PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground

Darwin Hang

The online play in Tony Hawk's Proving Ground fares well, because you can take people on while you psychoanalyze their avatars.

Publisher: Activision
Genres: Sports
Price: $49.99
Multimedia: Tony Hawk's Proving Ground
Platforms: PlayStation 3 (reviewed), PlayStation 2, Wii, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360
Number of players: 1-2
ESRB rating: Teen
Developer: Neversoft
US release date: 2007-10-15
Amazon UK affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Developer website

Before the Tony Hawk games started coming out every year, it was debatable as to whether skateboarding was a sport or just something for California teenagers with a tolerance/thirst for pain to do in between getting high and listening to punk music. Since ESPN started showing things like poker tournaments, people playing video games, and double dutch competitions, America has been looking for a new way to define sport. Look no further America, because I have come up with the formula: Annual updates of video game title + awesome soundtrack for game + my inability to do whatever it is the people in the game can do + shown on NBC sports and/or ESPN = sport.

Tony Hawk is back this year with Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, the successor to last year's Project 8, and yes, thanks to Tony Hawk and his franchise (and the above infallible formula) we now know that skateboarding is a sport.

Like every other sports game, there is a new version of Tony Hawk every year. Unlike every other sport game, there is no roster or statistical change to warrant an update every year. Because you spend most of single-player mode as yourself, or the version of yourself you'd be if you were able to skateboard, the skill statistics of the pro skaters don't much affect gameplay. This mode was always the franchise's greatest strength, and with Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, the tradition continues.

The game begins with designing your own character, and I bet my psychologist would have a field day with my avatar. I couldn't really make him Asian, but whatever. In the game I'm also from Philly and have the voice of a thirty year old. In Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, you too can be a white Philadelphian thirty-something male. You also get to choose your own path, or as Morpheus said "It's all about choice". I chose the Hardcore path because it seemed more fun for video game purposes and also because I thought it would help me to meet Bam Margera (in the game, of course). All the people I came across are of the underground variety, from initial mentor Mike V. to the editors of grassroots skateboarding magazines. Speaking of Mike V., here is a sample of what he said to me as I failed over and over again while trying to clear a hundred-foot gap: "Chicks dig scars," "There, you almost had it," and my favorite, "Do it again or else." Or else he'd beat me up, I guess. I'm glad he didn't.

Watching yourself looking at pictures of yourself...how very meta.

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground is not a bad game at all. I would say that it is a good game, but that's probably because I haven't played a Tony Hawk game since my freshman year of college. It was Tony Hawk's Underground, and this game is way better than that one. I especially like the "nail-the-trick" feature that was also in Tony Hawk's Project 8. The developers may have gotten a little carried away by adding "nail-the-grind" and "nail-the-manual". However, it's always better to add than subtract, just take the above formula as an example. The game is just challenging enough, because I couldn't grind or manual as excessively as in the previous titles I played. The unlocked skate videos are almost worth half the game and the graphics are the best yet for the franchise. I said before that the soundtrack is awesome and it is. The soundtrack is one of the most important aspects to a game, and any game that has Folk Implosion's "Natural One" in it is okay with me. That song came up and my skateboarding was instantly elevated.

Part of the fun of gaming is finding loopholes that can be both explored and exploited. The rigging system solves this problem by letting you add stuff anywhere you want, and I mean STUFF, as in couches, sculpture, etc. You have your own warehouse that you can transform in whatever way you want. The video editor is also fun at first, but then it becomes less and less fun as you do the same things over and over again. The reason I chose the hardcore path to start the game was that I wanted to avoid the repetition, but a lot of the pictures and videos look the same after a while. Still, there may be a niche of Tony Hawk fans that will have lots of fun with the video editor and put their videos on YouTube.

The problem with this game is that if I had played Project 8, I probably would not have enjoyed Proving Ground that much. The story is always basically the same, though the argument could be made that there aren't many stories to tell that would serve the game's purpose. The split screen mode has lost some of its appeal. Playing with a friend, we both quickly became bored just trying to rack up high scores, especially when everyone knows that the fastest way to do this is by linking together manuals and grinds. The online play fares much better, because you can use your character and take on other people while you psychoanalyze their avatars. If the stories are going to be the same, it may be a good idea to just release expansion packs.

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground is the ninth title in the franchise and the series is starting to show its age in ways both good and bad. It still has the all the air and combinations that made it such a hit, but it also is trying really hard to be the most popular guy in school with a new kid on the block gathering all the intrigue the local boy just can't buy.

To end, here's a conversation with Mike V. that I had after hitting some major gaps:

Darmaniac (Me): That's it? Aren't we gonna get the camera crews or somethin'?

Mike V: Sometimes skating just about skating, dude, not magazines and stuff. Good skating is just good skating, man, it doesn't matter if it's in a magazine or on the internet.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.