green rails to grind to access higher areas. Later on you have to hack terminals which entails playing a mini-game involving guiding a ball through a maze, Marble Madness style.
An abandoned theme park is the pinnacle of the level design – you can grind an entire rollercoaster from start to finish. There’s also a pretty decent action sequence about half way through where you have to avoid incoming fire from a helicopter while racing downhill at a very fast pace. A little bit of steam is lost towards the end when you’re forced to backtrack to previous areas, but the want to see the ending kept me playing.
Despite Tony Hawk’s Project 8 being five years old, when I fired it up last month I still found people playing online, yet here I couldn’t find anybody to have a bump and grind with. It’s a shame – from having a fiddle in local multiplayer it appears that Ubisoft put a lot of effort into the amount of online modes.