- Though past Hawk games have tried to bring all of its skating together using a story, Proving Ground compartmentalizes its story by breaking it up into three distinct "lifestyles." You've got the career path, where pro skaters like Arto Saari take you around and shoot skate videos with you. Then there's the hardcore path, where guys like Mike Vallely and Dustin Dollin teach you the fine arts of wearing jean jackets and how to properly knock over pedestrians.
Lastly there's the "rigger" path, where guys like Jeff King and Daewon Song turn Proving Ground into a puzzle game and have you place or modify pieces around the environment and rig up some new trick lines. On top of all that, there are plenty of other nondenominational chalk challenge goals, where you'll see marks around the world that ask you to grind, manual, wallride, or leap from one mark to the next. Most of the goals can be completed in three ways for three different difficulties, ranging once again from amateur to sick.
From the three lifestyles, things are even further broken down into episodes, which usually focus on one specific skater giving you a handful of different goals. Bob Burnquist's set of goals has you learning some new tricks, then taking on competition skating. Bam Margera's goals focus more on climbing than on actual skating, though you'll still have to skate around a bit to interrupt the filming of his TV show. Lance Mountain shows up to show you how to carve bowls and slash grind, two of the game's new control additions. When you complete all of the episodes in one lifestyle, an "uber" challenge appears. Tying all of this together is a meter that fills up as you complete goals, and each time it's full, your career advances, netting you a shoe sponsor, a signature board, your own skate video, and so on.
You'll eventually become successful enough to form a skate team, and this in turn unlocks a new challenge. When you beat that--a fairly trivial set of tasks in the grand scheme of things--the credits roll with no grand finale. It's possible to claim that you "finished" Proving Ground with something like a 40 percent completion ranking, something that will probably take most Tony Hawk veterans something like six hours to accomplish. Obviously, there's more to do and see, like classic mode, high score runs, and a new dot-eating goal type called Hawk-Man, though the quality of the goals is spotty.
The focus on rigging as a lifestyle means that a large chunk of the action is devoted to you using a little world editor, where you can place your own rails, ramps, and other objects. This editor is pretty bad, though, so it can be super frustrating to use. Furthermore, the goals that require you to place your own objects usually aren't much fun, because it's stuff like creating long sets of rails to move you from one checkpoint to the next without touching the ground. What's worse is that other photo goals also use this editor to let you plop a camera down wherever you think it will do the most good. It can be hard to determine if the camera's in the right spot.
Camera goals have another problem--you actually have to take the photo yourself. Once you skate into frame, the action slows down, effectively throwing off your timing if you're trying to land a trick at the same time. Then, while all of that is going on, you need to push in the right stick to take the picture. This leads to a whole lot of frustrating hand twisting. We also encountered at least one goal where it felt like no matter where the camera was placed, it couldn't be placed low enough to actually trigger the slow-motion photo-taking sequence while doing a required grind.
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