Contrary to rumors – and perhaps to the dismay of some – “Tony Hawk's Project 8” does not mark a return to the dead-serious “Hawk” games of old. Neversoft's positioning of “P8” as a soup-to-nuts rebuild of its series and its reprioritizing of skating over mischief – last seen arguably four games ago –suggest that.

But any game with a suite of objectives centered on a giant beaver mascot and his R/C car can't be all that serious. Nor can a game that allows you not only to manually bail mid-trick, but control (for the first time) the flight and impact of your bail in order to (another first) rack up as impressive a hospital bill as possible.

The hospital bill feature takes the edge off what is a slightly but noticeably more challenging game. “P8” is still forgiving when it comes to landing inhuman tricks – particularly as your created skater's attributes grow – but some overdue tweaks definitely have been made.

It's hard to describe these tweaks in words, but you'll notice their presence the first time a landing you take for granted results in your face smacking one of the many sidewalks, streets or foreign objects in “P8's” open-ended city and surrounding area.

Activision has put its marketing weight behind “P8's” new Nail the Trick feature, and with good reason. Whereas most of the game's movements emphasize the relationship between your board and the ground, Nail the Trick – which, when activated, slows down the action and zooms in on your feet – spotlights the relationship between your feet and the board.

The left stick controls your left foot, the right controls your right, and tricks we've taken for granted for seven straight games – kick flips, pop shove its – suddenly become considerably more challenging and valuable, not to mention a ton more fun to execute.

Grade: B+

—Billy O'Keefe, MCT

© 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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