Tony Hawk, the poster-boy for skateboarding worldwide, has monopolized the skating videogame genre with his franchise of eponymous games since its first incarnation on the Playstation 1. While early versions were lauded as excellent by critics and fans, over the many re-hashes and semi-sequels that have materialized, the series has hit somewhat of a snag, remaining stagnant and somewhat played out as the developers struggle to fill the 'new content' gap with arbitrary additions. Project 8 isn't exactly a return to former glory, nor is it another failing in the series' decline - it revitalizes the core gameplay, while not elevating it, and serves up just enough original challenges and bonuses to engage jaded fans.
If you're unfamiliar with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and its successors, heres the general gist; you play out the rise of a professional skateboarder, tackling various objectives, competing in competitions, and building up your custom character's attributes. Project 8 sets your intrepid grinder upon a seamless, interconnected city ready to be shredded. You'll find wandering civilians who will impart a number of challenges to be completed, you'll encounter celebrated skaters and you'll manual, nollie and kickflip your way to be a part of the illustrious 'Project 8.'
The environments you get to skate are mostly garden-variety suburban settings, skateparks, and industrial zones which are classic of the series. While holistically it may seem like a vast expanse to explore, each level of its own is rather restrictive and limited in scope. However, stellar exemptions (such as the Fun Park) are fun to play multiple times. There are enough multiplayer game modes, characters, unlockables (such as motion capture sessions on video) and other zany tidbits to entice the player to drudge through the oft-frustrating career mode.
The visuals are a significant improvement over previous installments, however an irritatingly appalling frame-rate is a persistent bugbear, especially in a game such as this. The music maintains the legacy of out-there rock and edgy hip-hop, and for the most part the soundtrack is enjoyable. An extra layer of gloss in the form of voice-acting from the pros and demo vids scores the game some brownie points among the hardcore crowd.
If you want to skate on your 360, THP8 is your only option until EA's upcoming simulator hits, but until then you'll have to make do with yet another Tony Hawk game (not that its a necessarily bad game).