So Tony Hawk has shown up in your home town, which is apparently a Mecca for wannabe skate pros, and declared he's forming a brand new skate team from the eight best and brightest. The only catch is you start at skater number two hundred. If you want to be a member of Project 8, you're going to have to tear up the city on the back of your board, pulling off insane challenges and sick lines to get yourself noticed.
Mod up your chosen avatar with what gear and funky threads you've got (more to be unlocked later), take a stroll through the optional tutorial to dust off your skills, and it's go time on nostalgia street, with a heavily modified version of the Suburbia map from THPS3. Some areas in THP8 are callbacks to previous titles, but the redesign is so extensive they might as well be brand new. The trick system has been tweaked to keep the skills that are actually useful, and throw out all the meaningless junk (sticker slap, board breaking, etc.) that was making it feel ungainly and unfocused. Anything that doesn't directly involve skating is also gone, so no more cars, carts, or bmx fury.
Project 8 stomps those thoughts of doom and gloom. It's focused and ambitious, chocked full of content with an entire city that couldn't be more fun to grind your way through.
Clear some of these challenges, find some gaps, or hit secret icons, and you'll move up in rank. Then more challenges open up, more gear appears from your new sponsors, a heck of a lot more videos come in on your cellphone, but the best is finally being able to bust down the gates of Suburbia, and skate out into the city at large. From that moment, right up until the end of the game (at least the first one), you officially have too much to do. The sense of freedom is overwhelming, to realize just how far you can skate, how many lines you can find, and how many challenges await; all without a loading screen or the loading tunnels from American Wasteland.
It's one big ass city, marked off as a series of zones with their own long list of challenges and gaps. Some will still be locked, but get that rank up, and you'll have the opportunity to bust up a few more barriers to gain access to places like the School and the Slums Level design varies from the 'pretty darn good' of the downtown area that acts as the central hub for the game, to the 'I've died and gone to grind paradise' of the Factory and Fun Park. Put them all together and you have a THPS fan's dream come true: a 'Grand Theft Auto' style free-roaming experience, where you can go anywhere and grind anything, with a couple hundred challenges to test your balance and quick reflexes.
Challenges run the gambit from Classic Mode, which marks off a section of the map for ten old school challenges, grind this, manual that, do the called tricks while following the camera man, do a special trick for a photo session, enter a skating competition, and take on the pros to beat them at what they do best. Some new challenge types appear, like holding a demo where you have to impress the crowds with a steady flow of tricks. Nail the Trick is a whole new mode where times slows to a crawl, allowing you to move the analogue sticks to simulate the skater's legs. Kicking and turning the board in the air let's you pull off a wide variety of cool tricks, while poor timing earns you a one way trip to the pavement. It's so different from the rest of the series that it takes a while to wrap your mind around it, but once you get into the groove, it's the closest thing to real skateboarding the Tony Hawk series has pulled off. Though some the biggest challenges come in the form of Get There, where you have hit three markers over a wide area, under a very small time limit. The key is the old Tony Hawk rule of 'the timer doesn't expire as long as you're still tricking,' so finding and keeping on a good line is essential for success, especially if you want to score a Sick victory.